The Abdominal Exam

By Rafael Campo b. 1964 Rafael Campo
Before the glimmer of his sunken eyes,
What question could I answer with my lies?
Digesting everything, it’s all so plain
In him, his abdomen so thin the pain
Is almost visible. I probe the lump
His boyfriend noticed first, my left hand limp
Beneath the pressure of the right. With AIDS
You have to think lymphoma—swollen nodes,
A tender spleen, the liver’s jutting edge—
It strikes me suddenly I will oblige
This hunger that announces death is near,
And as I touch him, cold and cavalier,
The language of beneath the diaphragm
Has told me where it’s coming from
And where I’m going, too: soft skin to rocks,
The body reveling until it wrecks
Against the same internal, hidden shoal,
The treasures we can’t hide, our swallowed gold.

Rafael Campo, “The Abdominal Exam” from Diva, published by Duke University Press. Copyright © 1999 by Rafael Campo. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc.

Source: Diva (Duke University Press, 1999)

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Poet Rafael Campo b. 1964

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, The Body

Poetic Terms Couplet, Rhymed Stanza

 Rafael  Campo


Rafael Campo is a poet and essayist who teaches and practices internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Campo earned a BA and MA from Amherst College and an MD from Harvard Medical School. His primary care practice serves mostly Latinos, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people, and people with HIV infection. Campo is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Couplet, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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