What the Body Told

Not long ago, I studied medicine.
It was terrible, what the body told.
I’d look inside another person’s mouth,
And see the desolation of the world.
I’d see his genitals and think of sin.
 
Because my body speaks the stranger’s language,
I’ve never understood those nods and stares.
My parents held me in their arms, and still
I think I’ve disappointed them; they care
And stare, they nod, they make their pilgrimage
 
To somewhere distant in my heart, they cry.
I look inside their other-person’s mouths
And see the wet interior of souls.
It’s warm and red in there—like love, with teeth.
I’ve studied medicine until I cried
 
All night. Through certain books, a truth unfolds.
Anatomy and physiology,
The tiny sensing organs of the tongue—
Each nameless cell contributing its needs.
It was fabulous, what the body told.

Rafael Campo, “What the Body Told” from The World In Us: Lesbian and Gay Poetry of The Next Wave. Copyright © 2000 by Rafael Campo. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc.
Source: The World In Us: Lesbian and Gay Poetry of The Next Wave (St. Martin's Press, LLC, 2000)
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