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Two Poems


       for my father

I wonder if his memories omit
the same things that we don't see here. He stares
out at the view, which is as tropical
as it is trite. The grounds are orderly,
the jacaranda are in bloom. No one
is poor. Like lions caged too long, the waves
loll lazily along the beach. He stares
out at the bright horizon, lost in thought.
I wonder if his memories might hurt.
Tonight, beneath a moon as clear and plain
as need, we'll drink banana daiquiris.
He'll ask the mariachi band to play
a Cuban song, which they'll almost get right.
But in the morning, he must realize,
we'll still awaken here. Same sun, same sea,
same staring out involuntarily:
the simulation, if more dream than real,
is close enough. The birds-of-paradise,
though mute and flightless, still seem nearly free.

The Performance

Wish Bone the cancer clown came up
to BMT today. The kids
lined up in the solarium,
in two squat rows that looked just like
a dozen blighted eggs, bald heads
shining, the sun on them too bright
as if a miracle were near.
He started with some jokes: What's black
and white and red all over? Knock-
knock? Who's there? Anita. It's who?
I need a hug right now!
They laughed
so hard that one of them, the girl
with no platelets, got a nosebleed.
He twisted up balloons to look
like dachshunds and giraffes, then some
odd shape I didn't recognize
which probably was a mistake
but Deb the nurse said could have been
the knot that formed inside her throat
as shamelessly we lapped it up.
The punch arrived, its blobs of pink
and green sherbet melting, like them
not long for this world. As we left
we grabbed some cookies, happy we
could savor what we knew, in spite
of what we hoped, was cruel joy.

Rafael Campo

Alternative Medicine
Duke University Press

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