What the Body Told

What the Body Told

Book Pages: 136 Illustrations: Published: February 1996

Author: Rafael Campo

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Poetry, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

What the Body Told is the second book of poetry from Rafael Campo, a practicing physician, a gay Cuban American, and winner of the National Poetry Series 1993 Open Competition. Exploring the themes begun in his first book, The Other Man Was Me, Campo extends the search for identity into new realms of fantasy and physicality. He travels inwardly to the most intimate spaces of the imagination where sexuality and gender collide and where life crosses into death. Whether facing a frenetic hospital emergency room to assess a patient critically ill with AIDS, or breathing in the quiet of his mother’s closet, Campo proposes with these poems an alternative means of healing and exposes the extent to which words themselves may be the most vital working parts of our bodies. The secret truths in What the Body Told, as the title implies, are already within each of us; in these vivid and provocative poems, Rafael Campo gives them a voice.

Lost in the Hospital
It’s not that I don’t like the hospital.
Those small bouquets of flowers, pert and brave.
The smell of antiseptic cleansers.
The ill, so wistful in their rooms, so true.
My friend, the one who’s dying, took me out
To where the patients go to smoke, IV’s
And oxygen tanks attached to them—
A tiny patio for skeletons. We shared
A cigaratte, which was delicious but
Too brief. I held his hand; it felt
Like someone’s keys. How beautiful it was,
The sunlight pointing down at us, as if
We were important, full of life, unbound.
I wandered for a moment where his ribs
Had made a space for me, and there, beside
The thundering waterfall of is heart,
I rubbed my eyes and thought “I’m lost.”


“Now a gay physician has added his story to the narrative of medicine: Rafael Campo’s work queers medicine, violates all boundaries, and opens up the physician and his audience to medicine’s possibilities, its shortcomings, and its poetry.” — Chris Freeman, Gay & Lesbian Review

“Campo is one of the most attractive, interesting and—I can think of no better word—valuable poets of his generation. The news he has to tell is the news we need, and his talent, happily, is equal to his message.” — Richard Howard

“Campo’s background and concerns—he writes out of his identity and experience as a gay Cuban-American physician—make for a rich field of investigations, and his best work is both passionate and formally accomplished. What the Body Told dives into the difficult, necessary territory of physical love, desire, contagion, illness; such poems are essential to our moment. We need them.” — Mark Doty

“Rafael Campo is one of the most gifted and accomplished younger poets writing in English. More than that, he is a writer engaged in several of the pivotal struggles/issues of our era, and what he has to say about them is ‘news that stays news.’” — Marilyn Hacker


Availability: In stock
Price: $22.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rafael Campo is Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Author of The Other Man Was Me, he is a PEN Center West and Lambda Literary Award finalist. His poems have appeared in many publications, including The Kenyon Review, Parnassus, The Nation, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry/1995.

Table of Contents Back to Top
I. Defining Us

So In Love 3

Route 17 4

The Crying Game 7

Asylum 8

The Passive Voice 9

Before Safe Sex 10

The Battle Hymn of the Republic 11

Defining Us 13

I Become Charlotte 14

My Feminine Side 15

Once There Was Great Love 16

II. Canciones de la Vida

Canción de las Mujeres 21

Song for Our Daughter 37

III. For You All Beauty

For You All Beauty 55

The 10,000th AIDS Death in San Francisco 37

Safe Sex 58

Prescription 59

The Good Doctor 60

Ten Patients, and Another 61

Confession 72

Lost in the Hospital 73

IV. Canciones de la Muerte

Song Before Dying 77

The Immortal Song 93

V. What the Body Told

My Childhood in Another Part of the World 111

What We All Want 112

The Cuban Sky 113

Madrid 114

In English That Is Spanish 115

My Voice 116

Remembering Why 117

El Día de los Muertos 119

Safe Sex Revisited 121

What the Body Told 122
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 1997 Lammy (Lambda Literary Award) for Gay Men’s Poetry

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1742-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1733-3
Publicity material