Poem of the Week

Bomb ChildrenIt’s currently National Poetry Month, so we are offering a poem each Monday throughout April. Today’s poem is from Leah Zani’s forthcoming book, Bomb Children. Joshua O. Reno, author of Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill says “Bomb Children is nothing short of breathtaking. Leah Zani presents little-known and incredibly important material on the everyday aftermath of the Secret War for the people of Laos. Her topic is not only ethnographically underexplored, but has been deliberately concealed by the U.S. government for decades. In Zani’s hands, fieldwork becomes a flexible toolkit, selectively and strategically deployed to grasp the object of military wasting in a revealing and ethically responsible way.”


Leah Zani is a Junior Fellow in the Social Science Research Network at University of California, Irvine. Bomb Children will be published in August.

Our other highlighted poems can be read here.

Poem of the Week

Comfort Measures OnlyApril is National Poetry Month, so we are offering a poem each Monday for the next four weeks. Today’s poem is from Rafael Campo’s latest book, Comfort Measures Only: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2016. Campo, a physician, writes from his work and life experience with great empathy. Martin Espada says, “The luminous language and the luminous vision offer proof that poetry, too, is a healing art, that storytelling is medicinal. In these times, we need poets of eloquent empathy more than ever, and there is no poet more eloquent or empathetic than Rafael Campo.”

As We Die

My parents gripe about their health. I think
about when I was young, and tried to force
from them an explanation of — what else
could it have been, but death? Back then, the ink

that clotted in my mother’s brush was black
as my ungrateful, doubting soul; my father’s
huge plush armchair, tilted slightly back, offered
what seemed eternal rest. Their talk is bleak,

their diverticulosis like a pit
that swallows them, their heart disease an ache
these old emotions only aggravate.
I guess I look to them as giants yet,

immortals who know secrets I cannot.
My father, hard of hearing now, reclines
a little farther back; her face now lined
with years of pain, my mother jabs at knots

of garish sunflowers, pretending we
might yet avoid the conversations that
have made their marks on us. Not what I thought —
past death, at last, dreams keep us perfectly.

Rafael Campo is the author of six books of poetry with Duke University Press. He is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Poem of the Week by Rafael Campo

978-0-8223-3960-1_prWe conclude our Poetry Month series today with a poem by Rafael Campo, from his 2007 collection The Enemy. In addition to being a poet, Campo is also a doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. In this poem, he wonders about the stranger accidentally caught in a photo of him and his partner.

Ode to the Man Incidentally Caught in the Photograph of Us on My Desk

At first, you look determined, sunglasses
protecting your imaginary blue,
and therefore possibly sensitive, eyes.
You don’t seem like the others, arms askew,
heads angled, asses in the air—you march
as if you think that life depended on
your mission. Out of focus, on the beach
we have our backs to, maybe it’s forgone
to you, the heartening conclusion that
humanity must still be worth your care.
Around you teems the world at play, too fat,
too innocent, too broken to repair.
Much time has passed; the cheerful photograph
of us seems marred by your demeanor now,
as if the years of heedless frozen laughs
had changed your mind, as if you always knew
that any love was treacherous, that all
was somehow lost. Irretrievable friend,
your vaguely handsome face yet dutiful,
bear witness to us, even in the end.

Copyright Rafael Campo, 2007.



Poem of the Week

Only the RoadOur Poetry Month series continues today with a poem from a forthcoming collection of Cuban poetry edited and translated by Margaret Randall. Covering eight decades and featuring the work of over fifty poets from diverse backgrounds born between 1902 and 1981, Only the Road / Solo el Camino is the most complete bilingual anthology of Cuban poetry available to an English readership. The following poem is by Milena Rodríguez Gutiérrez, who was born in Havana in 1971. She currently lives in Granada, Spain. Hers is one of several poems in the collection focusing on islands.

Innocence among the Waves

Islands are children’s toys,
balls someone tosses
upon the waves.
Sometimes, in the middle of the game,
the islands deflate
and you must blow, blow
until you fall into the water.
Then, who knows
if the island or you are the toy,
if we float exhausted
or it’s the island that’s bored
with the game of blowing,
with having to pump us up again.

Inocencia entre las olas

Las islas son juguetes para niños,
pelotas que alguien lanza
en medio de las olas.
En pleno juego, a veces,
las islas se desinflan
y hay que soplar, soplar
hasta caer rendidos sobre el agua.
Entonces, no se sabe
si el juguete es la isla o uno mismo,
si aquí estamos tendidos por cansancio,
o acaso es que la isla ya se aburre
del juego de soplar,
de tener que volver a echarnos aire.

Copyright Duke University Press, 2016.

Only the Road/ Solo el Camino will be available in October 2016. If you are interested in reviewing the book or would like to consider it for your fall courses, you can view an advance copy on NetGalley.