* charting the world with rafael campo

In searching for images to accompany this week’s poem, I came across the photo below. The photo is from 1933 and is of the Metropolitan nurses home at Roosevelt Island, part of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital complex.

The image below stayed with me for the way it captured what might have been part of someone’s daily commute or walk, a scene that may have been overlooked in day to day life. The image is almost without center, or rather, the center is active, keeping the viewer staring off into the detailed distance as one would be able to should they be turning this particular corner.

This week’s poem – “Chart” by Rafael Campo (pulled from the latest issue of Poetry*) – takes on the idea of people being overlooked in a doctor’s work life. Through the detailing of the particular corners of the people that he knows, Campo keeps the reader looking into the very active center of his poem.

* look over *
* look over *

The Chart – Rafael Campo

Says fifty-four-year-old obese Hispanic
female — I wonder if they mean the one
with long black braids, Peruvian, who sells
tamales at the farmers’ market, tells
me I’m too thin, I better eat; or is
she the Dominican with too much rouge
and almond eyes at the dry cleaner’s who
must have been so beautiful in her youth;
or maybe she’s the Cuban lady drunk
on grief who I’ve seen half-asleep, alone
as if that bench were only hers, the park
her home at last; or else the Mexican
who hoards the littered papers she collects
and says they are her “documents”; if not,
it could be that Colombian drug addict
whose Spanish, even when she’s high, is perfect;
or maybe it’s the one who never says
exactly where she’s from, but who reminds
me of my grandmother, poor but refined,
lace handkerchief balled up in her plump hand,
who died too young from a condition that
some doctor, nose in her chart, overlooked.

***

Happy nosing!

Jose

* p.s. Read the rest of this month’s issue of Poetry here.

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