by Rafael Campo
I pass you in a hurry, on my way
to where another woman who I know
is dying of a stroke that in the end
is nothing worse than what is killing you.
Same gurney, same bruised arms and mute IV—
you wait for what might be a final test.
It's something in the way you look at me
that makes me realize you have your own
mistakes you think you're paying for, your own
ungrateful kids, your own unspeakable
pain. Yet you look at me, still desperate
for just another human being to
look kindly back at you, to recognize
in you the end is not far off, is not
so unimaginable. Years ago
I watched a patient of mine say goodbye
to life. She was alone like you, alone
like me, she was in agony. She looked
at me, and I, afraid to be the last
thing here on Earth she saw, twisted my head
to look away. I almost do the same
to you, afraid you might imagine me
as later you lay dying, but I don't.
Instead, I look at you remorselessly,
the way I hope that someday I am seen,
the way each one deserves to be imagined,
and wonder at your astonishing beauty.