Medicine men

By JAMES PARKER  |  November 28, 2008

Is there, I wonder, a breed of patient that doesn't appreciate Campo's commitment to empathy and emotional presence and all that — who would prefer something a little more . . . clinical? He laughs. "I've definitely had people tell me in my practice, 'You know, I so appreciate your style and your approach, and how we interact, but I wanna make sure you send me to a surgeon who knows exactly which part of my colon to take out!' That does happen."

Living at this pitch of metaphor can be hard, even for the one making the metaphors. One of the strongest moments in The Enemy occurs in the poem "Tuesday Morning," when Campo finds himself suddenly exhausted or disenchanted by his own poetic endeavor: "I'll diagnose a man with cancer, not/know what to say. Believing in the poem/provides not much relief."

"There are those moments," he says, "when you realize that the poem you wrote about your patient with cancer isn't going to cure the cancer. And yet . . . I hope that that poem can speak to the possibility of healing. It might heal somebody. It might heal me."

James Parker can be reached at

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