The Cuban Way

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The Cuban Way by Rafael Campo  

Sonnet in the Cuban Way

To make you fall in love with me, I’d curse

Before I’d sing to you; implacable

And elegant, I’d force you with my class

Beneath a music kind of tropical

But mine enough you’d never recognize

Its foreign cadences. O island whore,

I’d stare like moonlight in your eyes,

I’d lie that I don’t want you anymore

Then fuck you like Americans know how —

To make you fall in love with me, I’d die

Just near enough to you there’d be no doubt

My feelings are eternal. Dressed in dew,

You’d meekly pardon my brutality,

In love at last, so naked you’d seem free.



©2000 Rafael Campo and Nerve Publishing


Two Quatrains for the Sexually Compulsive

Chest hair, a glimpse of it, can be enough.

The way a woman rests her arm across

her breasts while reading in the park. I love

the muscled calves of rollerbladers. Creased

brows of an older man, pure concentration

that begs to be disturbed. Tight jeans on men.

On women, shoulder pads. The hesitation

before I have to ask — and then, to wait again.




©2000 Rafael Campo and Nerve Publishing


Your Black Eyes

All I could think of was the time we first

discovered what two men could do: your fist

around my rigid cock, yours in my mouth.

You talked about the reasons why, about

the grey unhappiness of us, routines,

monotonous discussions, stupid scenes

(the restaurant, the dry cleaner’s). Outside,

some shirtless Puerto Rican kids made night

pulse dangerous again, like when we kissed

in that dark alleyway, your cold hand pressed

inside my jeans. You talked about how hard

it was for you, and how I never heard

what you were saying all these years; the sound

of distant barking dogs — complaining — seemed

if not forthright, at least forgivable.

God, how I wanted to fuck you until

the red light of dawn injured us as one,

until inside of you I’d almost come —

our love familiar as our furniture,

as urgent as your black eyes’ needful stare —

but you were leaving me that night, and sex

is always only what the other wrecks.




©2000 Rafael Campo and Nerve Publishing


from Three Recent Films

III. Kiss of the Spider Woman

Imprisoned in a dream I had,

My cellmate, William Hurt, went mad

While telling me his stories. Sad

And glamorous, so glamorous

I hardly could believe in us —

We fell in love. You’ll say, of course,

Two men in prison have no choice.

But I could hear it in his voice.

And he in mine. I held him close

And whispered in his ear a tale

Of my own . . . Their torture always fails —

The two of us, we must prevail

To change the world in which we’ll be

Released. No longer shall we see

Excuses for brutality;

Whatever words we had for love

Will suddenly not be enough!

Outside of prison, we shall live

Together reinventing hearts,

The beating dense as iron bars,

Reading the welts the prison guards

Have written on our chests . . .

That night, instead of dream, I’d kill

Cockroaches on my windowsill

And stare into the night (perhaps

What I was searching for was help

To write these words). I press my lips

To William Hurt’s; we are insane

With lust, and somewhere in the pain

I see an island, miles of sand

And someone skipping on the beach.

All seemes to be well out of reach.

The sea, articulate as speech,

Is saying what I think I hear.

The rest of it remains unclear.

I drown, which is like drinking tears

But it’s a dream so no one knows

And as the sky begins to close

I recognize my face in his.

“Sonnet in a Cuban Way” and “Three Recent Films” were previously published in Diva (Duke University Press, 1999) and are reprinted here with permisson.



©2000 Rafael Campo and Nerve Publishing