The Cuban-American physician-poet Rafael Campo tells a story in this poem. His speaker is both a curandero, or folk healer, and a modern-day American physician. Returning home after a trauma-filled day at the Emergency Ward, the speaker immerses himself in a soothing bath with "Twenty different herbs at first (dill, spices / From the Caribbean, aloe vera)." He weeps and prays to his patron saint and curandero St. Rafael, who has the same name as the poet himself. Rafael announces his arrival: "Rafael, / He says, I am your saint." The speaker tells his healer about two female patients he has seen that day, one, an abused wife, and the second a little girl killed on her tricycle. St. Rafael listens, touches the speaker, and carries him to bed. Sleep "takes the world away."


The poem illustrates the suffering of a modern-day physician whose empathy with his patients causes him pain. Especially sensitive to the suffering of female victims, the speaker returns to familiar folk remedies for healing. The speaker is at home in two worlds: his own world of the hospital where he sometimes feels helpless to cure, and his ancient Caribbean culture which sustains him.

Primary Source

The Other Man Was Me


Arts Publico Press

Place Published