Happy birthday, César Vallejo! Here are some quotes from his writing.
“Aviation in air, in water and in spirit. Its laws are different in all three cases. The spirit soars the more it weighs and sinks into itself. The heavier the spirit, the higher and farther it flies.”
Under the Poplars
for José Eulogio Garrido
Like priestly imprisoned poets,
Tonight I get down from my horse,
before the door of the house, where
I said farewell with the cock’s crowing.
It is shut and no one responds.
The stone bench on which mama gave birth
to my older brother, so he could saddle
backs I had ridden bare,
through lanes, past hedges, a village boy;
the bench on which I left my heartsick childhood
yellowing in the sun … And this mourning
that frames the portal?
God in alien peace,
the beast sneezes, as if calling too;
noses about, prodding the cobbles. Then doubts,
his ears all ears.
Papa must be up praying, and perhaps
he will think I am late.
My sisters, humming their simple,
preparing for the approaching holy day,
and now it’s almost here.
I wait, I wait, my heart
an egg at its moment, that gets blocked.
Large family that we left
not long ago, no one awake now, and not even a candle
placed on the altar so that we might return.
I call again, and nothing.
We fall silent and begin to sob, and the animal
whinnies, keeps on whinnying.
They’re all sleeping forever,
and so nicely, that at last
my horse dead-tired starts nodding
in his turn, and half-asleep, with each pardon, says
it’s all right, everything is quite all right.
Black Stone Lying on a White Stone
I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris—and I don’t step aside—
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.
It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.
César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also
with a rope. These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, and the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads. . .
To My Brother Miguel in Memoriam
Brother, today I sit on the brick bench outside the house,
where you make a bottomless emptiness.
I remember we used to play at this hour of the day, and mama
would calm us: “There now, boys…”
Now I go hide
as before, from all these evening
prayers, and I hope that you will not find me.
In the parlor, the entrance hall, the corridors.
Later, you hide, and I do not find you.
I remember we made each other cry,
brother, in that game.
Miguel, you hid yourself
one night in August, nearly at daybreak,
but instead of laughing when you hid, you were sad.
And your other heart of those dead afternoons
is tired of looking and not finding you. And now
shadows fall on the soul.
Listen, brother, don’t be too late
coming out. All right? Mama might worry.
This afternoon it is raining, as never before; and I
have no desire to live, my heart.
This afternoon is sweet. Why should it not be?
Dressed in grace and pain; dressed like a woman.
This afternoon in Lima it is raining. And I recall
the cruel caverns of my ingratitude;
my block of ice over her poppy,
stronger than her “Don’t be this way!”
My violent black flowers; and the barbaric
and terrible stoning; and the glacial distance.
And the silence of her dignity
with burning holy oils will put all end to it.
So this afternoon, as never before, I am
with this owl, with this heart.
Other women go by; and seeing me so sad,
they take on a bit of you
in the abrupt wrinkle of my deep remorse.
This afternoon it is raining, raining hard. And I
have no desire to live, my heart!
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.