LXI

- 1892-1938
    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,
whinnies, 
his ears all ears. 

    Papa must be up praying, and perhaps
he will think I am late. 
My sisters, humming their simple, 
bubblish illusions, 
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.

More by César Vallejo

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.

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. . .

Dregs

     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!