César Vallejo


Transcribed: for marxists.org August, 2002, from various sources on the Internet.

The Black Messengers

There are in life such hard blows . . . I don't know!
Blows seemingly from God's wrath; as if before them
the undertow of all our sufferings
is embedded in our souls . . . I don't know!

There are few; but are . . . opening dark furrows
in the fiercest of faces and the strongest of loins,
They are perhaps the colts of barbaric Attilas
or the dark heralds Death sends us.

They are the deep falls of the Christ of the soul,
of some adorable one that Destiny Blasphemes.
Those bloody blows are the crepitation
of some bread getting burned on us by the oven's door

And the man . . . poor . . . poor!
He turns his eyes around, like
when patting calls us upon our shoulder;
he turns his crazed maddened eyes,
and all of life's experiences become stagnant, like a puddle of guilt, in a daze.

There are such hard blows in life. I don't know!

(source http://www.blythe.org/peru-pcp/newflag/nf9801/vallej.htm)

Paris, October 1936

From all of this I am the only one who leaves.
From this bench I go away, from my pants,
from my great situation, from my actions,
from my number split side to side,
from all of this I am the only one who leaves.

From the Champs Elysées or as the strange
alley of the Moon makes a turn,
my death goes away, my cradle leaves,
and, surrounded by people, alone, cut loose,
my human resemblance turns around
and dispatches its shadows one by one.

And I move away from everything, since everything
remains to create my alibi:
my shoe, its eyelet, as well as its mud
and even the bend in the elbow
of my own buttoned shirt.

(translated by Clayton Eshleman, source: http://www.poetrymagazine.com/archives/1998/sept/vallejo.htm)

To My Brother Miguel In Memoriam

Brother, today I sit on the brick bench of the house,
where you make a bottomless emptiness.
I remember we used to play at this hour, and mama
caressed us: "But, sons..."

Now I go hide
as before, from all evening
lectures, and I trust you not to give me away.
Through the parlor, the vestibule, the corridors.
Later, you hide, and I do not give you away.
I remember we made ourselves cry,
brother, from so much laughing.

Miguel, you went into hiding
one night in August, toward dawn,
but, instead of chuckling, you were sad.
And the twin heart of those dead evenings
grew annoyed at not finding you. And now
a shadow falls on my soul.

Listen, brother, don't be late
coming out. All right? Mama might worry.

(translated by James Wright, source: http://www.poetrymagazine.com/archives/1998/sept/vallejo.htm)

Black Stone on Top of a White Stone

I shall die in Paris, in a rainstorm,
On a day I already remember.
I shall die in Paris-- it does not bother me--
Doubtless on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.

It shall be a Thursday, because today, Thursday
As I put down these lines, I have set my shoulders
To the evil. Never like today have I turned,
And headed my whole journey to the ways where I am alone.

César Vallejo is dead. They struck him,
All of them, though he did nothing to them,
They hit him hard with a stick and hard also
With the end of a rope. Witnesses are: the Thursdays,
The shoulder bones, the loneliness, the rain, and the roads...

(translated by Thomas Merton, source: http://www.poetrymagazine.com/archives/1998/sept/vallejo.htm)

Poem to Be Read and Sung
 César Vallejo

I know there is a person
Who looks for me in her hand, day and night,
finding me, every minute, in her shoes.
Doesn't she know that the night is buried
with spurs behind the kitchen?

I know there is a person composed of my parts,
to whom I fuse when my waist goes
galloping in its exact pebble.
Doesn't she know that the coin that appeared
with her portrait won't return to her coffer?

I know the day,
but the sun has escaped me;
I know the universal act she did in her bed
with another's courage and that warm water, whose
superficial frequency is a mine.
Is this person, perhaps, so small
that even her own feet step on her?

A cat forms the boundary between her and me,
right next to her share of water.
I see her on the corners, she opens and closes
her robe, earlier a questioning palm tree. . .
What can she do but change weeping?

But she looks and looks for me. It's a story!

(source: http://www.kannibaal.nl/vallejo.htm)

"Our Daily Bread" by Cesar Vallejo

I was in a turmoil when I read and reread "Our Daily Bread." This poem has a lot of emotions involved in it. Feelings of hunger, sadness, anger, guilt, and warmth are felt through out the poem.

In the first stanza, the speaker sets the scene with "Damp earth of the cemetery," "City of winter," "mordant crusade." Especially when the speaker speaks of "the fragrance of the precious blood," we feel coldness, loneliness and death. All through this poem, the speaker uses symbols to connect us with Jesus. The "precious blood" is a symbol of Jesus giving his life for us. If you look at it in a different way, the precious blood is the blood that drips down from Jesus' forehead from the crown of thorns. The phrase "and emotion of fasting that cannot get free" represents hunger and death.

The meaning behind "I wish I could beat on all the doors, and ask for somebody" -- if we think of the narrator as Jesus's voice -- is that Jesus wishes he could have reached more people who were in need. "Look at the poor, and, while they wept softly" is surely an emotion of guilt that he didn't reach as many people as he wanted to. Then he goes on with feeding the poor: "give bits of fresh bread." He turns his guilt to anger toward the rich by saying he would "plunder the rich of their vineyards."

Other symbols of Jesus dying for us is the blood and wine that our sins may be forgiven. The speaker uses "two blessed hands" -- Jesus's hands as they nailed him to the cross. "Blasted the nails with one blow of light" represents Jesus's crucifixion. As they nailed him to the cross, it grew dark, and his holy spirit "flew away from the Cross!" up to the heavens.

The speaker returns to the crucifixion with the phrase "every bone in me belongs to others." This is a symbol of Jesus dying for us. "Maybe I robbed them," he says. Jesus feels that he did not achieve his purpose as he continues: "I start to think that, if I had not been born, another poor man could have drunk this coffee."

"I feel like a dirty thief." This phrase conveys Jesus's feelings of betrayal that he robbed us by not fulfilling his goals. "Where will I end?" is a very powerful feeling. As Jesus looked up to his father in heaven, he's saying "Father why have you forsaken me." And Jesus dies.

"This frigid hour" refers to the cold, empty feelings of the people who loved him. "When the earth has the odor of human dust," represents the saying "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." We can feel the sadness when you picture Jesus on the cross with the other men who were crucified and the smell of death around them. One last time before Jesus dies on the cross, he questions his purpose in life by saying "I wish I could beat on all the doors." He continues to "beg pardon from someone." Is he begging pardon from us because he hasn't reached all the people he wanted to? "Make bits of fresh bread for him here, in the oven of my heart...!" What powerful words, to describe the love he has for us.

"Eyelash of morning, you cannot lift yourselves!" This passage is based on the belief that on the third day after his death he rose again from the dead. We are the "eyelash of morning," something that covers the light, and are helpless to see the light on our own; we need help.

"Give us our daily bread, Lord...!" refers to "Our Lords Prayer." We need Jesus in our lives, he is "our daily bread."

There are many symbols and metaphors in this poem, such as the body and blood of Jesus being referred to as the bread and wine, and the blessed hands of Jesus who healed the sick.

The language of this poem is fine; I would not change a word of it. I thought about moving third stanza to the end, but as I looked deeper into the poem, I began feeling the speaker was Christ speaking to me. So I wouldn't move the third stanza but possibly repeat "Where will I end?" Those four words are very powerful and would leave the reader thinking that maybe if I don't put Jesus in my life "where will I end?"

(Translated by James Wright, source: http://webster.commnet.edu/faculty/~archives/english/kiley.htm)