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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Vallejo: Jet


File:Waterspout noaa00307.jpg

It scares me, Sweet Lord, this brutal jet
of sweetness, it scares
me. This house gives me a perfect
wholeness, a perfect sense of knowing
where not to be.

Let us not go in. It scares me, this
minute by minute retracing
of my steps, over destroyed bridges.
Sweet Lord, I can't
continue. Brave sad skeleton singer.

It's what's inside the haunted house, the deadly
quicksilver, that seals
my veins with lead
in the arid afternoon.

The jet doesn't know how we
can go on. It terrifies me. Valor but
a memory, I do not continue. Sad ruby
red skeleton, just whistle, just whistle.


César Vallejo: Trilce (XXVII), 1922, trans. TC

Waterspouts in the Bahamas Islands: photo by NOAA, n.d.

Tornado waterspout near Cape Formentor, Mallorca: photo by Julian Kupfer, 2006


Curtis Roberts said...

This is about the most intense and affecting short movie scene I've ever experienced and it's obviously not even a movie. When I return to Pennsylvania later this week, my Vallejo book should have arrived, which excites me, but the translations here have spoiled me. I think it's time I progressed beyond "menu Spanish".

Radish King said...

Oh lovely most lovely and I felt it in my deepest secret bones. I want to say more but I can't not yet. Not today or maybe later.

I have never seen a water spout but I've seen many whales breaching. I think they may be similar experiences.

John B-R said...

Just whistle ...

TC said...

Yes, now that you mention it, how did Lauren Bacall manage to smuggle that quail into this poem?

Whales breaching is probably pretty close to the surface turbulence effects of a middling size water spout.

The long funnels are intense columnar vortices.

They occur usually over a body of water and are connected at the top to a cumuliform cloud.

Waterspouts do not suck up water, the water seen in the main funnel cloud is actually water droplets formed by condensation.

I saw some small ones once off the Marin Coast during heavy storms. Amazing phenomena of nature.

Vallejo's word is "chorro", which could mean jet, or spurt, or sudden stream, gush, flow, torrent... (sexual and psychological implications never to be ruled out with this poet).



Amazing photos (!). And these translations are really great. Where was Vallejo when we wrote that book? Are you going to 'do' all of it? I hope so, because then we (who haven't ever really read him) will be able to do so . . . .

TC said...


The photos... yes, astonishing.

Vallejo was still in Peru. He was thirty. In the previous few years he had lost two university teaching jobs and had been imprisoned for 105 days as an "intellectual instigator." Fearing a return to jail, he left Peru for good in 1923, accepting an invitation from a friend to go to Paris.

Over time I've done a number of poems from the series, not sure how many. But there are a lot more I have not had the courage to attempt. There are some tough nuts to crack on that tree.

To me it is one of the great books of poetry of the XX Century.



Thanks for this, I'll look for more (CV), are there more of your translations in the Libellum book (I've been wanting to get over to spd to get that for weeks & months now). . . . Time to show Johnny those waterspouts.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

This is one of the most frightening things I've experienced and the words capture it. I've seen both a water spout and mini spout over land at a distance and to say the feeling is elemental doesn't begin to capture it. It is pure fear, instinctual and deep, deep ...

TC said...


Yes, there are two Vallejos in Trans/Versions, a companion volume to The New World (both from Libellum).


Deep, deep gets it. The images, the phenomena, Vallejo's poem. Sometimes it feels as though we're skating on the surface of things. Vallejo's poetry always gives me the sense he's aware of the mysterious and disturbing depths below.