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Wednesday 19 February 2014

César Vallejo: Trilce LVIII


House where the poet César Vallejo was born, Santiago de Chuco, Perú: photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo, 19 January 2008
In the cell, in the solid, even the corners 
huddle up. I set to rights  
The stripped men, who crumple, 
submit, become rags.  
I climb from the horse 
panting and snorting lines 
of blows and horizons; one 
lathery foot against three hooves. 
And I help him: Come on, you creature! 
Less. One would take 
always less of what it befell me to divide
in the cell, in the liquid. 
My prison companion 
was eating wheat from the slopes 
with my own spoon, 
when, at my parents' table, a child 
I fell asleep chewing.  
I prompt him: go on 
back round the other corner: 
go quickly... go round... go soon!  
Heedlessly, I 
find him his reasons, plan: 
there's room for a bit of a bed in here
merciful, rickety. No doubt of it 
that doctor was a sound man.  
I'll laugh no more 
when my mother prays 
in childhood and on Sunday
and at four 
of an early morning 
for wayfarers, for prisoners, 
and poor. 
In the sheepfold of boys, no more I'll 
deal blows at any 
who afterwards would cry 
still bleeding: Another Saturday 
I'll give you my cold meat 
only don't beat me.
All I'll say to him now is: O.K. 
In the cell, in the gas unlimited 
till it grows round in condensation, 
who stumbles outside?

César Vallejo (1892-1938): Poema LVIII, from Trilce (1922), translated by Charles Tomlinson and Henry Gifford in Poetry, January 1967

File:Huaca del Sol - Août 2007.jpg

Panoramic view of the archaeological site of Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun), Mochica political capital, south of Trujillo city, Perú: photo by Martin St-Amant, 27 August 2007

Charged with intellectual instigation of a partisan skirmish in his hometown, Santiago de Chuco, Vallejo was imprisoned for 112 days (8 November 1920-26 February 1921) in the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo, where he had attended university

En la celda, en lo sólido, también
se acurrucan los rincones.

Arreglo los desnudos que se ajan,
se doblan, se harapan.

Apéome del caballo jadeante, bufando
líneas de bofetadas y de horizontes;
espumoso pie contra tres cascos.
Y le ayudo: Anda, animal!

Se tomaría menos, siempre menos, de lo
que me tocase erogar,
en la celda, en lo líquido.

El compañero de prisión comía el trigo
de las lomas, con mi propia cuchara,
cuando, a la mesa de mis padres, niño,
me quedaba dormido masticando.

Le soplo al otro:
Vuelve, sal por la otra esquina;
apura ...aprisa,... apronta!

E inadvertido aduzco, planeo,
cabe camastro desvencijado, piadoso:
No creas. Aquel médico era un hombre sano.

Ya no reiré cuando mi madre rece
en infancia y en domingo, a las cuatro
de la madrugada, por los caminantes,
y pobres.

En el redil de niños, ya no le asestaré
puñetazos a ninguno de ellos, quien, después,
todavía sangrando, lloraría: El otro sábado
te daré de mi fiambre, pero
no me pegues!
Ya no le diré que bueno.

En la celda, en el gas ilimitado
hasta redondearse en la condensación,
¿quién tropieza por afuera?

Santiago de Chuco, Perú: photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo, 19 January 2008

File:Dios Aiapæc.jpg
Mochica god "Ai apaec" or "Degollador", tile in a wall of the Mochica sanctuary Huecas del Sol y de la Luna, near Trujillo, Perú: photo by Elmer Castillo Contreras, 30 August 2008

File:10000 Intis.jpg

Banknote for 10,000 intis (a currency that existed in Perú between 1986 and 1991): image by Discjockey, 6 April 2010


The poet César Vallejo in Nice: photographer unknown, 1929; image by Stefan4, 1 May 2012
File:Grave César Vallejo.JPG

Grave of César Vallejo, Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris: photo by Blueswan59, 24 October 2012

Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chuco, Perú: photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo, 19 January 2008


Anonymous said...

hermoso homenaje...

Nin Andrews said...

How does he do it? He always makes my heart ache. I love Vallejo.

Mose23 said...

My prison companion
was eating wheat from the slopes
with my own spoon,
when, at my parents' table, a child
I fell asleep chewing.

The shift in spacetime here's a work of magic.

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

I had conversations about Vallejo in the 60s with Mexican poet, Marco Antonio Montes de Oca, sometimes somewhat playfully deciding who was the greater, Vallejo or Neruda. And Marco said that Vallejo's poems are always "behind" the words of the poems we have, which I find intriguing. The expostulations of the poems kind of burst out of him, from the shadow world where they really dwell. With those almost glossolalia words in Trilce... untranslatable neologisms. And (and Marco had it too from his Mexican indigenous roots) something so deeply pre-Spanish, indio, with all the respect that entails. The black brooding quality... almost Artaud.

Hazen said...

There’s a half-delirious, fluid, hallucinatory quality to these verses, fragments of thought and remembered actions. Time shifts and slides into another place. A prison cell goes from solid to liquid; the corners of the room curl up; prison is suddenly a reminder of childhood and its tormentors . . . and how the tide turns.

ACravan said...

I am grateful for the other commenters here putting into words reactions to the poem that I found difficult to express. That being said, the poem and its relationship with the pictures that accompany it have been on my mind all day (and all of the night). Curtis

TC said...

Thanks, everyone.

The subjective experience of dehumanization, of the fracturing and loss of the self, of the measurelessness of suffering -- these things are so rarely written of in a way we can immediately recognize as authentic, unposed, shatteringly "real" as the bewildering face of the world appears to one stranded outside it.

That Vallejo entered this region of difficulty so early, and felt and articulated it with such uncanny clarity -- one is forced to read instinctively, surrendering to the poetic orders of perception -- continues to astonish.

Trilce, the breakthrough book, was published when he was twenty-four.

From that book came this present poem, as well as these others for which I've attempted my own English-language "correspondences".

Vallejo: Dolor

Vallejo: Jet

Vallejo: The Vedic Fiber

I've also posted a poem from a later Vallejo volume, the posthumous Poemas Humanos (1938) -- this one beautifully translated by the poet who was Vallejo's first significant champion in the English-speaking poetry world, Thomas Merton.

César Vallejo: Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca (Black stone on top of a white stone)