C E S A R V A L L E J O
translated by Clayton Eshleman
The tip of man,
the petty mockery of shrinking
after smoking his universal ash;
tip yielding to secret snails,
tip one grasps wearing gloves,
tip Monday restrained with six bridles,
tip emerging from listening to his soul.
On the other hand,
the soldiers could have been fine rain
and neither square gunpowder, upon returning from their brave follies,
nor deadly bananas; only
a bit of sideburn on the silhouette.
On the other hand, walking fathers-in-law,
brothers-in-law on a sonorous mission,
all the equine grace walking
can flash resplendently!
Oh to think geometrically against the light!
Oh not to die lowly
of such swift and such fragrant majesty!
Oh not to sing; to barely
write and to write with a little stick
or with the edge of a restless ear!
Pencil chord, deafest eardrum,
zazhay in robust halves
and to eat by heart choice meat,
ham, if there is no meat,
and a piece of cheese with female worms,
male worms and dead worms.
14 September 1937
These translations from Cesar Vallejo's Poemas humanos (1939) are from The Complete Poetry of Cesar Vallejo, translated by Clayton Eshleman, with an Introduction by Mario Vargas Llosa, to be published by University of California Press, autumn 2006.
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