Monday, April 22, 2013

Distant Footsteps

Peruvian poet, César Vallejo
Recently, a friend of mine gave me a wonderful gift: the Complete Poetry of César Vallejo. Oh, what an amazing present! If you are unfamiliar with César Vallejo, he is one of the most renowned poets of 20th century Latin American, gaining popularity posthumously, and is credited with reinventing the ways in which Spanish, language, and poetry could be written.

This gift has come at a perfect moment, too. As the whirlwind of the end of the semester pulls me into a torrent of writing, reading, and grading, I find myself procrastinating in the most wonderfully productive way-- reading poetry. When my friend gave me the book of César Vallejo's poetry, I had an immediate impulse to recite my favorite of his poems but realized, to my dismay, that I could not even remember the poem's title. The other day, I picked up the book and decided it was high time that I find, re-read, and memorize my favorite Vallejo poem. (Besides, its national poetry month!)

César Vallejo in Nice, France in 1929
For the sake of brevity, I will only post the poem's English translation, which was done by Clayton Eshleman. The Complete Poetry is actually a bilingual edition with side-by-side Spanish/English text, so if you are interested in reading/seeing it in both languages, I highly recommend this book!
I hope you enjoy this beautifully anguished poem as much as I do.

"Distant Footsteps" from The Black Heralds (1919) 

  My father is asleep. His august face
expresses a peaceful heart;
he is now so sweet...
if there is anything bitter in him, it must be me.

  There is loneliness in the house; there is prayer;
and no news of the children today.
My father stirs, sounding
the flight into Egypt, the styptic farewell.
He is now so near;
if there is anything distant in him, it must be me.

  My mother walks in the orchard,
savoring a savor now without savor.
She is so soft,
so wing, so gone, so love.

  There is loneliness in the house with no bustle,
no news, no green, no childhood.
And if there is something broken this afternoon,
something that descends and that creaks,
it is two old white, curved roads.
Down them my heart makes its way on foot.
You can purchase the book here
Until next time, fair rufflers of petticoats!
UPDATE: I found a reading of this poem in Spanish, if you're interested in listening to it!

1 comment:

  1. Oh...the recording is absolutely awesome. What a voice -- my favorite lines comes in the beautiful alliteration in the verse "My mother walks in the orchard" -- all those sibilant "s" in savor, savoring and soft (suave) this. Will be sharing!