Everyone who loves books has played the "If you could only take 5 books with you to a deserted island, what would they be?" game. One of mine is The Complete Poetry of Cesar Vallejo. I first discovered
I have dreamed of a flight. And I have dreamed of
your silks strewn about the bedroom.
Along a pier, some mother;
and her fifteen years breast-feeding an hour.
I have dreamed of a flight. A 'forever and ever'
whispered on the ladder to a prow;
I have dreamed of a mother;
and some fresh sprigs of greenery,
and the aurora-constellated trousseau.
Along a pier...
And along a throat that is drowning!"
This daring approach to poetry leads
"Of the Earth
--If I loved you...what then?
--And if he loved you?
It would be
all rituary, but not as sweet.
And if you loved me?
The shadow would suffer
a deserved defeat by your little nuns.
Do whiplashes serpentize,
when the dog loves its master?
--No; but the light is ours.
You're sick...Go away...I need to sleep!
(Under the vesperal poplar grove
the blare of roses is stifled).
--Off you go, girls, quickly...
Already the forest is luxuriating in my windowpane!"
Three and two thirds ellipsis and a question mark for an opening line! And then a question of love. And then (in parentheses) an image any Romantic poet or post-Frost nature poet would kill to have written.
"Naked in Clay
Like horrible batrachians in the atmosphere,
lugubrious smirks rise to the lip.
Through the blue
walks a gray verse, a dromedary.
A grimace of cruel dreams phosphoresces.
And the blind man who died full of the voices
of snow. Rise at dawn, poet, nomad,
to the rawest day of being man.
The Hours feverishly go by, and in the corners
blond centuries of happiness abort.
Who spins out so much thread; who ruthlessly
lowers our nerves, cords
already frayed, into the tomb!
Love! And you too. Black stonings
breed in your mask and smash it.
The tomb is still
woman's sex that draws man in!"
The words, the images, the ideas. The Complete Poetry of Cesar Vallejo is a bilingual edition, discreetly annotated by the translator, and includes a forward by Mario Vargas Llosa, a chronology of