Happy birthday Cesar Vallejo

It’s the birthday of poet César Vallejo, born in Santiago de Chuco, Peru (1892). As a young man, he worked as a miner, and then as a cashier at a sugar plantation that employed slave laborers. He was horrified by the exploitation of poor workers, and he became a socialist.
In 1920, he was at a festival in his hometown — a festival that deteriorated into lootings and arson. He was mistakenly arrested and thrown in jail, and he spent the next four months writing the poetry that would appear in his first major collection, Trilce (1922).
After he was released from prison, he moved to Paris, where he slept on subway trains and park benches for months. He was sick and depressed, and he couldn’t find a steady job. He wrote to his brother: “I have the desire to work and to live my life with dignity. I am not a bohemian: poverty is very painful, and it’s no part for me, unlike for others. … My will veers between the point at which one is reduced to the sole desire for death and the intention of conquering the world by sword and fire.”
He wrote the poem “Black Stone Lying on a White Stone,” translated by Robert Bly:
I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris — and I don’t step aside —
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.
It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.
César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also
with a rope. These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, and the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads …

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