The Distant Footsteps (Cesar Vallejo)

June 17, 2008

My father is sleeping. His noble face
suggests a mild heart;
he is so sweet now . . .
if anything bitter is in him, I must be the bitterness.

There is loneliness in the parlor; they are praying;
and there is no news of the children today.
My father wakes, he listens
for the flight into Egypt, the good-bye that dresses wounds.
Now he is so near;
if anything distant is in him, I must be the distance

And my mother walks past in the orchard,
savoring a taste already without savor.
Now she is so gentle,
so much wing, so much farewell, so much love.

There is loneliness in the parlor with no sound,
no news, no greenness, no childhood.
And if something is broken this afternoon,
and if something descends or creaks,
it is two old roads, curving and white.
Down them my heart is walking on foot.

* * *

I like what James Wright said about Vallejo in a letter to Anne Sexton, 1961: “For my part, I would not trade one single poem by Vallejo or Miguel Hernandez for everything published in American poetry since Robinson died…The rest is good sometimes, more or less, but I would rather shoot a game of pool.”

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