The Moths Who Come in the Night to Drink Our Tears
always leave quenched,
though they’re drinking,
in composition, seawater,
which does not make them insane
as it does parched humans when
we drink it, even
with our big, big bodies.
If you knew
a leper’s tears do not contain
the bacillus leprae,
would you let him weep on your chest?
Let the moths come, let the sandwoman and -man come,
let Morpheus and Dreamadum come
unto me, and my beloveds,
let the moths come
and drink of the disburdening waters.
—César Vallejo, Arago Clinic, Paris, Holy Friday,
April 15, 1938
It was you, César, they killed to the base of your forefinger, you.
Certainly they shot Pedro Rojas too.
No doubt Juana Vásquez was killed.
The killers, poor also, were skilled.
And Emilio, they shot him in the back of the neck
after they made him kneel amid the wreck
of his grandmother’s house—they beat
but did not kill her. The people, their hands and feet
(A cripple sleeps with his foot on his shoulder.
Shall I later talk about Picasso, of all people?),
these are the people you wrote for, César,
though your later poems, no longer lighted by the laser
of your homeland, of Heraldos Negros or Trilce, were
real enough for exile but not as true, licit.
Socialist realism, the aesthetic was called,
poetry force-marched—to diminish, equally, all.
It was not right for your mind and betrayed your heart.
Your countrymen and -women should bring you home, César.
Entombed in France is good enough for some,
but Peru should bring Peru’s great poet home.
Jebus don’t love me, oh.
Oh Jebus don’t love me, no.
He never because I too slow.
The moon do love me, but it fall,
plash, way there in ocean
where I see them small
fishes who be, who be a ton
of teeth in my big eyes. So,
Jebus, let this tiny haminal go,
because I don’t love you neither, no.