September 12, 2007

Hump Day Poetry: César Vallejo

Posted in Poetry at 8:16 pm by The Lizard Queen

Have You Anything to Say in Your Defense?

Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

They all know that I’m alive,
that I’m vicious; and they don’t know
the December that follows from that January.
Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

There is an empty place
in my metaphysical shape
that no one can reach:
a cloister of silence
that spoke with the fire of its voice muffled.

On the day I was born,
God was sick.

Brother, listen to me, Listen . . .
oh, all right. Don’t worry, I won’t leave
without taking my Decembers along,
without leaving my Januaries behind.
Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

They all know that I’m alive,
that I chew my food . . . and they don’t know
why harsh winds whistle in my poems,
the narrow uneasiness of a coffin,
winds untangled from the Sphinx
who holds the desert for routine questioning.

Yes, they all know . . . Well, they don’t know
that the light gets skinny
and the darkness gets bloated . . .
And they don’t know that the Mystery joins things together . . .
that he is the hunchback
musical and sad who stands a little way off and foretells
the dazzling progression from the limits to the Limits.

On the day I was born,
God was sick,

—César Vallejo (1892-1938)
(tr. James Wright, 1971)



  1. DavidD said,

    So was that December 1892 when Cesar was born, making him wonder if God’s magic was used up for that year?

    Is the You in the title Cesar, God or both?

    As I read this I thought of the recent story about Mother Teresa’s anguish that God never spoke to her again after He sent her off to be Mother Teresa with a single audible sentence. In any relationship that doesn’t fit one’s expectations, it’s only natural for us to blame the other person, ourselves, or both. I bet all of us try out each possibility in that situation, maybe many versions of each, and then go with whichever version we like best. So Cesar here was trying out blaming God, particularly the image of God as a hunchback, as defective. Maybe he also blamed himself with the same image. I wonder what he was explaining that way.

    The thing is that no failed relationship has a simple explanation, except the summary statements we can use to put on a handle on it, depending on whether we want to be the good guy or the bad guy. That God was sick when I was born is more ambiguous than my being good while He’s bad or the other way around, but only in the morality of the thing. It does seem to imply that the relationship was doomed. Ah, people say such things, but they don’t know. They’re just guessing. Time might present them with yet another way to see it.

  2. tomfraserconlon said,

    Reblogged this on tomfraserconlon.

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