The Violence Of Time

Everybody has died.

Dona Antonia, who had the hoarse voice and made cheap bread in town, died.

The priest Santiago, who liked it when the young men and women greeted him in the street, and who replied indistinctly, “hello, Jose. . . . Hello, Maria. . . . ”

That young blond, Carlota, who left a young son who then also died, who died after eight days of motherhood.

My aunt Albina, who used to sing country songs while sewing on the porch for Isidora, her official maid and a most honorable woman.

An old cripple died, his name unrecorded, but the one who slept in the sun in the morning, sitting in front of the door of the tinsmith’s at the corner.

Rayo has died, a dog as tall as I am, wounded by a bullet from who knows where.

Lucas has died, my brother-in-law who wore no belt, whom I think of when it rains, and there was nobody like him in the world.

My mother has died on my revolver, my sister in my fist, and my brother in my bloody gut, the three bound together by a sad kind of sadness, in the month of August in three successive years.

The musician Mendez, tall and very much a drunk, who played melancholy pieces on his clarinet, who put the roosters to sleep in the neighborhood long before the sun went down, has died.

My eternity has died, and I am holding a wake over it.

Black On White

I will die in Paris when it is raining
on a day I already remember.
I will die in Paris — I wont run from it —
like today on a Thursday in the fall.

It will be Thursday because today,
being Thursday, my bones ache, and like today
I’ll see the road ahead of me
and will be alone.

Cesar Vallejo has died; everybody has beaten
him down, and he didnt do a thing to them.
They beat him with a stick and then with a rope,
Thursdays and bones are witness.

Loneliness too. And rain, and the roads.

 

Cesar Vallejo was a Peruvian poet who died in 1938 at the age of 46 in Paris. The cause of his death is unknown and the source of some mystery. All of his life he faced starvation, but the last few years of it in Paris were the worst. He took to looking in garbage cans for food and clothing. “Black on White” comes from his last book (posthumous) called HUMAN POEMS, and “The Violence of Time” from POEMS IN PROSE, also published posthumously. His misery in Paris was increased by the fact that the fascists were conquering Spain. In his compassion for the poor of the earth, Vallejo had become a communist, and though in exile from both his home country Peru and his adopted Spain, he maintained an active interest in the political struggles of the 1930s. His death came shortly after the victory of Francisco Franco, and it is said he died of heartbreak. He is one of the greatest of modern poets.

— Richard Williams