The sadness in a single poem
has kept me half-awake all night—
Cesár Vallejo’s To My Brother
Miguel, in memoriam.
For many years I offered it
to college students via translations,
rickety but adequate,
and every time it left them silent,
shocked amid their efflorescence.
Two little boys play hide-and-seek
up and down the house,
Cesár Vallejo and his brother,
their mama calling out to quiet them.
At times they make each other cry
by hiding irretrievably
in all those corridors and shadows.
Then one night, nor far from dawn,
Miguel hides away forever.
Your other heart of those dead
afternoons is tired of looking
and not finding you.
Perhaps it was the hugeness of
the poet’s understatement
that struck my students mute.
Oye, hermano, no tardes
en salir. Bueno? Puede inquietarse mamá
Twenty, thirty, forty years
ago it was, or more,
and still I’m sure each day they carry,
almost as a talisman,
Cesár Vallejo’s sadness with them.
Geoff Page is based in Canberra. He has published twenty-five collections of poetry (most recently In medias res) as well as two novels and five verse novels. He also taught English at Narrabundah College for many years.