100 Refutations: Day 11

Nine Monsters

And, unfortunately,
pain grows in the world all the time,
grows, thirty minutes every second, step by step,
and the nature of pain, is pain twice over
and the condition of martyrdom, carnivorous, voracious,
it’s pain twice over
and the function of the purest herb, pain
twice, over,
and the good of being, to hurt us twice over.

Never, kin of mine, humankind,
was there ever so much pain, in the chest, on the lapels, inside the purse,
in the cup, in the butcher shop, in the arithmetic!
Never so much painful affection,
Never has so far hit so close,
Never fire, ever
played better dead, bitter cold!
Never, Mr. Minister of Health, was health
more deadly
nor did the migraine steal so much foresight from the forehead!
And the furniture, in its basket-casket cabinet, pain,
in the heart, in its basket-casket cabinet, pain,
the lizard, in its basket-casket cabinet, pain.

Despair grows, humankind, kin of mine,
faster than the machine, ten machines at a time, and it grows
with Rousseau’s red beef, with our beards;
evil grows for unknown reasons
and becomes a flood of its own juices,
with its own mud and cloud of brick!
It inverts the suffering positions, puts on a show
wherein liquid humor rises vertically
from the pavement
the eye is seen, this ear is heard,
and this ear tolls nine times on the hour
of lightning and laughter,
on the hour of wheat, nine songs sing soprano
on the hour of weeping, nine hummed hymns
on the hour of hunger, and nine thunders
and nine whips, minus one scream.

Pain gets a hold of us, kin of mine, humankind,
by the scruff, by the profile,
drives us crazy in the cinemas,
nails us to the gramophone,
un-nails us from the bed, falls perpendicularly,
atop our tickets, atop our letters;
and it’s terrible to suffer, one can pray…
For it ends up being that
from pain, some
are born, some grow, some die,
and some who are born but do not die, and some
who are neither born nor buried (the majority).
And it also ends up being
that from suffering, I am grieved
to the top of my head, and even more to just below my ankle
from seeing bread, crucified, the turnip
crying, the onion,
most grain ground down, to flour,
so throw dust in the salt, as water flees
and in the wine, an ecce-homo,
so pale is the snow, beneath a sunburnt sun!

How then, kin of mine, humankind,
not to say that I can’t and
I can’t with all the bushels and baskets of cabinet-caskets,
with so many minutes, with so many
lizards and so many
inversions, so very far and so very bad this thirst for thirst!
Mr. Minister of Health: what to do?
Ah! Unfortunately, humankind,
There is, kin of mine, a lot to do.


César Vallejo

César Vallejo was born in Santiago de Chuco, Peru in 1892 and died in Paris in 1938. According to the Antologia de la Poesia Hispanoamericana, “In 1923, after publishing his second book, Trilce, which placed him at the forefront of the poetic Peruvian vanguard, he left for Europe never to return.” The death of his mother, a bohemian reputation, and an “unfortunate incident which landed him in prison for four months,” are often cited as the reasons for his self-imposed exile. “After a long poetic silence, as if urged by the presentiment of death, he wrote—in just a few months—the 'Human Poems' which would be published posthumously [… and which] you can barely speak [of] as poetry, they are the sharp and torn expression of the pain of, not the individual, but our species.”

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com.

English translation copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.