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Cesar Vallejo or 12 Lines on The Bread of Shame

ISSUE:  Summer 2009

On the third line, a tear may boil in the ovens of the eye
When you learn he collected bottles in the streets
For a living.

One can imagine the back bowing, the hand reaching out
To the glass neck, the slice being cut from the bread of shame.
From this angle, it’s hard to be sated even from Parisian legs
Joined at the hips of girls with whom God was laughing
In the delivery room.

And you, Mr. Hunger Minister, don’t say that within his empty stomach
His poems were baked, don’t remind us that beauty whips wheat before
The ovens of hell turn it into bread. One could have dreamt
He was a bird and left a crumb on the windowpane.

—Translated by Robert Manaster and Hana Inbar


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