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The thing is, the place where I put on
my pants is a house where
I take off my shirt out loud
and where I have a floor, a soul, a map of my Spain.
Just now I was talking
to myself about myself, and setting
on top of a tiny book a huge loaf of bread
and then I made a move, I did move,
feeling like humming a little, the right side
of my life over to the left side;
later I washed myself all over, the belly,
vigorous, commendably;
I have looked around to see what it is that gets dirty,
I've scraped off whatever brings me so near,
and I've adjusted the map which
was nodding or crying, I don't know which.

My house, unfortunately, is a house
of one floor, as chance would have it, where live
with its monogram, my beloved teaspoon,
my esteemed skeleton, so far without letters,
my razor, a perpetual cigarette.
In truth, when I think about
what it is that life is
I can't help telling Georgette,
having in mind to eat a little something and go out
in the afternoon to buy a good newspaper,
to lay by a day for the time when there isn't any,
a night too, for when there is
(that's the way they say it in Peru — I excuse myself);
in the same way I hold myself in with great care
so as not to scream or to cry, now that the eyes have,
independent of oneself, their own poverty,
that is to say, their office, something
that slips out of the soul and falls on the soul.

Having passed through
fifteen years; after, fifteen and before, fifteen,
one feels in reality a little silly,
it's natural; as for the rest of it — what's to do!
And what to quit doing, which is worse?
Except to live, except to become
whatever one is among millions
of loaves, among thousands of wines, among hundreds of mouths,
between the sun and its ray which is the moon
and between the Mass, the bread, the wine and my soul.

Today is Sunday, and so
the idea comes into my head, the sorrow into my heart
and to the throat, this thing like a big lump.
Today is Sunday, and that
is many centuries old; otherwise,
it would be, perhaps, Monday, and the idea would come to the heart,
to the brain, the sorrow
and to the throat a frightened need to swallow
what I am feeling now
as the man I am, and for what I have lived through.

21 Nov 1937

César Vallejo
Translation by Sandy McKinney

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