Saturday, December 5, 2009
“Black Stone Lying on a White Stone”
Today’s poem is stark. As I was driving to Cascade on Friday I drove by Payette Lake; it was 6 degrees Fahrenheit, & the lake, not yet frozen, was shimmering with a cold fog. In the midst of the shallows were some of the coldest white stones I have ever seen, & this great poem by César Vallejo came into my head.
When I say great poem, I’m using the adjective quite literally—to my mind, Vallejo was one of the very greatest 20th century poets. Born in Peru, but later emigrating to France because of persecution for his leftist politics, Vallejo came as close in poetry as anyone to speaking what can’t be spoken, & to giving a voice to the dispossessed—as he was himself.
It has been a difficult week, one in which mortality & the transitory & bearing witness & a sense of existential injustice all have come to my mind. This has resulted not only from some of the recent events I’ve written about, but also how those events have echoed with others.
So now I’m a bit tired—it was not only an emotionally eventful week, but also one in which I travelled a lot, as well as participating (with Eberle & others) in an almost 6 hour rehearsal for the Christmas show we’ll be playing next weekend. There won't be a post on Robert Frost’s Banjo tomorrow, but fear not: I’ll be back on Monday, & hope to have a seasonal musical surprise! There will be another of the San Francisco poems on The Days of Wine & Roses tomorrow, however. It’s a long poem called "Sam Peckinpaugh’s Mexican Xmas."
& speaking of The Days of Wine & Roses, good blog friend Sandra Leigh of the very wonderful Amazing Voyages of the Turtle sent a nice bouquet to that blog as well as several others. I’ve always loved Sandra’s writing, & while I know a lot of readers here know her blog, if you’re one who doesn’t, please check it out!
Hope to see some of you at The Days of Wine & Roses tomorrow. Have a lovely weekend, & please enjoy this amazing poem.
Black Stone Lying on a White Stone
I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember,
I will die in Paris—and I don’t step aside—
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.
It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.
César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him,
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also
with a rope. These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads…
translated by Robert Bly & John Knoepfle