Remembrance Day: reflections upon the Vietnam War: Yusef Komunyakaa


Editor’s note:

What eventually came to be known as The Vietnam War began in 1955 and ended twenty years later when Saigon “fell” to Communist North Vietnam and became known as Ho Chi Minh City.  (In 2012 Vietnam is a unified Socialist-oriented free-market economy.)  Vietnam was a a Cold-War era ‘hot button’ zone for the USSR and the USA.  The U.S. sent  soldiers in the early 1960s but American troupes did not become involved in combat until 1965 and by 1973 had withdrawn.  Three million Vietnamese (from both sides) died, a million and a half Laotians and Cambodians, and close to 60,000 U.S. soldiers.  It was not a war that could be “won”.


.     .     .


Yusef Komunyakaa

(U.S. Vietnam War Veteram, born James William Brown, 1947, Bogalusa, Louisiana)

“Roll Call”


Through rifle sights

We must’ve looked like crows

perched on a fire-eaten branch,

lined up for reveille, ready

to roll-call each M-16

propped upright

between a pair of jungle boots,

a helmet on its barrel

as if it were a man.

The perfect row aligned

with the chaplain’s cross

while a metallic-gray squadron

of sea gulls circled.  Only

a few lovers have blurred

the edges of this picture.

Sometimes I can hear them

marching through the house,

closing the distance.  All

the lonely beds take me back

to where we saluted those

five pairs of boots

as the sun rose against our faces.


.     .     .


“The Dead at Quang Tri”


This is harder than counting stones

along paths going nowhere, the way

a tiger circles and backtracks by

smelling his blood on the ground.

The one kneeling beside the pagoda,

remember him?   Captain, we won’t

talk about that.  The Buddhist boy

at the gate with the shaven head

we rubbed for luck

glides by like a white moon.

He won’t stay dead, dammit !

Blades aim for the family jewels;

the grass we walk on

won’t stay down.
.     .     .


“Tu Do Street”


Music divides the evening.

I close my eyes and can see

men drawing lines in the dust.

America pushes through the membrane

of mist and smoke, and I’m a small boy

again in Bogalusa. White Only

signs and Hank Snow. But tonight

I walk into a place where bar girls

fade like tropical birds. When

I order a beer, the mama-san

behind the counter acts as if she

can’t understand, while her eyes

skirt each white face, as Hank Williams

calls from the psychedelic jukebox.

We have played Judas where

only machine-gun fire brings us

together. Down the street

black GIs hold to their turf also.

An off-limits sign pulls me

deeper into alleys, as I look

for a softness behind these voices

wounded by their beauty and war.

Back in the bush at Dak To

and Khe Sanh, we fought

the brothers of these women

we now run to hold in our arms.

There’s more than a nation

inside us, as black and white

soldiers touch the same lovers

minutes apart, tasting

each other’s breath,

without knowing these rooms

run into each other like tunnels

leading to the underworld.


.     .     .


“A Reed Boat”


The boat’s tarred and shellacked to a water-repellent finish, just sway-

dancing with the current’s ebb, light as a woman in love. It pushes off

again, cutting through lotus blossoms, sediment, guilt, unforgivable dark-

ness. Anything with half a root or heart could grow in this lagoon.


There’s a pull against what’s hidden from day, all that hurts. At dawn the

gatherer’s shadow backstrokes across water, an instrument tuned for gods

and monsters in the murky kingdom below. Blossoms lean into his fast

hands, as if snapping themselves in half, giving in to some law.


Slow, rhetorical light cuts between night and day, like nude bathers em-

bracing. The boat nudges deeper, with the ease of silverfish. I know by his

fluid movements, there isn’t the shadow of a bomber on the water any-

more, gliding like a dream of death. Mystery grows out of the decay of

dead things – each blossom a kiss from the unknown.


When I stand on the steps of Hanoi’s West Lake Guest House, feeling that

I am watched as I gaze at the boatman, it’s hard to act like we’re the only

two left in the world. He balances on his boat of Ra, turning left and right,

reaching through and beyond, as if the day is a woman he can pull into his



.     .     .


“Facing It”


My black face fades,

hiding inside the black granite.

I said I wouldn’t,

dammit: No tears.

I’m stone. I’m flesh.

My clouded reflection eyes me

like a bird of prey, the profile of night

slanted against morning. I turn

this way – the stone lets me go.

I turn that way – I’m inside

the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

again, depending on the light

to make a difference.

I go down the 58,022 names,

half-expecting to find

my own in letters like smoke.

I touch the name Andrew Johnson;

I see the booby trap’s white flash.

Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse

but when she walks away

the names stay on the wall.

Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s

wings cutting across my stare.

The sky. A plane in the sky.

A white vet’s image floats

closer to me, then his pale eyes

look through mine. I’m a window.

He’s lost his right arm

inside the stone. In the black mirror

a woman’s trying to erase names:

No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.


.     .     .


“Ode to the Maggot”


Brother of the blowfly

And godhead, you work magic

Over battlefields,

In slabs of bad pork


And flophouses. Yes, you

Go to the root of all things.

You are sound and mathematical.

Jesus, Christ, you’re merciless


With the truth. Ontological and lustrous,

You cast spells on beggars and kings

Behind the stone door of Caesar’s tomb

Or split trench in a field of ragweed.


No decree or creed can outlaw you

As you take every living thing apart. Little

Master of earth, no one gets to heaven

Without going through you first.


.     .     .     .     .

All poems (except “Reed Boat” and “Ode to the Maggot”) are from the poet’s 1988 collection, Dien Cai Dau.

© Yusef Komunyakaa

Remembrance Day: Japanese + American poems of war and “peece”

Ouchi Yoshitaka (a “daimyo” or feudal lord, 1507-1551)


Both the victor and the vanquished are

but drops of dew, but bolts of lightning –

thus should we view the world.

.     .     .

Uesugi Kenshin (a “daimyo” or feudal lord, 1530-1578)


Even a life-long prosperity is but one cup of ‘sake’;

A life of forty-nine years is passed in a dream;

I know not what life is, nor death.

Year in year out – all but a dream.

Both Heaven and Hell are left behind;

I stand in the moonlit dawn,

Free from clouds of ‘attachment’.

.     .     .

北条 氏政


雨雲の おほへる月も 胸の霧も はらひにけりな 秋の夕風

我が身今 消ゆとやいかに 思ふべき 空より来たり 空へ帰れば

吹きとふく 風な恨みそ 花の春 紅葉も残る 秋あらばこそ

.     .     .

Hojo Ujimasa (1538-1590)

Hojo was a “daimyo” and “samurai” who, after a shameful defeat, committed “seppuku” or ritual suicide by self-disembowelment.  He composed a poem before he killed himself:

“Death Poem”


Autumn wind of evening,

blow away the clouds that mass

over the moon’s pure light

and the mists that cloud our mind –

do thou sweep away as well.

Now we disappear –

well, what must we think of it?

From the sky we came – now we may go back again.

That’s at least one point of view.

.     .     .

The following poem by Akiko Yosano was composed as if to her younger brother who was drafted to fight in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).  It was never specifically anti-war only that the poet wished that her brother not sacrifice his life.  At the time the poem was not censored but in the militaristic 1930s it was banned in Japan.


Akiko Yosano / 与謝野 晶子 (1878-1942)


Oh, my brother, I weep for you.

Do not give your life.

Last-born among us,

You are the most belovéd of our parents.

Did they make you grasp the sword

And teach you to kill?

Did they raise you to the age of twenty-four,

Telling you to kill and die?


Heir to our family name,

You will be master of this store,

Old and honoured, in Sakai, and therefore,

Brother, do not give your life.

For you, what does it matter

Whether Lu-Shun Fortress falls or not?

The code of merchant houses

Says nothing about this.


Brother, do not give your life.

His Majesty the Emperor

Goes not himself into the battle.

Could he, with such deeply noble heart,

Think it an honour for men

To spill one another’s blood

And die like beasts?


Oh, my brother, in that battle

Do not give your life.

Think of mother, who lost father just last autumn.

How much lonelier is her grief at home

Since you were drafted.

Even as we hear about peace in this great Imperial Reign,

Her hair turns whiter by the day.


And do you ever think of your young bride,

Who crouches weeping behind the shop curtains

In her gentle loveliness?

Or have you forgotten her?

The two of you were together not ten months before parting.

What must she feel in her young girl’s heart?

Who else has she to rely on in this world?

Brother, do not give your life.

Nogi Maresuke / 乃木 希典


Two poems written during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905

– Nogi Maresuke was a commanding general:


Mountain and river, grass and tree, grow more barren;

for ten miles winds smell of blood in the fresh battlefield.

Conquering horses do not advance nor do men talk;

outside Jinzhou Castle, I stand in the setting sun.


Emperor’s army, a million, conquered the powerful foe;

field battles and fort assaults made mountains of corpses.

Ashamed – how can I face their fathers, grandfathers?

We triumph today?

.     .     .

Kenzo Ishijima (Japanese Kamikaze pilot, WW2)


Since my body is a shell

I am going to take it off

and put on a glory that will never wear out.

A popular soldiers’ song of the Japanese Imperial Navy during WW2 in which a Kamikaze naval aviator addresses his fellow pilot – parted in death:

“Doki no Sakura” (Cherry blossoms from the same season)


You and I, blossoms of the same cherry tree

That bloomed in the naval academy’s garden.

Blossoms know they must blow in the wind someday,

Blossoms in the wind, fallen for their country.


You and I, blossoms of the same cherry tree

That blossomed in the flight school garden.

I wanted us to fall together, just as we had sworn to do.

Oh, why did you have to die, and fall before me?


You and I, blossoms of the same cherry tree,

Though we fall far away from one another.

We will bloom again together in Yasukuni Shrine.

Spring will find us again – blossoms of the same cherry tree.


.     .     .


Sadako Kurihara (1912-2005)

Sadako was a controversial poet in Japan, censored during the post-War American Occupation for describing in detail the horrors post-Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima (she was present Aug.6th 1945).  She also took a tough, critical stand toward Japan’s aggressions (sometimes referred to as the Asian Holocaust) against China and Korea.


“ When we say ‘Hiroshima’ ”


When we say Hiroshima, do people answer,

gently, Ah, Hiroshima? ..Say Hiroshima,

and hear Pearl Harbor.  Say Hiroshima,

and hear Rape of Nanjing.  Say Hiroshima,

and hear women and children in Manila, thrown

into trenches, doused with gasoline, and

burned alive.  Say Hiroshima, and hear

echoes of blood and fire.  Ah, Hiroshima,

we first must wash the blood off our own hands.


.     .     .


Hiroshi Kashiwagi (Librarian and poet, born 1922, Sacramento, California)

Hiroshi is a “Nisei”(2nd generation Japanese-American).  He was interned at Tule Lake Segregation Camp from 1942-1946.  Here is a poem he wrote about his childhood in California:


“Pee in the puddle”


Wes was fat, something

of a classroom joke

we laughed when he

was late which was

almost every day and

we laughed when he

came on time.  John

was always so fair

he let me play

Chinese tag with

them on the way

home from school

but I’d like to remember

him as our fourth

grade Santa Claus

though actually he

was slender with

a high nose and

very German it was

he who thought we


should pee in the

puddle. He called

our things brownies

I know he got it

from mine theirs

were white blue

white I wonder

what became of

Wes.  I know John

was killed during

World War II

flying for the RAF

crazy guy couldn’t

wait for the U.S.

to enter the war.

I suppose Wes is

still fat and lazy

probably a father many times


anyway we wasted

a lot of time

after school.  Three

golden loops rising

out of the

brown puddle into

which in time we

all three were

shoved when at

last I came home

crying for my

bread and jam I

was smelling quite

a bit of pee.

Remembering now

I can almost

smell it Wes’s

John’s and mine.

.     .     .     .     .

Poems about Elections / Los poetas hablan de Elecciones: 6 nov. 2012

Poems about Elections / Los poetas hablan de Elecciones:  6 nov. 2012


By now many citizens of the USA – and countless people worldwide – are good and tired of news coverage – hasn’t media been droning on for twelve months? – of the Democratic (Obama) and Republican (Romney) campaigns leading up to the USA’s presidential election.  And today – Tuesday, November 6th – is when voters cast their ballots – in hope, in anger, out of a mechanical sense of duty – or even for their very first time…

And so we present a selection of poems – some of them satirical – about election politics.

.     .     .

They’re predicting this one’ll be a nailbiter and a humdinger,

like Kennedy’s election over Nixon back in 1960

– just too close to call.


Alexander Best

“Swing-State Boogie”


“It’s no exaggeration to say

That the undecideds could

Go either way.”<*>

And gosh, who knew? that

How it goes

Depends on news from

O – HI – O ?

<*>Quotation from George Bush Sr., whose mastery of the backwards witty and bafflingly mundane in political comment was surpassed only by his son, George Bush Jr.

.     .     .

The following poem, “The Poor Voter on Election Day”, was written at a time when Democracy meant only white men voted – and no women.  (And people doubtless did vote with their left hands too, though Whittier seemed to think all power lay in the right…)

But Whittier’s idealistic political sentiment is as American in 2012 – even with contemporary cynicism factored in – as it was in 1852.


John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

“The Poor Voter on Election Day” (1852)


The proudest now is but my peer,

The highest not more high;

Today, of all the weary year,

A king of men am I.

Today alike are great and small,

The nameless and the known

My palace is the people’s hall,

The ballot-box my throne!


Who serves today upon the list

Beside the served shall stand;

Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,

The gloved and dainty hand!

The rich is level with the poor,

The weak is strong today;

And sleekest broadcloth counts no more

Than homespun frock of gray.


Today let pomp and vain pretence

My stubborn right abide;

I set a plain man’s common sense

Against the pedant’s pride.

Today shall simple manhood try

The strength of gold and land

The wide world has not wealth to buy

The power in my right hand!


While there’s a grief to seek redress,

Or balance to adjust,

Where weighs our living manhood less

Than Mammon’s vilest dust —

While there’s a right to need my vote

A wrong to sweep away,

Up! clouted knee and raggéd coat!

A man’s a man to-day!

.     .     .

Hoy, en la ocasión de la Elección en los EE.UU., le presentamos poemas de dos poetas que hablaron de la política con pasión y con escepticismo:


Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro* 

(1887-1949, San Luis Potosí, México)

“La Elección”

*Poema anónimo publicado en el periódico “El Cronista del Valle” (Brownsville, Texas, mayo de 1926).  Historiador Antonio Saborit ha dicho que –seguramente – el poema fue escrito por Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro.


El león falleció ¡triste desgracia!

Y van, con la más pura democracia,

a nombrar nuevo rey los animales.

Las propagandas hubo electorales,

prometieron la mar los oradores,

y aquí tenéis algunos electores:

aunque parézcales a ustedes bobo

las ovejas votaron por el lobo;

como son unos buenos corazones

por el gato votaron los ratones;

a pesar de su fama de ladinas

por la zorra votaron las gallinas;

la paloma inocente,

inocente votó por la serpiente;

las moscas, nada hurañas,

querían que reinaran las arañas;

el sapo ansía, y la rana sueña

con el feliz reinar de la cigüeña;

con un gusano topo

que a votar se encamina por el topo;

el topo no se queja,

más da su voto por la comadreja;

los peces, que sucumben por su boca,

eligieron gustosos a la foca;

el caballo y el perro, no os asombre,

votaron por el hombre,

y con dolor profundo

por no poder encaminarse al trote,

arrastrábase un asno moribundo

a dar su voto por el zopilote.

Caro lector que inconsecuencias notas,

dime: ¿no haces lo mismo cuándo votas?

.     .     .

Jorge Valenzuela (Chile)

“Poema sobre las Elecciones”


A prepararse señores

se vienen las municipales

se renovarán los alcaldes

y también los concejales.

Volverán las calles sucias

las paredes muy pintadas

afiches en las casas

y las voces destempladas.

Las campañas en terreno

las visitas puerta a puerta

para cuadrar como sea

las ficticias encuestas.

Los diarios-la televisión

y las radios saturadas

destacando al candidato

ofreciendo todo y nada.

Los operativos sociales

los alimentos en cajas

materiales de todo tipo

para reparar bien las casas.

Al final de la contienda

vencedores y vencidos

si te he visto no me acuerdo

y el voto se ha perdido.

.     .     .

At the age of 27 NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau won the Québec seat of Berthier-Maskinongé in the May 2011 Canadian federal election.   A French-speaking riding of which she had little knowledge – she has since been on a big learning curve with the French language – and she lived in Kingston at the time, not Trois-Rivières – Brosseau campaigned only barely because she was on vacation in Las Vegas in the days leading up to the vote.  Yet she won – and by a healthy margin.  What’s her secret ?!?  Because Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – who spent over a billion dollars each on their campaigns – would dearly love to know!


Adrian deKuyper

“When the Bell Tolls” (A Limerick)


With hard work and much dedication

Our MPs do their best for our nation

So we salute Ms. Brosseau

Who it seems did not know

That when the bell tolls – don’t take a vacation.

.     .     .

And a poetical angle on local (Toronto) politics in-the-moment…


Alexander Best

“Pass the gravy boat!”


“Stop the almost-a-train-wreck!”

(A poem for Rob Ford)


He barked:  I’ll stop the gravy train!

Toronto folks, they listened.

But pugfaced Rob, our city’s mayor,

Keeps changing his positions.


He drives himself to City Hall

And, ‘texting’, gives ‘the finger’.

When brought to task, shrugs:  Lighten up, o-kay!?

Bad feelings linger.


Please hire a driver, Mr. Ford,

And concentrate on business:

The mayoralty and civic tasks – the voters’ god-damn business.


Don’t commandeer a rush-hour bus

For your high-school football team

– shenanigans like that just make the People – goofball! – steam.


Our previous mayor froze out the Right

– that’s why there’s hothead You.

But calling Leftys pinko-fascists’s

Not the thing to do.


People joke about your weight,

Yeah, you’re an easy target.

But being mayor’s a hefty job

So please, won’t you get on it?!


You are a big man, 300 pounds plus,

With energy to burn.

So show big spirit for Trawno – Team Us

And focus, listen, learn!

.     .     .     .     .

José Guadalupe Posada: the ‘calaveras’ of a Mexican master of social reportage and satire

.     .     .

The etchings of José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) demonstrated a worldview that was, and often still is, profoundly Mexican.  A commercial illustrator who also printed political broadsides, Posada invented the ‘calavera’ portrait.  Calavera means skull, and by extension, skeleton.  Aspects of the nation’s Indigenous heritage (skulls and death-goddesses were central to Aztec and Maya cultures) plus its Spanish cultural inheritance (death-oriented monastic orders, the ‘dance of death’ and ‘memento mori’ traditions) combine in Posada’s rustic yet sophisticated prints to give us the flavour of the average Mexican’s stoical yet humorous appreciation of Death.


To read a description, allow your ‘mouse’ to hover over each image.

.     .     .

El Tzompantli…y una Danza de las Calaveras / Tzompantli…and The Skeleton Dance


Danza de las Calaveras / Dance of the Skeletons


Cuando el reloj marca la una, las calaveras salen de su tumba, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes one the skeletons leave their tombs for fun – crying “timber!” and they tumble and they fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las dos, las calaveras tienen mucha tos, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes two those skeletons cough, oh yes they do – they cry “timber!” and they tumble and they fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las tres, las calaveras van a ver a Andrés, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes three they’re on their way to see Bea and Lee – the skeletons tumble, cry “timber!”, they fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las cuatro, las calaveras miran su retrato, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes four, they glance at the mirrored door – they see their spitting image – the latest in their lineage – they’ll cry “timber!” and they’ll tumble and they’ll fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las cinco, las calaveras siempre dan un brinco, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes five, we’ll be glad we’re still alive, those skeletons always jump up and down – yeah, they really go to town – and then they cry “timber!” while they tumble and they fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las seis, las calaveras miran al revés, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes six, for eyes they’ll have an X, those skeletons see inside out, they’re weird without a doubt – and they cry “timber!” as they tumble, falling down clunk clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las siete, las calaveras se sacan un diente, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes seven, how far is it to heaven? yet they’ll pull out their one good tooth and that’ll do us for the Truth – our skeletons “timber!” and tumble and fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las ocho, las calaveras miran a Pinocho, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes eight the skeletons make a date with Kate – and Nate – and how they tumble! crying “timber!” falling down clunk clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las nueve, a las calaveras todo se les mueve, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes nine, will you still be friend of mine? those skeletons get a move on, no longer are they Love’s pawn – still,  they tumble, crying “timber!” and they fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las diez, las calaveras andan sobre un pie, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes ten if you kind-a got the yen then we’ll hop along on one foot – that’s just how the skeletons do’ it – and then we’ll cry “timber!”, and we’ll tumble down and clink-clank-clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las once, las calaveras ya no se conocen, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When that clock strikes eleven will we settle like the raven? and the skeletons lose their minds and we try to turn back Time – but no, it’s “timber!” –  and tumble – and fall down clunk.

Cuando el reloj marca las doce, las calaveras vuelven a su pose, tumba que tumba, tumba, tumba, tumba.

When the clock strikes twelve, into the past we’ll delve, the skeletons return to their poses ‘neath slabs of stone with roses – we’ll cry “timber!” and we’ll tumble and we’ll all fall down.

.     .     .

Dance of the Skeletons es un poema escrito en inglés por Alexander Best y inspirado por Danza de las Calaveras – un poema anónimo para niños (de Argentina).

Dance of the Skeletons is inspired by, and loosely based upon, Danza de las Calaveras, a Spanish-language children’s poem for which we thank Grupo Fray Luis Beltran in Argentina.

“¡Que viva la muerte misma, y mi Zacatecas querido!”: una muestra de calaveras literarias de 2012: Diana, Georgina, Esteban


“¡Que viva la muerte misma,  y mi Zacatecas querido!”: 

una muestra de calaveras literarias de 2012



Diana de Jerez

“Calavera a Zacatecas”


Ha llegado la calaca

a nuestro estado bendito,

en busca de personajes

que cumplan los requisitos.


Afuera de catedral

mira pasar a la gente,

a ver cual se va a llevar

si a un santo o a un delincuente.


Ahora ha pensado en cargar

del diario ametralladora,

porque esta inseguridad

ni sus huesitos perdona.


En su morral carga tortas

en vez de cargar muertitos,

porque la crisis es dura,

no le alcanza pa’ taquitos.


Cuidado con la catrina

y me voy a despedir,

ahí les encargo un altar

por si me llevara a mí.


.     .     .


Georgina (de Ojocaliente)


Se acerca el 2 de Noviembre

y los muertos con muchas ganas

piden a gritos que llegue el día

y así sacar a pasear sus almas


Les pareció que Zacatecas

era la ciudad indicada

para mover todo su esqueleto

en sus típicas callejoneadas


Se reunieron las huesuditas

en la plaza bicentenario

todas querían encontrar pareja

de preferencia los funcionarios


Una calaca le dice a otra:

¿Y a ellos para que los queremos?

¡no seas tonta amiguita!

solo los estafaremos


Pobrecitos inocentes

no saben o que les espera

si no ayudan a toda su gente

debajo estarán de la tierra


Después de un rato de baile

a lo lejos se ve más gente

va llegando el Gobernador

con todo su gabinete


¡Miguelito, Miguelito!

le gritan sin presunción

ahora te haremos campaña

pero para llevarte al panteón


El Gobernador asustado

sale corriendo de la plaza

pero lo que no se imagina

es que lo buscaran en su casa


Las flacas muy preparadas

le piden cooperación

para seguir la pachanga

que termina en el panteón


Vámonos pues amiguitas

les dice Miguel Alonso

dejen en paz a los funcionarios

que ya borrachos están en el pozo


Yo les invito más tequila

y saben que mucho las quiero

pero déjenme en Zacatecas

porque de aquí sale buen dinero


Las calacas resignadas

aceptan su petición

pues se llevan buena tajada

cuando se hace la repartición


Así me gusta mis chulas

que jalen bien parejo

si me siguen ayudando

hasta de funcionarias las dejo…


.     .     .


Esteban (de Zacatecas)


Advierto zacatecanos,

la muerte salió del panteón,

como buenos mexicanos,

¡Hay que darle chicharrón!


Yo rápido les platico,

que me espera un buen camote,

pero bien que les platico,

que de loco me dan mote.


En Zacatecas anda la calaca,

aunque Nahle no lo acepte,

y aunque la catrina no peca,

de una vez que se lo inyecte.


Pero mejor les cuento,

de un noble escritor,

don Ramón con monumento,

pues lo merece nuestro embajador.


Oriundo de nuestra tierra,

del merito Jerez,

pueblo que por donde quiera,

te maravilla lo que ves.


El ilustre López Velarde,

a la muerte acompañó,

cansado de tanto alarde,

su Suave Patria nos heredó.


Orgullosos es que estamos,

de nuestro estado de cantera,

plata lo que habitamos,

y el paraíso de cualquiera.


Les digo que ando a prisa,

ya me voy, ya me despido.

¡Que viva la muerte misma,

y mi Zacatecas querido!



.     .     .     .     .

Reconocimiento:  nuestros agradecimientos al sitio de web Zacateks

Robert Gurney: “Santiago de Chuco”… y César Vallejo


Robert Gurney

“Santiago de Chuco”

(to César Vallejo)


El reloj

con la cara azul


la Virgen negra

en la parroquia oscura


la foto de Vallejo

en la fachada del Cabildo


las placas de latón

que necesitaban limpiarse


las nubes tan bajas

como las de Inglaterra


el paraguas negro

que tal vez llevara en París,

colgado de un clavo,

que se encontraba abierto


la escultura del poeta



los baúles

donde quizás guardara una vez

el Orbe de Juan Larrea


esa momia extraña


en una vitrina de cristal


el pequeño horno,

extrañamente erótico,

cavado en el muro


el poema a la madre


la foto de la cara

de su madre


el altar familiar


vi estas cosas

en Santiago de Chuco.


Pero el objeto que me llamó

realmente la atención

fue ese gramófono RCA,

His Master’s Voice,

La Voz del Amo,

con la misma imagen del perro blanco

y la trompeta enorme

que yo escuché una vez,

la cabeza sostenida en las manos ahuecadas,

tendido en la alfombra,

bajo la aspidistra de mi abuela

en Dunstable.


.     .     .


Robert Gurney

“Santiago de Chuco”

(to César Vallejo)


The clock

with the blue face


the black Madonna

in the Parish Church


the photo of Vallejo

on the wall

of the Town Hall


the brass plaques

in need of polishing


the grey clouds

as low as those of England


the black umbrella

he may have used in Paris

hanging from a nail

open on a wall


the sculpture of the poet

sitting down


the trunks

where  once

he may have kept

his copy of Juan Larrea’s Orbe


that strange mummy

sitting in a glass case


the little oven,

strangely erotic,

sunk in the white wall


the poem to the mother


the photograph of

his mother’s face


the altar

in the family house


these things caught my eye

in Santiago de Chuco

but none of them more

than that RCA gramophone,

His Master’s Voice,

with the same picture of the white dog

and the enormous horn,

as on the one that I once listened to,

my head cupped in my hands,

lying  on the floor

beneath my grandmother’s aspidistra

in Dunstable.


.     .     .     .     .


César Vallejo

(born in Santiago de Chuco, Perú, 1892,

died in Paris, France, 1938)

“Black Stone on Top of a White Stone”


I shall die in Paris, in a downpour,

on a day I already remember.

Shall die in Paris – this doesn’t throw me off –

maybe on a Thursday, like today, in autumn.


Thursday it shall be, because today, Thursday,

as I set down these lines, I have ‘put my shoulder

to the grindstone’ – for evil.  Never before have I turned,

as today, to seeing my total way to aloneness.


César Vallejo is dead.  They all struck him,

though he did nothing to them;  let him have it

hard with a stick, the lash of a rope as well.

The witnesses are:

Thursdays, shoulder bones, loneliness, rain, the roads…


.     .     .


César Vallejo (1892-1938)

“Piedra Negra Sobre Piedra Blanca”


Me moriré en París con aguacero,

un día del cual tengo ya el recuerdo.

Me moriré en París – y no me corro –

tal vez un jueves, como es hoy, de otoño.


Jueves será, porque hoy, jueves, que proso

estos versos, los húmeros me he puesto

a la mala y, jamás como hoy, me he vuelto,

con todo mi camino, a verme solo.


César Vallejo ha muerto, le pegaban

todos sin que él les haga nada;

le daban duro con un palo y duro

también con una soga;  son testigos

los días jueves y los huesos húmeros,

la soledad, la lluvia, los caminos…




Vallejo translation into English:  Alexander Best

.     .     .     .     .

Robert Gurney nació en Luton, Inglaterra, en 1939.  Es un profesor de poesía francesa moderna, y de literatura española y latinomericana.  Ha publicado diversos libros incluyendo tres poemarios:  Luton Poems (2005), El cuarto oscuro (2008), y Poemas a la Patagonia  (2004  y 2009).  Él, su esposa Paddy, sus hijos y nietos viven en St Albans, Inglaterra.  ‘Santiago de Chuco’ se toma de su próximo libro La libélula y otros poemas/The Dragonfly and Other Poems (edición bilingüe, Lord Byron Ediciones,  Madrid,  2012).  En prensa:  La casa de empeño/The Pawn Shop  (bilingüe, 2013).


Robert Gurney was born in Luton, England, in 1939.  He is a Lecturer in modern French poetry, Spanish and Latin- American Literature.  He writes in both Spanish and English and his poetry collections include:  Luton Poems (2005),  El cuarto oscuro (2008), and Poemas a la Patagonia  (2004  and 2009).   He, his wife Paddy, sons and grandsons live in St Albans, England.  ‘Santiago de Chuco’ is taken from his forthcoming book La Libélula y otros poemas/The Dragonfly and Other Poems (bilingual edition, Lord Byron Ediciones, Madrid,  2012).   Upcoming:  La casa de empeño/The Pawn Shop (bilingual, 2013).