by Sergio Badilla Castillo
Something made Vallejo afraid in public places, on the side streets adjoining the Jardin de Luxembourg / in ’20s Paris / approaching the quarter of the old chestnuts where the city / full of trees / seemed to smell of the Peruvian jungle. At 207 Boulevard Raspail, stuck in his solitary room, he would wait for a friend to come / or in the end / for a bunch of ghosts, victims like himself, to lift his spirits. Looking at his grave in Montparnasse Cemetery, I believe nostalgia corroded his universe and his soul, and that recurrent silences wrecked his confidence.
In ’27, his spirit infected by timidity, humiliated and homesick / on November 15th / he is admitted, poor and malnourished, to the Maison de la Santé de la Charié. There for some days he remains in an off–white room, his startled black eyes fixed on the ceiling. He lacks the 60 Peruvian pounds necessary for the journey from Madrid to Callao. Santiago de Chuco appears green again in his uncertain memory and perhaps he weeps.
On an earth where Spain is self–destructing / in a Civil War / his vitality runs dry and he knows he can no longer live with smashed utopias in his mind. His daily madness is the result of poverty, but he has always known that his life will end in Paris, that he will depart cadaverous / oppressed / by rumors of man’s perverse self–devastation and destruction. Georgette is not there, nor are his friends Gerardo Diego, Juan Larrea, or Juan Gris. It will be an almost secret death / a fate with none of the fullness of a victory.
Translated by Roger Hickin