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A Man Passes By’

Human Poems

César Vallejo

(Perú 1892/Paris 1938)

A man passes by with a loaf of bread on his shoulder.

Will I write, afterwards, of my double?

Another sits, scratches, extracts a flea from his armpit, kills it.

Of what value is a discussion of psychoanalysis?

Another has pierced my chest with a stick in his hand.

To speak later of Socrates to my doctor?

A cripple passes, lending his arm to a child.

Will I, afterwards, read André Breton?

Another shivers with cold, coughs, spits blood.

Will there ever be room enough to allude to the depth of the I?

Another searches in the mire for bones, peelings.

How to write, afterwards, of the Infinite?

A mason falls from a roof, dies, and eats no more lunch.

To innovate, later, the analogue, the metaphor?

A shopkeeper cheats a customer of a gram's weight.

To speak, afterwards, of the fourth dimension?

A banker falsifies his balance.

With what effrontery to weep in the theatre?

A paria sleeps with his foot twisted against his back.

To speak, afterwards, to no one of Picasso?

Someone goes sobbing in a funeral procession.

How subsequently to enter the Academy?

Someone cleans a rifle in his kitchen.

Of what value is speaking of the Transcendental?

Someone passes by, counting on his fingers.

How to speak of the not-I without shouting?