¡Feliz día de la Madre!

Plaza Túpac Amaru – Cusco

This Sunday was Mother’s Day in Peru, so I decided to give out a poem about mothers. The poem also happens to by Peru’s national poet, Cesar Vallejo – who clearly loved his mama. It comes from a sequence of poems called Trilce (a made up word), published in 1922, which features the word ‘madre’ (mother) 19 times in the 77 poems.


Often described as a pre-surrealist Surrealist, Vallejo’s poem was hard to translate, but also a lot of fun. My Spanish co-worker Silvia assured me that it doesn’t make much sense in the original either, so I just enjoyed myself playing around with the strange and often seemingly random images chosen by this visionary poet.

I intended to hand out the poem on Sunday – outside a big Mother’s Day festival in Tupac Amaru Square – but all the printing shops were closed to mark the occasion, so I went back the next day to hand it out in front of a pet shop…




Tahona estuosa de aquellos mis bizcochos

pura yema infantil innumerable, madre.

Oh tus cuatro gorgas, asombrosamente

mal plañidas, madre: tus mendigos.
Las dos hermanas últimas, Miguel que ha muerto
y yo arrastrando todavía
una trenza por cada letra del abecedario.

En la sala de arriba nos repartías
de mañana, de tarde de dual estiba,
aquellas ricas hostias de tiempo, para
que ahora nos sobrasen
cáscaras de relojes en flexión de las 24
en junto parados.

¡Madre, y ahora! Ahora, en cuál alvéolo

quedaría, en qué retoño capilar,
cierta migaja que hoy se me ata al cuello
y no quiere pasar. Hoy que hasta
tus puros huesos estarán harina
que no habrá en qué amasar
¡tierna dulcera de amor!
hasta en la cruda sombra, hasta en el gran molar
cuya encía late en aquel lácteo hoyuelo
que inadvertido lábrase y pulula ¡tú lo viste tanto!
en las cerradas manos recién nacidas.

Tal tierra oirá en tu silenciar,
cómo nos van cobrando todos
el alquiler del mundo donde nos dejas
y el valor de aquel pan inacabable.

Y nos lo cobran, cuando, siendo nosotros

pequeños entonces, como tú verías,
no se lo podíamos haber arrebatado
a nadie: cuando tú nos lo diste,
¿di, mamá?



Hot oven that baked my favourite cupcakes

pure childish gold innumerable, mother.

Your four whirlpools, surprisingly
deep sobs, mother: your dirty laundry.
Two sisters left, Miguel gone
and me still dragging along
a curl for each letter of the alphabet.

In the room upstairs you divide for us
in the morning, in the evening, in dual stowage
those rich hosts of time, all
that we have left now
husks of bent watches bent on 24
stopped on the dot.

And now, mother! Now into which socket

will I fit, which blood vessel,
which exact crumb that today is tying up my neck
and doesn’t want to pass. Today until
your bones become flour
that will never be kneaded.
The sickly sweetness of love!
until the harsh shadow, the great molar
whose gums are throbbing behind that milky dimple
that unnoticed ploughing and swarming – you know it so well!      
in the closed hands of the newly born.

The earth will hear it in your silence
the charge of everything
the rent of the world you leave for us
and the value of that endless bread.

And it charges us, even when we are
children then, as you would see,
it can’t be taken away
by anyone; just like you said,
say something, mama?

One thought on “¡Feliz día de la Madre!

  1. Thanks Annie, love your translation ( though I don’t know what the original says! ) xxxx your poems give me a shot in the arm xxxx

    Sent from my iPhone



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