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For Cesar Vallejo

Did he go forward?  Yes,
retreating in every direction,
like a balloon embracing a pin,
collapsing inward, a shuddering glove of skin.

The life he left
overflowing with combs and dentures
still hangs in the closet
beside his crisply pressed death,

its gabardine jealous of its linen,
its sleeves too long in the leg,
the penultimate ore of his buttons tormenting
the ultimate dross of his vest,

pieces of heart still warm in the pockets,
the belt that had only one function
(to tighten around the neck) still tonguing the holes
he punched in the strap of existence.

The suit was cut wide for the Earth
that rose so spectacularly  inside of him,
a white, tetrahedral tusk
that broke out on his forehead

and gored him with tenderness.
Whoever journeys there
will find his pain intact,
the flag he is always about to plant,

the life-defying arc

he achieved with a single step.


by Joy Ladin

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