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If Vallejo Hadn’t Died in Paris

by Idra Novey

I see him arrested
in New York, while a whore
with a magnificent face looks away
and men, mid-poker hand,
say, Ave Maria, why does somebody
always have to lose?

With the others in his holding cell,
he wakes bluely
to more blueness, to the tune
of rodents nosing at soup cans
and a cellmate playing his elbow
against the prison bars.

A man with the wrong look about him
is arrested. His name is César.
They call him indio narigón
and he does not resist.
The words remind him of Lima,
which he’s been missing.


Idra Novey's debut collection The Next Country received the Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books and was released in 2008. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America, and the PEN Translation Fund. Her recent translations include the selected poems of Brazilian writer Manoel de Barros and a novel by Emilio Lascano Tegui, On Elegance While Sleeping, both forthcoming in fall 2010. She directs the Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University and teaches at Columbia and NYU. (10/2010)

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