“My soul is in the streets/ of Buenos Aires.” (“The Streets”)
Reading Borges’ poetry for the first time in Buenos Aires is an interesting experience because so much of the city is reflected there. His first poetry book was Fervor de Buenos Aires and he seems to have a tourist’s delight and interest in every detail of the city that surrounded him for most of his life. So I decided to put up some snapshots of the city that remind me of his continued presence here.
“My dreaming is never able to conjure up the desired creature. A tiger appears, sure enough, but an enfeebled tiger, a stuffed tiger, imperfect of form, or the wrong size, or only fleetingly present, or looking something like a dog or a bird.” (“Dreamtigers”)
I look on them as infinite, elemental
fulfillers of a very ancient pact
to multiply the world, as in the act
of generation, sleepless and dangerous.
“Who is to tell him the cat observing him
Is only the mirror’s way of dreaming?
I remind myself that these concordant cats—
the one of glass, the one with warm blood coursing—
are both mere simulacra granted time
by a timeless archetype.
Whoever embraces a woman is Adam. The woman is Eve.
Everything happens for the first time.
I saw something white in the sky. They tell me it is the moon but
What can I do with a word and a mythology.
Trees frighten me a little. They are so beautiful.
The faithless say that if it were to burn,
History would burn with it. They are wrong.
Unceasing human work gave birth to this
Infinity of books.
(“Alexandria, A.D. 641” S.K.)
Forty cards have taken the place of life.
The decorated cardboard talismans
make us oblivious of our destiny,
and a light-hearted game
goes on filling up our stolen time
with the flowery flourishes
of a home made mythology.
Benign shade of the trees,
wind full of birds and undulating limbs,
souls dispersed into other souls,
it might be a miracle that they once stopped being,
an incomprehensible miracle,
although its imaginary repetition
slanders our days with horror.
Now dead, now on his feet now immortal, now a ghost,
He reported to the Hell marked out for him by God,
And under his command there marched, broken and bloodless,
The souls in purgatory of his soldiers and his horses.
(“General Quiroga Rides to His Death in a Carriage” A.R.)
One thing alone does not exist—oblivion.
God, who saves the metal, saves the dross
and stores in his prophetic memory
moons that have still to come, moons that have shone.
Everything—the drab houses,
the crude banisters, the doorknockers,
perhaps the hopes of a girl dreaming on a balcony—
all entered into my vain heart
with the clarity of tears.
Some years ago I tried to get away from him: I went from suburban mythologies to playing games with time and infinity. But these are Borges’ games now—I will have to think of something else.
“Borges and I”