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Jorge Luis Borges

Two English Poems

                          I
   
The useless dawn finds me in a deserted street-
   corner; I have outlived the night.
Nights are proud waves; darkblue topheavy waves
   laden with all the hues of deep spoil, laden with
   things unlikely and desirable.
Nights have a habit of mysterious gifts and refusals,
   of things half given away, half withheld,
   of joys with a dark hemisphere. Nights act
   that way, I tell you.
The surge, that night, left me the customary shreds
   and odd ends: some hated friends to chat
   with, music for dreams, and the smoking of
   bitter ashes.  The things my hungry heart
   has no use for.
The big wave brought you.
Words, any words, your laughter; and you so lazily
   and incessantly beautiful.  We talked and you
   have forgotten the words.
The shattering dawn finds me in a deserted street
   of my city.
Your profile turned away, the sounds that go to
   make your name, the lilt of your laughter:
   these are the illustrious toys you have left me.
I turn them over in the dawn, I lose them, I find
   them; I tell them to the few stray dogs and
   to the few stray stars of the dawn.
Your dark rich life …
I must get at you, somehow; I put away those
   illustrious toys you have left me, I want your
   hidden look, your real smile — that lonely,
   mocking smile your cool mirror knows.
   
                       II
   
What can I hold you with?
I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the
   moon of the jagged suburbs.
I offer you the bitterness of a man who has looked
   long and long at the lonely moon.
I offer you my ancestors, my dead men, the ghosts
   that living men have honoured in bronze:
   my father’s father killed in the frontier of
   Buenos Aires, two bullets through his lungs,
   bearded and dead, wrapped by his soldiers in
   the hide of a cow; my mother’s grandfather
   –just twentyfour– heading a charge of
   three hundred men in Peru, now ghosts on
   vanished horses.
I offer you whatever insight my books may hold,
   whatever manliness or humour my life.
I offer you the loyalty of a man who has never
   been loyal.
I offer you that kernel of myself that I have saved,
   somehow –the central heart that deals not
   in words, traffics not with dreams, and is
   untouched by time, by joy, by adversities.
I offer you the memory of a yellow rose seen at
   sunset, years before you were born.
I offer you explanations of yourself, theories about
   yourself, authentic and surprising news of
   yourself.
I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the
   hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you
   with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.
   
Jorge Luis Borges (1934), Selected Poems 1923-1967 (Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1972)

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