Advent poems 11: In Praise of Darkness, by Jorge Louis Borges

 

In Praise of Darkness

 

Old age (the name that others give it)
can be the time of our greatest bliss.
The animal has died or almost died.
The man and his spirit remain.
I live among vague, luminous shapes
that are not darkness yet.
Buenos Aires,
whose edges disintegrated
into the endless plain,
has gone back to being the Recoleta, the Retiro,
the nondescript streets of the Once,
and the rickety old houses
we still call the South.
In my life there were always too many things.
Democritus of Abdera plucked out his eyes in order to think;
Time has been my Democritus.
This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
it flows down a gentle slope,
resembling eternity.
My friends have no faces,
women are what they were so many years ago,
these corners could be other corners,
there are no letters on the pages of the books.
All this should frighten me,
but it is a sweetness, a return.
Of the generations of texts on earth
I will have read only a few –
the ones that I keep reading in my memory,
reading and transforming.
From South, East, West, and North
the paths converge that have led me
to my secret centre.
Those paths were echoes and footsteps,
women, men, death-throes, resurrections
days and nights,
dreams and half-wakeful dreams,
every inmost moment of yesterday
and all the yesterdays of the world,
the Dane’s staunch sword and the Persian’s moon,
the acts of the dead,
shared love, and words,
Emerson and snow, so many things.
Now I can forget them. I reach my centre
my algebra and my key,
my mirror.
Soon I will know who I am.

 

Jorge Louis Borges
translated from the Spanish by Hoyt Rogers

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