Jorge Luis Borges: “Limits”


Of the streets that fade in the setting sun,
there must be one (which one, I can’t say)
that I’ve already walked for the very last time,
unaware of the secret limits I obey.

There must be someone whose almighty rule
causes this hidden order to be fixed,
someone who weaves and then unravels
the dreamlike shadows with which life is mixed.

But if there is a law and a measure to all things,
an end to experience, an end to recollecting,
who will remain to tell us whom in this house,
we’ve already said goodbye to without suspecting?

Through the dawning window, the night withdraws,
and from my dim table, strange shadows recede.
And among the stack of books that have cast them,
there must be one I’ll never read.

Somewhere in the south, there is more than one gate
with earthen urns in which cacti grow,
a gate inaccessible as a print in a book,
and into whose portal I never will go.

There’s a door that you have closed forever.
There’s a mirror that offers a pointless view.
You think the crossroads stand wide open,
but there’s only a four-faced god watching you.

And among your memories, there is at least one
that is lost forever, beyond repair:
No one can watch you walk by that fountain.
Neither sun nor moon remembers you were there.

You will never recover what the Persian poet
meant in his language of roses and birds,
when, standing at sunset, as light disperses,
you try to place things into memorable words.

And what of that flowing river and that lake,
and the vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will all be lost, as Carthage was to Rome,
erased by salt and by fire in the end.

At dawn, I think I hear the tremors
of busy crowds moving through the day.
They are all who loved me, and all who forgot me.
Space, time, and Borges are now slipping away.

Jorge Luis Borges

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2013

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