The Primrose Blinda
The Primrose Blinda
The list of the Poets' Foundation

Two english poems
The iron coin
Things that might have been
The alchemist
(1899 - 1986)

Argentine poet, essayist, and short-story writer whose works have become classics of 20th-century world literature, born in Buenos Aires and died in Geneva, Switzerland.


Two english poems
To Beatriz Webster de Bullrich
The useless dawn finds me in a deserted streetcorner; I have outlived
        the night.
Nights are proud waves: darkblue topheavy waves laden with all 
        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 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.



What can I hold you with?
I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the moon of the ragged
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 marble: 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
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 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.

With the evening
the two or three colours of the patio grew weary.
The huge candour of the full moon
no longer enchants its habitual firmament.
Now that heaven is crisp with clouds
augury will say that a little angel has died.
The patio is a conduit of Heaven.
The patio is the window
through which God looks at souls.
The patio is the slope
down which the brimming sky flows into the house.
eternity waits at the crossway of the stars.
It is lovely to live in the dark friendliness
of the covered entrance, the eaves, and the sweet cistern.

Oh destiny of Borges
to have sailed across the diverse seas of the world
or across that single and solitary sea of diverse names,
to have been a part of Edinburgh, of Zurich, of the two Cordobas,
of Colombia and of Texas,
to have returned at the end of changing generations
to the ancient lands of his forebears,
to Andalucia, to Portugal and to those counties
where the Saxon warred with the Dane and they mixed their blood,
to have wandered through the red and tranquil labyrinth of London,
to have grown old in so many mirrors,
to have sought in vain the marble gaze of the statues,
to have questioned lithographs, encyclopedias, atlases,
to have seen the things that men see,
death, the sluggish dawn, the plains,
and the delicate stars,
and to have seen nothing, or almost nothing
except the face of a girl from Buenos Aires
a face that does not want you to remember it.
Oh destiny of Borges,
perhaps no stranger than your own.
Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

The iron coin
Before us is the iron coin. Now let us ask
The two opposing faces what the answer will be
To the intractable demand no one has made:
Why does a man require a woman to desire him?
Let us look. In the higher orb are interwoven
The firmament's four strata that uphold the flood
And the unalterable planetary stars.
Adam, the youthful father, and young Paradise.
The afternoon and morning. God in every creature.
In that pure labyrinth you'll find your own reflection.
Once again let us discard the iron coin,
Which is a magic mirror also. Its reverse
Is no one, nothing, shadow, blindness. You are that.
The pair of iron faces fashions a single echo.
Your hands and tongue are unreliable witnesses.
God is the unapproachable center of the ring.
He does more than exalt or sentence: he forgets.
Slandered with infamy, why shouldn't they desire you?
Within the other's shadow, we pursue our shadow.
Within the other's mirror, our reciprocal mirror.
Things that might have been
I think about things that might have been and never were.
The treatise on Saxon myths that Bede omitted to write.
The inconceivable work that Dante may have glimpsed
As soon as he corrected the Comedy's last verse.
History without two afternoons: that of the hemlock, that of the Cross.
History without Helen's face.
Man without the eyes that have granted us the moon.
Over three Gettysburg days, the victory of the South.
The love we never shared.
The vast empire the Vikings declined to found.
The globe without the wheel, or without the rose.
John Donne's judgment of Shakespeare.
The Unicorn's other horn.
The fabled Irish bird which alights in two places at once.
The child I never had.

The alchemist
Slow in the dawn, a young man, hollow-eyed
from lengthy thought and unrewarding vigils,
is lost in his reflections, contemplating
the sleepless braziers and the silent stills.

He knows that gold, that Proteus, is lurking
in all chance happenings, like destiny;
he knows it hides in the dust along the way,
in the action of the bow, the arm, the arrow.

His occult vision of a secret being
hidden in the stars and in raw earth
echoes that other dream, that everything
is water, the dream of Thales of Miletus.

There's another vision, that of an eternal
God who appears in every single thing,
as Spinoza the geometer explains
in a book more tortuous than all of Hell.

In the vast blue expanses to the west,
the planets are beginning to grow pale.
The alchemist is thinking of his secrets,
the secret laws that link planet and metal.

And while he dreams of finding in the fire
that true gold that will put an end to dying,
God, who knows His alchemy, transforms him
to no one, dust, oblivion.

Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.