Limits

In honor of the Argentine holiday, National Flag Day, we present this work by Argentina’s most legendary author.

Jorge Luis Borges
Argentine
1899 – 1986

 

Among these streets that deepen the red west
There must be one I’ve gone along not knowing
That that time, in that street, will have been my last—
Both unconcerned and unaware, obeying

The great Whoever-It-Is that sets a term,
A secret and inviolable end,
To every shadow, every dream and form
That ravels life and knits it up again.

And if for all there is a norm and measure,
A last time, a nevermore, and a forgetting,
Who can tell which visitor, departing,
Is one to whom we’ve said goodbye forever?

Beyond the greying window night is fading
And in the stack of books whose lopped shadow
Makes it seem taller on the dim-lit table,
There’s one we’ll never get around to reading.

There are on the Southside more than one ruined dooryard
With prickly pear and rubble masonry planters
Where I shall no more be allowed to enter
Than if it were a picture on a postcard.

There is a door that you have closed for good,
A mirror that waits in vain to hold your face;
A four-faced Janus guards your next crossroad
Though it seems you might go any of its ways.

In the midst of all your memories there is one
Faded away beyond recovering;
Neither the yellow moon nor the white sun
Will ever see you drinking from that spring.

Your voice will not recapture what the Persian
Said in his tongue of rose and nightingale
When you may wish at dusk, as the light disperses,
To say things that are unforgettable.

And the everflowing Rhône, and certain lake,
All that is present to me from the past,
Will sink like Carthage that the Roman took,
Destroyed with fire and with salt erased.

I believe I hear in the dawn the strenuously
Long murmur of a multitude departing.
They are what has loved me and forgotten.
Space, time, and Borges are deserting me.

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