I Am Not Even Dust


I do not want to be who I am. Petty luck
Has offered me the seventeenth century,
The dust and constitution of Castile,
The things that come and come again, the morning
That, promising today, gives us the evening,
The patter of the barber and the priest,
The loneliness that time continues leaving
And one illiterate and idle niece.
I am a man of years. A casual page
Revealed the unused voices that had been
Pursuing me, Urganda and Amadis.
I sold my acres and procured the books
That recollect completely the campaigns:
The Grail, which received the human blood
Poured out for our salvation by the Son,
The idol of Mohammed, made of gold,
The parapets, the battlements, the banners
And all the operations of the magic.
The knights of Christianity spilled over
The kingdoms of the world, to vindicate
Insulted dignity, or to impose
Justice with the edges of a sword.
Please God, let one be sent to reinstate
That noble practice in our century.
My dreams anticipate it. I have felt it
At moments in my celibate, sad flesh.
I don't yet know his name. But I, Quijano,
Will be that champion. I will be my dream.
In this historic house there is a shield
Of long ago and a stainless blade of Toledo
And an authentic lance and the true books
That promise to my arm full victory.
To my arm? My visage (which I have not seen)
Has never cast its image in the mirror.
I am not even dust. I am a dream
That weaves itself in sleep and wakefulness.
My brother and my father, Captain Cervantes,
Fought nobly on the waters of Lepanto,
Learned Latin and a little Arabic . . .
That I might be allowed to dream the other
Whose fertile memory will be a part
Of all the days of man, I humbly pray:
My God, my dreamer, keep on dreaming me.


             Spanish; trans. Eric McHenry


Jorge Luis Borges, Spanish, trans. Eric McHenry, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, Viking Penguin, 1999.