Gentile or Jew or simply a man
Whose face has been lost in time,
We shall not save the silent
Letters of his name from oblivion.
What could he know of forgiveness,
A thief whom Judea nailed to a cross?
For us those days are lost.
During his last undertaking,
Death by crucifixion,
He learned from the taunts of the crowd
That the man who was dying beside him
Was God. And blindly he said:
Remember me when thou comest
Into thy kingdom, and from the terrible cross
The unimaginable voice
Which one day will judge us all
Promised him Paradise. Nothing more was said
Between them before the end came,
But history will not let the memory
Of their last afternoon die.
O friends, the innocence of this friend
Of Jesus! The simplicity which made him,
From the disgrace of punishment, ask for
And be granted Paradise
Was what drove him time
And again to sin and to bloody crime.
Spanish; trans. Mark Strand
Jorge Luis Borges, Spanish, trans. Mark Strand, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, Viking Penguin, 1999.