The Maker


We are the river you spoke of, Heraclitus.
We are time. Its intangible course
Carries lions and mountains along,
The tears of love, the ashes of pleasure,
Insidious interminable hope,
Immense names of empires turned to dust,
Hexameters of the Greeks and of the Romans,
A gloomy ocean under the power of dawn,
Sleep, that foretaste of death,
Weapons and the warrior, monuments,
The two faces of Janus ignorant of each other,
The ivory labyrinths woven
By chess pieces moving over the board,
The red hand of Macbeth which has the power
To turn the seas to blood, the secret
Working of clocks in the shadows,
A boundless mirror which regards itself
In another mirror and no one there to see them,
Steel engravings, Gothic lettering,
A bar of sulfur left in a cabinet,
The heavy tollings of insomnia,
Sunrises and sunsets and twilights,
Echoes, undertows, sand, lichen, dreams.
I am nothing but those images
Shuffled by chance and named by tedium.
From them, even though I am blind and broken,
I must craft the incorruptible lines
And (this is my duty) save myself.


               Spanish; trans. Stephen Kessler


Jorge Luis Borges, Spanish, trans. Stephen Kessler, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, Viking Penguin, 1999.