Manuscript Found in a Book of Joseph Conrad


In the shimmering countries that exude the summer,
the day is blanched in white light. The day
is a harsh slit across the window shutter,
dazzle along the coast, and on the plain, fever.

But the ancient night is bottomless, like a jar
of brimming water. The water reveals limitless wakes,
and in the drifting canoes, face inclined to the stars,
a man marks the limp time with a cigar.

The smoke blurs gray across the constellations
afar. The present sheds past, name, and plan.
The world is a few vague tepid observations.
The river is the original river. The man, the first man.


                            Spanish; trans. Alastair Reid


Jorge Luis Borges, Spanish, trans. Alastair Reid, Selected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, Viking Penguin, 1999.