To Sylvina Bullrich
They knew it, the ardent alumni of Pythagoras:
Stars and men cyclically return;
Fatal atoms urgent will repeat
Golden Aphrodite, Thebans, agoras.
A future age will see the centaur press
With solipedous hoof the Lapith’s breast;
When Rome is dust, the Minotaur will roar
In its fetid palace’s infinite night.
Each insomniac night returns: minutial.
The hand this writes will be reborn from the same
Belly, iron armies construct the abyss.
(Edinburgh’s David Hume said the same thing.)
Will we return in yet another cycle,
Like ciphers in a periodic fraction?
Obscure Pythagorean rotation still
Night by night leaves me somewhere in the world
On the outskirts. A remote corner
On the North or South or Westside,
But I always have a sky-blue wall,
A gloomy fig tree and a broken sidewalk.
There is Buenos Aires. Time, which unto men
Brings love or gold, scarcely leaves me
This quiet rose, this vein skein
Of streets repeating the preterit names
Of my blood: Laprida, Cabrera, Soler, Surez…
Names reverberating (secretly) with reveilles,
Republics, horses and mornings,
Joyous victories, the military dead.
Squares aggravated by masterless nights
Are vasty courtyards of an arid palace
And the unanimous streets that engender space
Are corridors of vague fear and sleep.
The concave night returns Anaxagoras deciphered;
Eternity returns to my human flesh
And the memory or project of a ceaseless poem:
“They knew it, the ardent alumni of Pythagoras… ”
Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by Christopher Mulrooney