Jorge Luis Borges (Selected Poems 1923-1967)


Lying in Wait for Happiness

Thus she spoke at twilight standing between the destroyed
and the built, between the light and the dark.
Black birds and white birds changed places
With great rhythm of breathing.
The flash of a tourist’s camera lit in my memory too:
What are you doing here between the promised and the
forgotten, (…)
—Yehuda Amichai, “Lying in Wait for Happiness.” Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel Through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner.

The Secret of Blue

    The secret of blue is well kept. Blue comes from
far away. On its way, it hardens and changes into a
mountain. The cicada works at it. The birds assist.
In reality, one doesn’t know. One speaks of Prussian
blue. In Naples, the virgin stays in the cracks of
walls when the sky recedes.
    But it’s all a mystery. The mystery of sapphire,
mystery of Sainte Vierge, mystery of the siphon,
mystery of the sailor’s collar, mystery of the blue
rays that blind and your blue eye which goes
through my heart.

Jean Cocteau

With Both Light And Death (excerpt)

What do you want what do you seek
where is the meaning that fell from your hands
The music you alone hear and the naked
Feet which shift earth like a dancer’s
While the comet of her hair tosses and a spark
Falls before you on the carpet
Where you watch the truth deceive you. 

Where are you going what sorrow what burning
Dress is this that detaches your flesh what
Transformed ancient spring to make you give oracles
Thus: leaf by leaf and pebble by pebble

Youth kneeling in the transparent deep
The more I sleep and dream the more I see you rise
With a basket of green shells and seaweed
Biting as if a coin the same sea that
Gave you the very shining the very light the meaning you seek. 
—Odysseus Elytis, from “With Both Light And Death.” The American Poetry Review, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1987). Translated from Greek by Jeffrey Carson.

I slip silently into houses; I am present at events that cannot be seen. I sit by the bed upon which lovers make their love; I walk into a room where a man has taken refuge to hide his grief-stricken face. Then I have another privilege, that of gathering separate elements into one single spectacle. Here is a crowd, a crowd in which each individual is lost in the mass; yet my eyes embrace the whole. I pass through walls, I hover in the sky; I am endowed with supernatural powers.

—Simone de Beauvoir (on the effects of the cinema), from All Said and Done. New York: Penguin Books, 1972. Translated by Patrick O’Brian.