Friday, March 15, 2013

a poem by Jorge Luis Borges


When sorrow lays us low 
for a second we are saved 
by humble windfalls 
of the mindfulness or memory: 
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water, 
that face given back to us by a dream, 
the first jasmine of November, 
the endless yearning of the compass, 
a book we thought was lost, 
the throb of a hexameter, 
the slight key that opens a house to us, 
the smell of a library, or of sandalwood, 
the former name of a street, 
the colors of a map, 
an unforeseen etymology, 
the smoothness of a filed fingernail, 
the date we were looking for, 
the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count, 
a sudden physical pain. 

Eight million Shinto deities 
travel secretly throughout the earth. 
Those modest gods touch us-- 
touch us and move on.


  1. I love roaming around Shinto shrines. My own wedding was Shinto ... but a lot of damage has been done to Shintoism, by trying to fit into the procrustean bed of a *national* religion. Nothing irks me more than seeing a Japanese flag at a shrine – same with seeing an American flag at a Christian church.

    That's a beautiful poem, by the way.

    My voice will be cracking from underuse, but I plant to start posting some new poems around mid-April ... since the end of last year, mostly I've just been studying Japanese in my free time ... I've been in Japan 19 years this month. This overwhelms me.

  2. 19 years! Wow. Your brain waves have probably been permanently altered. Maybe that's why we are always at cross-purposes. :))

    New poems in April -- that's good news.

    I really like how Borges finds a way in this poem to say something important (and with unexpected flair). Most poems are a million miles away from saying anything significant.