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Elogio de la sombra

This is not a tango…but it is an homage to one of my favorite writers of all time, an Argentine, on what would be his 112th birthday. This poem was originally translated into English as In Praise of Darkness by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. This translation, as always, is mine.

Ode to the Shadows
by Jorge Luis Borges

Old age (that is what others call it)
can be our time of joy.
The animal has died, or almost died.
A man is left with his soul.
I live among luminous, vague forms
that are not yet darkness.
Buenos Aires,
whose poor outskirts used to tear up
toward the incessant plains,
has become Recoleta, Retiro,
the hazy streets of el Once,
and the precarious old houses
that we still call the South.
There were always too many things in my life;
Democritus of Abdera tore out his eyes so he could think;
time has been my Democritus.
This half-light is slow and it does not hurt;
its decline flows tamely
and seems quite like eternity.
My friends have no faces,
women are just as they were years ago,
the streetcorners could be different,
books have no letters on their pages.
All this should terrorize me,
but it is a sweet pleasure, a return.
Of the generations of texts on this earth
I will have read only a few,
those I keep reading in my memory,
reading and transforming.
From the South, the East, the West, the North,
the paths that have brought me here converge
at my secret center.
These paths were echoes and steps,
women, men, agonies, resurrections,
days and nights,
dreams and the spaces between,
every last little instant of yesterday
and all the yesterdays in the world,
a strong Danish sword and a Persian moon,
the deeds of the dead,
shared love, words,
Emerson and the snow and so many things.
I can forget them now. I have arrived at my center,
my algebra and my key,
my mirror.
Soon I will know who I am.

Spanish original after the jump

Elogio de la sombra

La vejez (tal es el nombre que los otros le dan)
puede ser el tiempo de nuestra dicha.
El animal ha muerto o casi ha muerto.
Quedan el hombre y su alma.
Vivo entre formas luminosas y vagas
que no son aún la tiniebla.
Buenos Aires,
que antes se desgarraba en arrabales
hacia la llanura incesante,
ha vuelto a ser la Recoleta, el Retiro,
las borrosas calles del Once
y las precarias casas viejas
que aún llamamos el Sur.
Siempre en mi vida fueron demasiadas las cosas;
Demócrito de Abdera se arrancó los ojos para pensar;
el tiempo ha sido mi Demócrito.
Esta penumbra es lenta y no duele;
fluye por un manso declive
y se parece a la eternidad.
Mis amigos no tienen cara,
las mujeres son lo que fueron hace ya tantos años,
las esquinas pueden ser otras,
no hay letras en las páginas de los libros.
Todo esto debería atemorizarme,
pero es una dulzura, un regreso.
De las generaciones de los textos que hay en la tierra
sólo habré leído unos pocos,
los que sigo leyendo en la memoria,
leyendo y transformando.
Del Sur, del Este, del Oeste, del Norte,
convergen los caminos que me han traído
a mi secreto centro.
Esos caminos fueron ecos y pasos,
mujeres, hombres, agonías, resurrecciones,
días y noches,
entresueños y sueños,
cada ínfimo instante del ayer
y de los ayeres del mundo,
la firme espada del danés y la luna del persa,
los actos de los muertos,
el compartido amor, las palabras,
Emerson y la nieve y tantas cosas.
Ahora puedo olvidarlas. Llego a mi centro,
a mi álgebra y mi clave,
a mi espejo.
Pronto sabré quién soy.

About Derrick Del Pilar

Born and raised in Chicago, I came to the tango while studying at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires in 2006. In 2008 I earned my B.A. with majors in Creative Writing and Spanish & Portuguese from the University of Arizona, and in 2009 I earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. My specialty is the history & literature of early 20th century Argentina.

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