Two Poems of Jorge Luis Borges

Translated from the Spanish by
Evelyn Hooven (April 2019)

Jorge Luis Borges

The detailed uncertainties of our selves, our world, nature and destiny stir a longing for the eternal and immutable. Borges tends to investigate the transcendent and finds that even the realm of the lasting has its own variants, unforeseeable dynamic, unknowable tempo.

For him, unmistakable beauty can reach us fully, without forfeiting its mystery.

It is in its way profoundly reliable, helping us to be.

Evelyn Hooven


In Which Nothing Knows Itself


The moon doesn’t know it is tranquil and clear

and it may not know it is the moon,

the sand that it’s the sand. There may not be one

thing that knows that its form is distinctive.

Figures of ivory are as different from

an abstract chess game as from the hand

that ranges them. Maybe human destiny

with short-lived benefits and large sorrows

is an Other’s instrument. We don’t know;

to give it the name of God does not help us.

Equally vain are the trembling, the doubt

and the pleadings we begin and cut off.

Whose bow—archer or musician—hurled forth

the arrow that I am? Towards which final hill?


De que nada se sabe


La luna ignora que es tranquila y clara

y ni siquiera sabe que es la luna;

la arena, que es la arena. No habrá una

cosa que sepa que su forma es rara.

Las piezas de marfil son tan ajenas

al abstracto ajedrez como la mano

que las rige. Quizá el destino humano

de breves dichas y de largas penas

es instrumento de Otro. Lo ignoramos;

darle nombre de Dios no nos ayuda.

Vanos también son el temor, la duda

y la trunca plegaria que iniciamos.

¿Qué arco habrá arrojado esta saeta

que soy? ¿Qué cumbre puede ser la meta?



Music Box


Music of Japan. Avariciously

the hourglass dispenses droplets

of slow honey or unseeable gold

that in their tempo repeat a dream

eternal, frangible, lucid, mysterious.

I’m afraid that each one may be final.

Are they yesterday returned? From which temple,

from which garden, fragile on its mountain,

from which vigil before a sea I don’t know,

from which reticent melancholy,

from which lost and rescued afternoon

does the remote future return for me?

I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. In this music

I am. I want to be. I shed my blood.



Caja de Música


Música del Japón. Avaramente

de la clepsidra se desprenden gotas

de lenta miel o de invisible oro

que en el tiempo repiten una trama

eterna y frágil, misteriosa y clara.

Temo que cada una sea la última.

Son un ayer que vuelve. ¿De qué templo,

de qué leve jardín en la montaña,

de qué vigilias ante un mar que ignoro,

de qué pudor de la melancolía,

de qué perdida y rescatada tarde

llegan a mí, su porvenir remoto?

No lo sabré. No importa. En esa música

yo soy. Yo quiero ser. Yo me desangro.



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Evelyn Hooven graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her M.A. from Yale University, where she also studied at The Yale School of Drama. A member of the Dramatists’ Guild, she has had presentations of her verse dramas at several theatrical venues, including The Maxwell Anderson Playwrights Series in Greenwich, CT (after a state-wide competition) and The Poet’s Theatre in Cambridge, MA (result of a national competition). Her poems and translations from the French have appeared in ART TIMES, Chelsea, The Literary Review, THE SHOp: A Magazine of Poetry (in Ireland), The Tribeca Poetry Review, Vallum (in Montreal), and other journals, and her literary criticism in Oxford University’s Essays in Criticism.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast



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