Monday, December 5, 2011

Jorge Luis Borges: Possession of Yesterday

This is one of the most evocative poems that I'm aware of that treats of the human preoccupation with memories and time passing and a Golden Age. Other poets have and have done it well, but this one seems special and that last line . . .

Possession of Yesterday

I know the things I've lost are so many that I could not begin to count them
and that those losses
now, are all I have.
I know that I've lost the yellow and the black and I think
Of those unreachable colors
as those that are not blind can not.
My father is dead, and always stands beside me.
When I try to scan Swinburne's verses, I am told, I speak with my father's
Only those who have died are ours, only what we have lost is ours.
Ilium vanished, yet Ilium lives in Homer's verses.
Israel was Israel when it became an ancient nostalgia.
Every poem, in time, becomes an elegy.
The women who have left us are ours, free as we now are from misgivings.
from anguish, from the disquiet and dread of hope.
There are no paradises other than lost paradises

-- Jorge Luis Borges --

There are no paradises other than lost paradises.

How many cultures look back to a Golden Age?
Now that I've somehow stumbled into my eighth decade, how many times do I begin with "Back when I was . . ." or "many years ago . . .?

trans. Nicomedes Suarez Arauz
from World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time
Katherine Washburn and John S. Major, eds.


  1. This is very beautiful and moving-thanks for sharing it

  2. mel u,

    Yes, it is, isn't? It jumped off the page at me as I browsed through the collection.

    Thanks for stopping by.