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“A Last Time and Nothing More”

1920s Building in Today’s Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a magical city. I have been there three times; and each time, I loved wandering its streets. Is it because of Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges, who loved the place and never grew tired of writing about it in his poems and stories? Or did Buenos Aires, in some strange way, create Borges, who merely returned the favor? The following is one of my favorite poems by Borges.

Limits

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

I like the line about a “four-faced” Janus. Perhaps, is Borges connecting two-faced Janus with the four directions that are sacred to the Indians of the Americas?

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