I’ve been thinking about my post the other day about claiming my poet self and went looking for a poem that might support that idea. This one by Jorge Luis Borges hit home for me.
BROWNING DECIDES TO BE A POET
In these red labyrinths of London
I find that I have chosen
the strangest of all callings,
save that, in its way, any calling is strange.
Like the alchemist
who sought the philosopher’s stone
I shall make everyday words–
the gambler’s marked cards, the common coin–
give off the magic that was their
when Thor was both the god and the din,
the thunderclap and the prayer.
In today’s dialect
I shall say, in my fashion, eternal things:
I shall try to be worthy
of the great echo of Byron.
This dust that I am will be invulnerable.
If a woman shares my love
my verse will touch the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens;
if a woman turns my love aside
I will make of my sadness a music,
a full river to resound through time.
I shall live by forgetting myself.
I shall be the face I glimpse and forget,
I shall be Judas who takes on
the divine mission of being a betrayer,
I shall be Caliban in his bog,
I shall be a mercenary who dies
without fear and without faith,
I shall be Polycrates, who looks in awe
upon the seal returned by fate.
I will be the friend who hates me.
The persian will give me the nightingale, and Rome the sword.
Masks, agonies, resurrections
will weave and unweave my life,
and in time I shall be Robert Browning.
Jorge Luis Borges
Liz Scanlon is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-up today.
from Laura @AuthorAmok
Hi, Susan. What a powerful last line. Thanks for sharing this poem. I know Borges’ fantasy stories, but not his poetry. Loved it!
“any calling is strange”
Yup. I’m feeling like that today! Like Frost had too much of apple picking, I have had too much of teaching (the part where you sit in a meeting all day and think about data and challenges and opportunities).
Yes, a strange calling indeed. And sitting in meetings and playing with data isn’t what we think of when we think of a teacher.
Looking forward to meeting you in person next weekend.
Wow. What a glorious way to write about a writer’s inner life. Thank you so much for sharing this, Susan!
You’re welcome, Amy. I just felt like he captured it perfectly.
Oh, my. I’ve never read this and I LOVE it. All those “I shalls…”
It was new to me too, Liz but it just grabbed me.
Re: from Laura @AuthorAmok
Thanks, Laura. It was a new one for me too.
That’s wonderful, Susan. I was going to tell you what my favorite lines are, but I can’t stop picking them!
this really grabbed me:
“In today’s dialect
I shall say, in my fashion, eternal things:”
Linda K. (Write Time)
“I shall make words everyday-” I love this line because I’m trying to do just that. It isn’t easy with teaching and everything else life brings my way. Thanks for sharing this poem, Susan!
Susan, thank you for this poem, with its powerful, confident voice. I like many of the lines, especially the last. “I will be the friend who hates me” is intriguing.
Oh, I love this. Especially from the line “I shall live by forgetting myself” onward. I love that poetry lets you explore and inhabit so many people other than–and indeed sometimes opposite from–yourself. Thanks, Susan!