Jorge Luis Borges

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    Biographical information

  1. Adam Cast Forth
  2. Browning Decides To Be A Poet
  3. Buenos Aires Death; I. La Chacarita
  4. Buenos Aires Death; II. La Recoleta
  5. Deathwatch On The Southside
  6. Elegy
  7. Farewell
  8. Instants
  9. Limits
  10. Mythical Founding Of Buenos Aires
  11. New England
  12. Remorse For Any Death
  13. Shinto
  14. Simplicity
  15. Susana Soca
  16. That One
  17. The Art Of Poetry
  18. The History Of The Night
  19. The Other Tiger
  20. To A Cat
  21. Vacant Room
  22. We Are The Time. We Are The Famous
  23. You




    Biographical information

      Name: Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo
      Place and date of birth: Buenos Aires (Argentina); August 24, 1899
      Place and date of death: Geneva (Switzerland); June 14, 1986 (aged 86)

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      Adam Cast Forth

        Was there a Garden or was the Garden a dream?
        Amid the fleeting light, I have slowed myself and queried,
        Almost for consolation, if the bygone period
        Over which this Adam, wretched now, once reigned supreme,

        Might not have been just a magical illusion
        Of that God I dreamed. Already it's imprecise
        In my memory, the clear Paradise,
        But I know it exists, in flower and profusion,

        Although not for me. My punishment for life
        Is the stubborn earth with the incestuous strife
        Of Cains and Abels and their brood; I await no pardon.

        Yet, it's much to have loved, to have known true joy,
        To have had -- if only for just one day --
        The experience of touching the living Garden.

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      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
        in quicksilver,
        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.

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      Buenos Aires Deaths; I. La Chacarita

        The core of the Southside cemetery
        was satiated with yellow fever until it said uncle;
        the deep conventicles of the Southside
        put death on Buenos Aires' face
        and Buenoes Aires could not look upon it
        so they shoveled you open
        far on the west,
        behind dirt storms
        and the heavy primordial ruck of teamsters.
        Naught but the world
        and starhabits upon farms,
        and a train leaving a Bermejo shed
        with the dead and gone:
        dead with saggy beards eyes open
        dead with heartless flesh magicless.

        Death's swindles dirty as birth
        still multiplying your subsoil thus recruited
        with souls, your clandestine boneheap,
        hitting bottom in your interréd night
        as if at sea,
        death not swallowed up in victory.

        A hard vegetation of orts in perdition
        as a force against your interminable walls of death,
        of hell,
        convinced of the corruptible the suburbs
        spend their hot life at your feet
        in streets shot through with blaze of mire
        or knock themselves out with wheeze of squeezeboxes
        bleat of carnival horns.

        (Fate's latest forever,
        I heard that night your night
        when the guitar and the hand
        and the words said:
        Death is the life you live,
        life is death on its way).

        High man on the cemetery totem pole, La Quema
        gestures parvenu death to your feet.
        Spoils and infection of reality: 210 cartloads
        defame each morning, lugging
        to this necropolis of smoke
        the quotidian things we have contaminated with death.

        Outré cupolas of wood and crossed on high
        bestir black chesspieces of a last game in your streets
        and your feeble majesty goes to cover
        the shame of your deaths.

        In your disciplined quarter
        death is colorless, hollow, numerical
        and comes down to dates and names,
        deaths in a manner of speaking.

        Chacarita:
        sink of this Buenos Aires, final rise,
        neighborhood outliving all others, outdying,
        lazaret of death and not of life to come,
        I have heard your caducous word and disbelieve it,
        because your conviction of tragedy is life in action
        and a rose fullblown is more than marble.

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      Buenos Aires Deaths; II. La Recoleta

        Death is an affair of honor here,
        a demure seaport death,
        kith of lasting blessed light
        from the Socorro's cloister
        and the minutial ash of braziers
        and fine sweet birthday milk
        and deep dynasties of yards.
        They go well with you
        old sweetness old rigor.

        Your brow is the valorous portico
        and a tree's blind generosity
        and birds discussing, all unknowing, death
        and ruffles, enthusing breasts, of drums
        in the military plots;
        your shoulder, the tacit conventicles of the North
        and the wall of Rosas's executioners.

        Feeding on dissolution with marble suffrage
        the unrepresentable dead
        dehumanized in your darkness
        since Maria de los Dolores Maciel, daughter of Uruguay
        sown here for heaven
        slept, so little, in your open country.

        I would pause a moment,
        your pious commentary of frilly flowers
        yellow soil under the acacias,
        commemorative flowers hoisted in your crypts
        sleepy and graceful stays for what reason
        joined to the terrible relics of those we love?

        Problem posed and answer:
        Flowers always watch the dead,
        because we know uncomprehendingly
        that their sleepy and graceful existence
        is the best to go with them
        without offense of living,
        without being more alive than they.

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      Deathwatch On The Southside

        By reason of a death
        the mystery whose vacant name I know and whose reality
        we cannot grasp
        a Southside house is open until dawn
        unknown undestined for revisiting
        but awaiting me tonight
        with watchful light late when people sleep,
        gaunt with bad nights, distinct,
        minutial with reality.

        To its vigil deathheavy I go
        through streets like memories,
        time's abundant night,
        nothing audible
        save vague men at a closed shop
        and someone whistling alone in the world.

        Slow walk, in the possession of hope,
        to the block and house and sincere door I seek
        and men receive me bound to be grave
        who had a share in my elders' years,
        and we weigh destinies in a habilitated room with a view of
        the yard
        under the power and integrity of night
        and say, because reality is more, indifferent things
        and listless are and Argentine in the mirror
        and mate measures our vain hours.

        Thin wisdom lost in death
        I'm moved by
        books, a key, a body among others
        irrecoverable frequencies that for him
        were friendship in this world.
        I know all privilege, obscure however, is in the line of
        miracles
        and much this is to share this vigil,
        gathered round one unknown: the Dead,
        gathered to incommunicate or guard his first night in death.

        (This wake wastes everyone's face;
        our eyes die on high like Jesus.)

        And the dead, the unbelievable?
        His reality oddly beflowered
        amd mortal hospitality give us
        yet another memory for time
        and sententious Southside streets to merit slowly
        and an obscure breeze on my face turning
        and night that from the greater anguish frees us:
        the prolix real.

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      Elegy

        Oh destiny of Borges
        to have sailed across the diverse seas of the world
        or across that single and solitary sea of diverse names,
        to have been a part of Edinburgh, of Zurich, of the two Cordobas,
        of Colombia and of Texas,
        to have returned at the end of changing generations
        to the ancient lands of his forebears,
        to Andalucia, to Portugal and to those counties
        where the Saxon warred with the Dane and they mixed their blood,
        to have wandered through the red and tranquil labyrinth of London,
        to have grown old in so many mirrors,
        to have sought in vain the marble gaze of the statues,
        to have questioned lithographs, encyclopedias, atlases,
        to have seen the things that men see,
        death, the sluggish dawn, the plains,
        and the delicate stars,
        and to have seen nothing, or almost nothing
        except the face of a girl from Buenos Aires
        a face that does not want you to remember it.
        Oh destiny of Borges,
        perhaps no stranger than your own.

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      Farewell

        My love and me shall have between us
        three hundred nights like walls
        and the ocean will be magic there.

        Time uproots
        the streets in my breast.
        I shall have nothing but memories.
        (O evenings earned with pain,
        nights hoping to see you,
        dejected fields, poor humiliated
        sky in the deeps of puddles
        like a fallen angel
        And you live to requite my longing
        and this rotten nice neighborhood
        now in the light of my love made splendiferous)

        Definitive as a statue
        your absence will sadden other fields.

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      Instants

        If I could live again my life,
        In the next I'll try,
        to make more mistakes,
        I won't try to be so perfect,
        I'll be more relaxed,
        I'll be more full than I am now,
        In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
        I'll be less hygenic,
        I'll take more risks,
        I'll take more trips,
        I'll watch more sunsets,
        I'll climb more mountains,
        I'll swim more rivers,
        I'll go to more places I've never been,
        I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
        I'll have more real problems and less imaginary
        ones,

        I was one of those people who live
        prudent and prolific lives
        each minute of his life,
        Offcourse that I had moments of joy but,
        if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

        If you don't know thats what life is made of,
        Don't lose the now!

        I was one of those who never goes anywhere
        without a thermometer,
        without a hotwater bottle,
        and without an umberella and without a parachute,

        If I could live again I will travel light,
        If I could live again I'll try to work bare feet
        at the beginning of spring till
        the end of autumn,
        I'll ride more carts,
        I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
        If I have the life to live but now I am 85,
        and I know that I am dying.

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      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, fourfaced, is a Janus.

        There is among all your memories one
        Which has now been lost beyond recall.
        You will not be seen going down to that fountain
        Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

        You will never recapture what the Persian
        Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
        When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
        You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

        And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
        All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
        They will be as lost as Carthage,
        Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

        At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
        Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
        They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
        Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

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      Mythical Founding Of Buenos Aires

        Was this the sleepy muddy river
        that led the prows to found a nation?
        Up and down the little painted boats plied
        amongst the clustered roots in the chestnut current.

        Think about it, suppose the river
        was blueglazed like the sky's scion
        with a little red star marking the spot
        where Juan Díaz ate nothing but was eaten.

        What's sure is a thousand men and thousands
        traveled over the sea of five moons' width
        inhabited by mermaids and sea monsters
        and stones of magnetic force maddening the compass.

        They built up tremulous ranches on the coast,
        and slept a little. So they say on the Riachuelo,
        but that's pure bunkum from the Boca.
        It was one square city block where I've lived in Palermo.

        A square city block in the middle of nowhere
        witnessed by sunups and rains and winds.
        Like the block where I've lived:
        Guatemala, Serrano, Paraguay, Gurruchaga.

        A general store pink as the back of a card
        shone and in the barroom talk of cards;
        a pink general store become a blooming friend,
        a streetcorner boss, hard and resented.

        The first hurdygurdy cleared the horizon
        looking frail with habanera and gringo.
        A vacant lot decided for Yrigoyen,
        a piano demanded Sabarido's tangos.

        A cigar store scented rosaceous
        the desert. Evening deepened with yesterday,
        everyone shared a past that was fiction.
        One thing was missing: the other sidewalk.

        It seems to me a fable that Buenos Aires was begun.
        It is eternal like water and air I judge.

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      New England

        Changed are the forms in my dreams;
        now are lateral red houses
        and delicate bronze leaves
        and chaste winter and pious firewood.
        As on the seventh day, the earth
        is good. At twilight there persists
        something nearly not, bold and sad,
        an antique rumor of Bible and war.
        Soon (they say) will fall the snow
        and America awaits me on each corner,
        but I feel in the declining afternoon
        today so tardy and yestern so brief.
        Buenos Aires, I make my way
        past your corners, sans why or when.

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      Remorse For Any Death

        Free of memory and of hope,
        limitless, abstract, almost future,
        the dead man is not a dead man: he is death.

        Like the God of the mystics,
        of Whom anything that could be said must be denied,
        the dead one, alien everywhere,
        is but the ruin and absence of the world.

        We rob him of everything,
        we leave him not so much as a color or syllable:
        here, the courtyard which his eyes no longer see,
        there, the sidewalk where his hope lay in wait.
        Even what we are thinking,
        he could be thinking;
        we have divvied up like thieves
        the booty of nights and days.

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      Shinto

        When sorrow lays us low
        for a second we are saved
        by humble windfalls
        of the mindfulness or memory:
        the taste of a fruit, the taste of water,
        that face given back to us by a dream,
        the first jasmine of November,
        the endless yearning of the compass,
        a book we thought was lost,
        the throb of a hexameter,
        the slight key that opens a house to us,
        the smell of a library, or of sandalwood,
        the former name of a street,
        the colors of a map,
        an unforeseen etymology,
        the smoothness of a filed fingernail,
        the date we were looking for,
        the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count,
        a sudden physical pain.

        Eight million Shinto deities
        travel secretly throughout the earth.
        Those modest gods touch us--
        touch us and move on.

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      Simplicity

        Opens the garden gate
        docilely as a page
        a frequent devotion interrogates
        and inside the glance
        need not fix on objects
        now firmly in memory.
        I know each custom and soul
        and that dialect of allusions
        every human aggregation weaves.
        I need not speak
        nor lie about privileges;
        well they know me hereabouts,
        my anguish and weakness.
        This is as high as one may reach,
        what Heaven perhaps will grant us:
        neither admiration nor victories
        but merely to be admitted
        as part of undeniable Reality
        like stones and trees.

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      Susana Soca

        With lingering love she gazed at the dispersed
        Colors of dusk. It pleased her utterly
        To lose herself in the complex melody
        Or in the cunous life to be found in verse.
        lt was not the primal red but rather grays
        That spun the fine thread of her destiny,
        For the nicest distinctions and all spent
        In waverings, ambiguities, delays.
        Lacking the nerve to tread this treacherous
        Labyrinth, she looked in on, whom without,
        The shapes, the turbulence, the striving rout,
        (Like the other lady of the looking glass).
        The gods that dwell too far away for prayer
        Abandoned her to the final tiger, Fire.

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      That One

        Oh days devoted to the useless burden
        of putting out of mind the biography
        of a minor poet of the Southem Hemisphere,
        to whom the fates or perhaps the stars have given
        a body which will leave behind no child,
        and blindness, which is semidarkness and jail,
        and old age, which is the dawn of death,
        and fame, which absolutely nobody deserves,
        and the practice of weaving hendecasyllables,
        and an old love of encyclopedias
        and fine handmade maps and smooth ivory,
        and an incurable nostalgia for the Latin,
        and bits of memories of Edinburgh and Geneva
        and the loss of memory of names and dates,
        and the cult of the East, which the varied peoples
        of the teeming East do not themselves share,
        and evening trembling with hope or expectation,
        and the disease of entymology,
        and the iron of AngloSaxon syllables,
        and the moon, that always catches us by surprise,
        and that worse of all bad habits, Buenos Aires,
        and the subtle flavor of water, the taste of grapes,
        and chocolate, oh Mexican delicacy,
        and a few coins and an old hourglass,
        and that an evening, like so many others,
        be given over to these lines of verse.

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      The Art Of Poetry

        To gaze at a river made of time and water
        and remember Time is another river.
        To know we stray like a river
        and our faces vanish like water.

        To feel that waking is another dream
        that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
        we fear in our bones is the death
        that every night we call a dream.

        To see in every day and year a symbol
        of all the days of man and his years,
        and convert the outrage of the years
        into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

        To see in death a dream, in the sunset
        a golden sadnesssuch is poetry,
        humble and immortal, poetry,
        returning, like dawn and the sunset.

        Sometimes at evening there's a face
        that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
        Art must be that sort of mirror,
        disclosing to each of us his face.

        They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
        wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
        humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
        a green eternity, not wonders.

        Art is endless like a river flowing,
        passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
        inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
        and yet another, like the river flowing.

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      The History Of The Night

        Throughout the course of the generations
        men constructed the night.
        At first she was blindness;
        thorns raking bare feet,
        fear of wolves.
        We shall never know who forged the word
        for the interval of shadow
        dividing the two twilights;
        we shall never know in what age it came to mean
        the starry hours.
        Others created the myth.
        They made her the mother of the unruffled Fates
        that spin our destiny,
        they sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock
        who crows his own death.
        The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses;
        to Zeno, infinite words.
        She took shape from Latin hexameters
        and the terror of Pascal.
        Luis de Leon saw in her the homeland
        of his stricken soul.
        Now we feel her to be inexhaustible
        like an ancient wine
        and no one can gaze on her without vertigo
        and time has charged her with eternity.

        And to think that she wouldn't exist
        except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.

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      The Other Tiger

        A tiger comes to mind. The twilight here
        Exalts the vast and busy Library
        And seems to set the bookshelves back in gloom;
        Innocent, ruthless, bloodstained, sleek
        It wanders through its forest and its day
        Printing a track along the muddy banks
        Of sluggish streams whose names it does not know
        (In its world there are no names or past
        Or time to come, only the vivid now)
        And makes its way across wild distances
        Sniffing the braided labyrinth of smells
        And in the wind picking the smell of dawn
        And tantalizing scent of grazing deer;
        Among the bamboo's slanting stripes I glimpse
        The tiger's stripes and sense the bony frame
        Under the splendid, quivering cover of skin.
        Curving oceans and the planet's wastes keep us
        Apart in vain; from here in a house far off
        In South America I dream of you,
        Track you, O tiger of the Ganges' banks.

        It strikes me now as evening fills my soul
        That the tiger addressed in my poem
        Is a shadowy beast, a tiger of symbols
        And scraps picked up at random out of books,
        A string of labored tropes that have no life,
        And not the fated tiger, the deadly jewel
        That under sun or stars or changing moon
        Goes on in Bengal or Sumatra fulfilling
        Its rounds of love and indolence and death.
        To the tiger of symbols I hold opposed
        The one that's real, the one whose blood runs hot
        As it cuts down a herd of buffaloes,
        And that today, this August third, nineteen
        Fifty-nine, throws its shadow on the grass;
        But by the act of giving it a name,
        By trying to fix the limits of its world,
        It becomes a fiction not a living beast,
        Not a tiger out roaming the wilds of earth.

        We'll hunt for a third tiger now, but like
        The others this one too will be a form
        Of what I dream, a structure of words, and not
        The flesh and one tiger that beyond all myths
        Paces the earth. I know these things quite well,
        Yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me
        In this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest,
        And I go on pursuing through the hours
        Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.

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      To A Cat

        Mirrors are not more silent
        nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
        in the moonlight, you are that panther
        we catch sight of from afar.
        By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
        we look for you in vain;
        More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
        yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
        Your haunch allows the lingering
        caress of my hand. You have accepted,
        since that long forgotten past,
        the love of the distrustful hand.
        You belong to another time. You are lord
        of a place bounded like a dream.

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      Vacant Room

        The mahogany furniture perpetuates
        amid brocade indecision
        its regular klatsch.
        Daguerreotypes
        belie the nearness
        of age cloistered in a mirror
        and before our eyes slip away
        like useless dates
        of blurred anniversaries.
        With sketchy gestures
        the anxious nearvoice
        runs after our souls
        with half a century of tardiness
        and barely if it be now
        in the mornings of our childhood.
        Actuality constant
        convincing and sanguineous
        feasts in the street
        its irrefutable plenitude
        of present apotheosis
        while the light
        bores a hole in the glass
        to humiliate senile armchairs
        and corner and hang
        the lank voice
        of the ancestors.

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      We Are The Time. We Are The Famous

        We are the time. We are the famous
        metaphor from Heraclitus the Obscure.

        We are the water, not the hard diamond,
        the one that is lost, not the one that stands still.

        We are the river and we are that greek
        that looks himself into the river. His reflection
        changes into the waters of the changing mirror,
        into the crystal that changes like the fire.

        We are the vain predetermined river,
        in his travel to his sea.

        The shadows have surrounded him.
        Everything said goodbye to us, everything goes away.

        Memory does not stamp his own coin.

        However, there is something that stays
        however, there is something that bemoans.

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      You

        In all the world there's been one man alive and dead.
        Statistics to the contrary, statistics don't add up at all.
        Add the smell of rain and your dream the other night.
        That man's Ulysses, Abel, Cain, the first to sort out
        constellations, the first pyramidbuilder, the writer of the
        Book of Changes' hexagrams, the smith who cut the runes
        on Hengist's sword, the bowman Einar Tamberskelver, Luis
        de Léon, the bookseller who sired Samuel Johnson,
        Voltaire's gardener, Darwin in the Beagle's prow,
        some Jew in the gas chamber, with time, me and you.
        One man died at Troy, Metaurus, Hastings, Austerlitz,
        Trafalgar, Gettysburg.
        One man died in hospitals, boats, hot solitude, alcoves of
        habit and love.
        One man looked at vasty sunrise.
        One man sampled the coolness of water, the fruits of the
        flesh.
        I speak of the one and only who's always alone.

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