(a translation from the Spanish of Jorge Luis Borges)
Fifty-two cards push real life aside:
flimsy, parti-colored charms
that make us forget where we’re bound to end up in the end.
And who cares where? —we’ve stolen this time, anyway,
let’s build a house of cards,
decorate it, move in, and then play
as we were always meant to play.
Nothing beyond the table’s edges
carries any weight.
Inside, it’s a foreign land
where bluff and bid are high affairs of state:
The Ace of Spades swaggers authoritatively
like Lord Byron, capable of anything;
the nine of diamonds glitters like a pirate’s dream.
A headlong rush of lethargy
slacks conversation to a drawl:
our slow words come and go
the while chance exalts some, lays others low;
the while the players echo and re-echo all the tricks they know:
until it seems that they’re returned—or nearly so:
the crones and cronies and their bony friends
who showed us what it meant to be true Americans
with the same old songs, the same old works for idle hands.
Time was, we had to be cautious
since the dead world could quicken
and anything was always inexplicably
about to become an animal:
bare dirt birthed worms,
toads sprang full-blown from muck,
and mice could breed
from a stale loaf kept in a quiet cupboard.
We now know that’s not the way of it:
life’s not spontaneous,
but always it’s the product of
some effortful seed
and some intent or accident of sperm;
life breeds life, and furiously
goes on living.