One thing does not exist: Oblivion.
God saves the metal and he saves the dross.
And his prophetic memory guards from loss
The moons to come, and those of evenings gone.
Everything in the shadows in the glass
Which, in between the day’s two twilights, you
Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
Henceforward in the mirrors that you pass.
And everything is part of that diverse
Crystalline memory, the universe;
Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
And only from the sunset’s farther side
Shall view at last the Archetypes and the Splendors.
-Jorge Luis Borges
translated by Richard Wilbur
I ran across two poems about things and our relationship to them. In this first one the poet might be merely looking around the room to notice a few common items. I used to do that when I wanted to write a letter to a friend or parent, to help me get started. I would mentally extract one thing at a time from the clutter spread all around the kitchen and family room, and ramble on paper about the everyday doings of our tribe. What books was everyone reading? Was there bread rising in a big bowl? Maybe some tools had been left out after a repair job. There was always so much stuff that my method produced a broad glimpse into our family life.
But I never waxed philosophical about the things themselves, the way Borges does. He gives us an elegant and thoughtful view of some of his belongings, with a kind of reverence:
My walking-stick, small change, key-ring,
The docile lock and the belated
Notes my few days left will grant
No time to read, the cards, the table,
A book, in its pages, that pressed
Violet, the leavings of an afternoon
Doubtless unforgettable, forgotten,
The reddened mirror facing to the west
Where burns illusory dawn. Many things,
Files, sills, atlases, wine-glasses, nails,
Which serve us, like unspeaking slaves,
So blind and so mysteriously secret!
They’ll long outlast our oblivion;
And never know that we are gone.
-Jorge Luis Borges