Sarah Wetzel: "Martini with Borges' Eyes"




They don’t have the intimate easy touches of brothers

or lovers, yet their close conversation suggests

they’ve known each other a long time


perhaps childhood friends separated year

after year after one or the other moved

to London for work for a marriage


that’s since ended. Now reunited over gin

and vermouth, the two, forty-somethings, don’t notice

how alike they’ve remained.


Each unconsciously mimes the other—thumbs hook

in the pockets of recently bought jeans, their heads

tilt in unison, then both nod


one mouthing right right right as the other

says something agreeable, his lips forming words

I just make out through the bar’s darkness—


You know, Borges wasn’t really blind, at least

not completely. This stops me

and I search their winter pale faces


for something

like irony or wit, but they are each

intent on the other. If not blind


then what of Borges’ hunger for libraries,

descriptions of books that in his poems smelled

of yesterday’s rain. Though his fear


of mirrors suddenly seems rational—I see no one

or some other self. Borges dreamed

the Ganges and of white tigers, their bones


heaving beneath covers

of skin, though later Borges admitted

his tigers were just symbols


like the word blind

like the darkness that would not exist

but for these unreliable instruments, eyes.



Sarah Wetzel is the author of Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the 2009 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and will be published by Anhinga Press in the fall of 2010. Her work has appeared in Rattle, Pedestal, Stirring, DecomP, Folly, TwoReview, Shampoo, and Eclectica.