Sleep

JORGE LUIS BORGES

Translation by Robert Mezey and Richard Barnes

If sleep is truce, as it is sometimes said,
A pure time for the mind to rest and heal,
Why, when they suddenly wake you, do you feel
That they have stolen everything you had?
Why is it so sad to be awake at dawn?
It strips us of a gift so vast, so deep,
We can convey it only in half-sleep,
Moments of drowsiness that often adorn
The waking mind with dreams, which may well be
But broken images of the night’s treasure,
A timeless world that has no name or measure
And breaks up in the mirrors of the day.
Who will you be tonight, in the dark thrall
Of sleep, when you have slipped across its wall?


Robert Mezey’s poems, prose, and translations have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Poetry, and The Paris Review, among many others. His poems can be found in numerous anthologies and textbooks and have been translated into many languages.

Richard Barnes was a professor of renaissance and medieval literature at Pomona College in California for nearly forty years. A Word Like Fire, a posthumous selection of Barnes’ poetry, was published in 2005 by Handsel Books.

First published in Measure, Volume 2 (2007)