Borges Responds to Neruda’s “You Start Dying Slowly,”
Which, It Turns Out, Neruda Did Not Write
Life is dying slowly. This is the truism of matter, the soul-song of decay to which every molecule adds its fading harmony. You cannot start dying slowly when that is always what you are. Not even at birth, for even as you formed, growing seemingly without end, it was only the upward curve of the arc of death. We who are bodies are confined by dates, by cradles and graves, and if anything exists outside those bounds it is simulacrum, illusion, though that is not to say it is not real.
You are dying slower than most. Your arc has been inflected by time, spiraling over itself in search of its center. That’s what fame does—it is not so much immortality as it is recursive resurrection, a game of telephone mutating and corrupting what used to be you. When you finally make it back to yourself you will be unrecognizable. I do not know if this is what you wanted, Pablo, but I do not think anyone else cares. If it helps, tell yourself they love you; it is almost true. If it helps, take comfort in the fact that one day the last mind that holds you will die, and maybe then you can find peace, Pablo, if that is still who you are.
You exist only in the translated words of a poem not written by a poet invented by a long-dead boy whose longer-dead father did not approve. You are the last Pablo Neruda, the ghost of the machine, the idea of an idea. That you did not choose to write of death makes you no less complicit in your hypocrisy: You cannot be killed, Pablo, so what do you know of death? What gives you the right, Pablo, to speak to me of dying?
Jordan Meiller is a recent graduate of Kalamazoo College. His work can be found in The Cauldron, Yellow Chair Review, and Golden Walkman Magazine. He currently lives in Portland, OR.