The Streets of San Telmo (Buenos Aires)

[San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina]

Buenos Aires was the last stop of our Patagonia trip. I have read about the San Telmo neighborhood there and preferred that over the newer and chic areas like Palermo. I found a boutique hotel in the heart of San Telmo, perfect for exploring the area nearby.

Dan and I both loved the neighborhood, a little rough around the edges but brimming with history and old world charm. San Telmo is thought to be the birthplace of Tango. We dreaded joining another tour group in a crowded van to take us in a tourist trap so we skipped the Tango show offered by the hotel receptionist. It would have been probably fine or maybe even amazing (our tour bus paranoia followed us from El Calafate)  but exploring the streets on our own was just as fun. Someday, we will be back for the Tango, Mendoza and El Chalten.

POEM BY JORGE LUIS BORGES
(Translation Source: https://libraryofbabel.info/Borges/Borges-SelectedPoems.pdf)

UNKNOWN STREET

Twilight of the dove
the Hebrews called the beginning of evening
when the shadow does not mire the footsteps
and the coming of night is recognized
like an awaited music,
not as a symbol of our essential insignificance. 

In that hour of fine sandy light
my footsteps found a street I did not know
opening as though onto a noble sweep of terrace,
disclosing on cornices and walls
colors as soft as the sky itself
that moved the background. 

Everything—frank mediocrity of the plain houses,
playfulness of little columns and knockers,
perhaps a girl’s hope from the window railings
— entered my vain heart  with the clarity of a tear.

That may have been the one hour
ever to enhance the street with a spell,
giving it privileges of tenderness,
making it real like a legend or a verse;
what is certain is that I felt it remotely near,
like a memory which arrives exhausted
only because it has come from the depths of the soul. 

Miracle of the glowing street,
intimate and deeply stirring;
and only afterward
I realized that that place was strange,
that every house is a candelabra
where the lives burn each in its separate flame,
that each of our unthinking footsteps
makes its way over the Golgothas of others. 

[W. S. Merwin

CALLE DESCONOCIDA

Penumbra de la paloma
llamaron los hebreos a la iniciación de la tarde
cuando la sombra no entorpece los pasos
y la venida de la noche se advierte
como una música esperada,
no como símbolo de nuestra esencial nadería.

En esa hora de fina luz arenosa
mis pasos dieron con una calle ignorada,
abierta en noble anchura de terraza,
mostrando en las comisas y en las paredes
colores blandos como el mismo cielo
que conmovía el fondo.

Todo—honesta medianía de las casas austeras,
travesura de columnitas y aldabas,
tal vez una esperanza de niña en los balcones—
se me adentró en el vano corazón
con limpidez de lágrima.

Quizá esa hora única
aventajaba con prestigio la calle,
dándole privilegios de ternura,
haciéndola real como una leyenda o un verso;
lo cierto es que la sentí lejanamente cercana
como recuerdo que si llega cansado
es porque viene de la hondura del alma.

Intimo y entrañable
era el milagro de la calle clara
y sólo después
entendí que aquel lugar era extraño,
que toda casa es candelabro
donde arden con aislada llama las vidas,
que todo inmeditado paso
nuestro camina sobre Gólgotas ajenos.