Smoking Out the Window: A Palimpsest with Jorge Luis Borges “Paradiso, XXXI”

A palimpsest is something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.  One famous palimpsest is The Archimedes Palimpsest, a prayerbook from the early 1200s, comprised of 174 parchment folios.  My modern-day palimpsest has bits of Jorge Luis Borges’ Paradiso, XXXI within it.  In order to create this, I used lines and phrases from Borges’ piece and interwove them with my own text. The intertextuality between my piece and Borges creates a voice that uses Borges’ religious imagery and combines it with my “sinful acts.”  This successfully intertwines the works with fluidity while simultaneously juxtaposing two opposite concepts.




There aren’t many things that drive me to prayer.  Not drinking on a Monday night or sneaking someone into my flat at 3 am.  No, I stifle those prayers inside myself.  There is no need for them.  I’m not weighed down by these sins but instead bathed in a tranquil light.

I have done many things that should bring me down to my knees.  Many memories could have been eased with a quick prayer within the day.  Instead I ignore this unnecessary urge and continue with the sin.  But as soon as I am in my room and I pull out my tobacco, guilt sets in.  Beneath the rose I begin to roll a cigarette and crack my window slightly.  And I’m praying to the carpenter’s son that I’m not caught.  It is when I’m sitting on my window ledge, cautiously directing the smoke out that I become religious.

Dear God, please don’t let me get caught.

Yet, this isn’t a new experience for me.  This scene has played out since I was seventeen and living with my parents.  Smoking out the window, looking over my shoulder, and praying.  Feeling the judgement lurk in every mirror.  Oh Lord, what would my parents think if they found out?  If I was caught, would their image of me be lost for ever like an image in a kaleidoscope?  This time will be my last.


But every night I’m still hugging the windowsill.  Muttering a short prayer with every deep inhale.


One thought on “Smoking Out the Window: A Palimpsest with Jorge Luis Borges “Paradiso, XXXI”

  1. And, that’s how it’s done.

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