Piedra de sol
by Octavio Paz
Stanzas 4-5 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I travel my way through galleries of sound,
I flow among echoing presences,
I cross transparencies as though I were blind,
a reflection erases me, I'm born in another,
oh forest of pillars that are enchanted,
through arches of light I travel into the corridors of a diaphanous fall,
- We thought that the you in the last stanza was pretty thrilling, but here we get an I. Yippee.
- The poetic voice has defined itself as a first-person singular, and, in case that doesn't get you as excited as it does us, this reveals a lot about the poem and helps us understand what's going on. See the "Speaker" section for more.
- Even though the speaker is narrowed down to an I, he's still a slippery kind of guy. He travels (by the way, be on the lookout for the refrain "I travel" in future stanzas), flows, is erased, is born—he is obviously not limited by regular human time and space. In fact, the way he travels through sound, echoes, transparencies, and light, you might get the idea he doesn't even have a body.
- Do notice that this voice seems to be more rooted in the realm of civilization than nature? Unlike the you from before, he finds himself in a forest of enchanted pillars and corridors of a transparent autumn (the fall in English should only be read as autumn, based on the Spanish original—no skydiving here). Still pretty trippy though.
- He even uses apostrophe to address the forest of pillars instead of the "you" from before. It almost sounds like he's hallucinating.
I travel your body, like the world,
your belly is a plaza full of sun,
your breasts two churches where blood
performs its own, parallel rites,
my glances cover you like ivy,
you are a city the sea assaults,
a stretch of ramparts split by the light
in two halves the color of peaches,
a domain of salt, rocks and birds,
under the rule of oblivious noon,
- Are those wedding bells? Nope? Well, either way this stanza is where the I and the you finally come together. How romantic.
- Now I is traveling (refrain alert!) through you's body as through the world—which fits with the way that your body was compared to the world before.
- Instead of revealing bays and rocks, though, your body is covered in the marks of civilization. A plaza, two churches, ivy—all of these references show the way the natural world is taken over by humanity and given a mystical touch. Check out our "Symbols" section for information on ivy and architecture.
- The churches "where blood performs its own, parallel rites" might make you think of communion in a Catholic church, where the wine becomes blood; or the Aztec (since we are talking about the Aztec calendar) ritual of sacrificing warriors' blood to the sun. Get it—two rituals for the "parallel rites"?
- The speaker lays it out for us in line 44: "you are a city the sea assaults," so there's really no getting around the metaphor of the poetic object (a.k.a., the other person or you) as a city. (Also notice the alliteration of the S sound in that line)—sounds like a slippery, slithery snake.
- If things are getting a little too out-there for you, you could have a little fun with the next metaphor: what do you think the two peach-colored halves are? Check out line 41 for a clue.
- The stanza ends up going back to the earlier natural images and an emphasis on time. Salt, rocks, and birds reinforce the fact that we're near the sea, and the "rule of oblivious noon" lets us know that time is still in charge.