Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
face of flames, face devoured,
adolescent face plagued by phantom years
and circular days that open out
on the same patio, the same wall,
the moment is aflame, and all the faces
that appear in the flames are a single face,
all of the names are a single name,
all of the faces a single face,
all of the centuries a single moment,
and through all the centuries of the centuries
a pair of eyes blocks the way to the future,
- The violent images continue with an adolescent face devoured by flames—could it be the girl's face? Check out the "Symbols" section for Shmoop's take.
- Line 138 refers to "circular days" which remind us of the circular form of the calendar on which the poem is based. The days "open out / on the same patio, the same wall, / the moment is aflame, and all the faces / that appear in the flames are a single face."
- Time is connected to a certain moment, a moment that might have taken place in that schoolyard (note the repetition of the word "patio"), a moment that is on fire.
- In the fire faces, names, and even centuries are boiled down to singular examples: a single face, a single name, a single moment.
- The repetition of the word "face" gives us the idea of tons and tons of faces. Also, the anaphora of the phrase "all of the" in the last part of the stanza adds to that feeling of a universe full of identities.
- The speaker can't seem to get past this moment, and must always return to it, because "a pair of eyes" (the girl's eyes?) "blocks the way to the future."
there's nothing in front of me, only a moment
salvaged from a dream tonight of coupled
images dreamed, a moment chiseled
from the dream, torn from the nothing
of this night, lifted by hand, letter
by letter, while time, outside, gallops
away, and pounding at the doors of my soul
is the world with its bloodthirsty schedules,
- The speaker is back in the present here, and aware of a dream. It's a dream made up of paired images—kind of like the ones we saw a couple stanzas ago—and he has only a moment in front of him, a moment from the dream.
- We get a hint that the moment, or the memory, is also a word (he's a writer, remember?): "lifted by hand, letter / by letter."
- Of course time keeps driving him nuts. Outside it gallops while he's stuck inside, trapped in one instant that he can't get past.
- The world continues to seem like a violent place, having "bloodthirsty schedules" (and you thought your short lunch hour was bad). Here, time is a source of pressure and stress.
only a moment while the cities, names,
flavors and everything that is alive
all crumble inside my blind skull,
while the sorrows of night press on my thoughts,
weigh down my spine, and my blood runs
a little slower, my teeth wobble,
my eyes cloud over, and the days
and years heap their empty horrors,
- Still stuck in that moment, the speaker loses all contact with the world. Cities, names, flavors—everything he has experienced crumbles in his head while he's trapped in that sorrowful instant.
- But hey, at least he has a body again—no more out-of-body experiences, right?
- Only now his pain weighs on his spine, blood, teeth, and eyes. In case you haven't noticed, he's getting old, and it ain't pretty. All he has left is time, which just heaps "empty horrors" on him. Can you say bleak?