Piedra de sol
by Octavio Paz
Stanzas 2-3 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
a path through the wilderness of days to come,
and the gloomy splendor of misery like a bird
whose song can turn a forest to stone,
and the imminent joys on branches that vanish,
the hours of light pecked away by the birds,
and the omens that slip past the hand,
- More birds! Here they are not pecking our eyes out like in Hitchcock's movie, but rather pecking away the days.
- The birds (remember the flash in the last stanza?) are working like time does here; their songs make trees into petrified forests (like the one in Arizona), and their beaks peck the hours of light away.
- So we've got a poem that is structured like an Aztec calendar, and some birds that are like eternity, who make forests turn to stone, and who peck away the days—sounds like time might be an important theme in this poem.
- And let's not forget about the future—once again we get omens; here, though, instead of coming from the water, they "slip past the hand." Birds, water, and wind don't have hands—people do. We finally have human presence.
a sudden presence like a burst of song,
like the wind singing in a burning building,
a glance that holds the world and all
its seas and mountains dangling in the air,
body of light filtered through an agate,
thighs of light, belly of light, the bays,
the solar rock, cloud-colored body,
color of a brisk and leaping day,
the hour sparkles and has a body,
the world is visible through your body,
transparent through your transparency,
- Paz is taking it slow, but little by little revealing the elements that will make up the poem. Here we still have wind, sea, mountains, and now light. Nature must be pretty important to this guy.
- And the bird-human connection continues. We get a burst of song: is it like the birdsong that turned the trees to stone, or is this a new one? Check out our "Symbols" section for more on birds in this poem.
- A clue comes in the next line: "like the wind singing in a burning building." The wind does sing around a fire, but the presence of the building indicates human presence; it's the first manmade object to be mentioned in the poem. So we should be on the lookout from now on for instances of nature and civilization coming together.
- Things then get a little bit trippy—one glance that holds the whole world in the air? Who could have a perspective like that? God? Aliens?
- And if that's not New Age enough for you, try the body of light filtered through an agate (an agate, in case you snoozed through Rocks for Jocks, is a precious stone that has varying patterns, kind of like a marble)—what would that look like? Probably pretty cool.
- Then we get what shows us we're dealing with some kind of animal: thighs, belly (of light), but the poetic voice switches it up on us just as we picture the animal by throwing in bays and rocks. Is he calling the earth a body? He certainly repeats the word enough.
- And as if that's not loony enough, here comes time again to shake things up: "the hour sparkles and has a body." Time is coming to life in these lines.
- Sounds are important here, too. There's the consonance of the K sound in the lines "[…] rock, cloud-colored body / color." So not only do words (like "body" and "wave") repeat in this poem—sounds do, too. It's like an endless, cyclical echo chamber.
- And finally, the last two lines of the stanza take the poem in a whole new direction. Suddenly, there's a you involved; the word "your" is mentioned twice, which means that the speaker of the poem is addressing it to someone.
- And that someone makes the world both visible and transparent. Sounds like someone pretty special.