Stanzas 29-31 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
in the foundering cities, rooms and streets,
names like wounds, the room with windows
looking out on other rooms
with the same discolored wallpaper,
where a man in shirtsleeves reads the news
or a woman irons; the sunlit room
whose only guest is the branches of a peach;
and the other room, where it's always raining
outside on the patio and the three boys
who have rusted green; rooms that are ships
that rock in a gulf of light; rooms
that are submarines: where silence dissolves
into green waves, and all that we touch
phosphoresces; and the tombs of luxury,
with their portraits nibbled, their rugs unraveling;
and the traps, the cells, the enchanted grottoes,
the birdcages and the numbered rooms,
all are transformed, all take flight,
every molding is a cloud, every door
leads to the sea, the country, the open
air, every table is set for a banquet;
impenetrable as conches, time lays siege
to them in vain, there is no more time,
there are no walls: space, space,
open your hand, gather these riches,
pluck the fruit, eat of life,
stretch out under the tree and drink!
- Following this love scene is a series of fairly ordinary images of rooms and the people in them.
- Toward the end the speaker sneaks in some kind of funky images—a room where it's always raining outside with three boys who have rusted green (here's hoping they're statues); "rooms that are submarines," because they are so silent that it is as though they were underwater; and finally the "tombs of luxury"—basically decaying mansions.
- All of these spaces are affected by the passage of time. Go to "Symbols" for more on architecture.
- Then things take a turn toward the fantastic—everything can fly, the rooms become the sky, and "every table is set for a banquet."
- What is the speaker getting at here? Death? The afterlife?
- These are the spaces where, according to the speaker, time is powerless. We're back in paradise after Adam and Eve were cast out: "pluck the fruit, eat of life, / stretch out under the tree and drink!" It's as if there's no history, no future, and no time at all.
all is transformed, all is sacred,
every room is the center of the world,
it's still the first night, and the first day,
the world is born when two people kiss,
a drop of light from transparent juices,
the room cracks half-open like a fruit
or explodes in silence like a star,
and the laws chewed away by the rats,
the iron bars of the banks and jails,
the paper bars, the barbed wire,
the rubber stamps, the pricks and goads,
the droning one-note sermon on war,
the mellifluous scorpion in a cap and gown,
the top-hatted tiger, chairman of the board
of the Red Cross and the Vegetarian Society,
the schoolmaster donkey, the crocodile cast
in the role of savior, father of the people,
the Boss, the shark, the architect of the future,
the uniformed pig, the favorite son
of the Church who washes his blackened dentures
in holy water and takes classes in civics
and conversational English, the invisible walls,
the rotten masks that divide one man
from another, one man from himself,
- While you and I have dominated the poem so far, this stanza is impersonal, describing the stark difference between a romantic relationship and the rest of society.
- First the speaker celebrates the way that lovers are separate from the rest of the world, are the center of the world, and that everything seems new when they kiss.
- All of the annoying parts of society—laws, jails, hypocrites (who are described humorously as animals like scorpions, tigers, donkeys, crocodiles, sharks, and pigs)—are named here. The speaker refers to masks (which are a big theme for Octavio Paz, by the way) that keep people from showing their true nature, and divide people from one another.
for one enormous moment and we glimpse
the unity that we lost, the desolation
of being man, and all its glories,
sharing bread and sun and death,
the forgotten astonishment of being alive;
- As if you didn't see this coming, these lines assert that all of those nasty things from the stanza before crumble when two lovers come together.
- All of the division between people is erased and there is a sort of communion. In fact, the poem even mentions "sharing bread," an important part of Catholic communion ceremonies, and all of the glories of life.
- So what happens with love is that everything that separates people from one another goes away, and individuals come together to become one.