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Summary

Stanzas 36-38 Summary Page 1

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 395-410

I follow my raving, rooms, streets,
I grope my way through corridors of time,
I climb and descend its stairs, I touch
its walls and do not move, I go back
to where I began, I search for your face,
I walk through the streets of myself
under an ageless sun, and by my side
you walk like a tree,
you walk lie a river,
and talk to me like the course of a river,
you grow like wheat between my hands,
you throb like a squirrel between my hands,
you fly like a thousand birds, and your laugh is like the spray of the sea, your head
is a star between my hands, the world
grows green again when you smile,
eating an orange,

  • The speaker is back and is back to moving around, or traveling. Here he goes through rooms, streets, and, once again, the "corridors of time." He's still looking for the face of the beloved. 
  • A series of similes liken the beloved to natural elements again: "you walk like at tree, you walk like a river / and talk to me like the course of a river, / you grow like wheat between my hands, / you throb like a squirrel between my hands, / you fly like a thousand birds, and your laugh / is like the spray of the sea."
  • This series seems more optimistic, with the growth and the laughter. 
  • And finally we move to a metaphor in which the head of the beloved is a star in the hands of the speaker. Save that one for your next love letter.

Lines 410-420

the world changes,
if two, dizzy and entwined, fall
on the grass: the sky comes down, trees
rise, space becomes nothing but light
and silence, open space for the eagle
of the eye, the white tribe of clouds
goes by, and the body weighs anchor,
the soul sets sail, and we lose
our names and float adrift in the blue
and green, total time where nothing
happens but its own, easy crossing,

  • Here get an echo of the line "the world changes" from the "to love is to battle" section above. 
  • But in these lines, it's not society that changes, but nature itself: "the sky comes down, trees / rise, space becomes nothing but light / and silence."
  • An interesting metaphor comparing the lovers to ships has the body being anchored but the soul setting sail, as if the lovers have become transcendent—they are outside of all names and time.

Lines 421-455

nothing happens, you're quiet, you blink,
(silence: just now an angel crossed,
huge as the life of a hundred suns),
is nothing happening, only a blink?
—and the banquet, the exile, the first crime,
the jawbone of the ass, the opaque thud
and the startled glance of the dead falling
on an ash-strewn plain, Agamemnon's
great bellow, the screams of Cassandra,
over and over, louder than the sea,
Socrates in chains (the sun rises,
to die is to wake: "Cristo, a cock
for Aesculapius, I am cured of life"),
the jackal discoursing in the ruins of Nineveh,
the shade that appeared to Brutus on the eve
of the battle, Moctezuma insomniac
on his bed of thorns, the ride in the carriage
toward death—the interminable ride,
counted minute by minute by Robespierre,
his broken jaw between his hands,
Churruca on his cask like a scarlet throne,
the numbered steps of Lincoln as he left
for the theater, Trotsky's death-rattle
and his howl like a boar, Madero's gaze
that no one returned: why are they killing me?,
and the curses, the sighs, the silence
of the criminal, the saint, the poor devil,
graveyards of anecdotes and phrases scratched up
by rhetorical dogs, and the shouts of victory,
the raving, the dark sound we make
when dying and that pulsebeat of life
as it's born, and the sound of bones being crushed
in the fray and the foaming mouth of the prophet
and his scream and the scream of the hangman
and the scream of the victim…

  • This long stanza is a meditation on death, in which our speaker tries to figure out what happens to a person when they die. 
  • At first it claims that nothing happens, that it's quiet and an angel passes (in Spanish-speaking cultures it is common to say that an angel passed over when there is a lull in the conversation). 
  • Then comes the list of many, many allusions to famous murders. For explanations of the references see the "Allusions" section. 
  • Then comes a range of the sounds that accompany death, from curses to raving to silence and finally a bunch of screams: "the foaming mouth of the prophet / and his scream and the scream of the hangman / and the scream of the victim."
  • After all that swoony love stuff, this stanza has taken quite a turn for the worse.
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