20
Feb
08

Between Going And Coming

Excerpts from Octavio Pazspeech at the Nobel Banquet, December- 1990

At the close of this century we have discovered that we are part of a vast system (or network of systems) ranging from plants and animals to cells, molecules, atoms and stars. We are a link in “the great chain of being”, as the philosophers of antiquity used to call the universe. One of man’s oldest gestures, repeated daily from the beginning of time, is to look up and marvel at the starry sky. This act of contemplation frequently ends in a feeling of fraternal identification with the universe. In the countryside one night, years ago, as I contemplated the stars in the cloudless sky, I heard the metallic sound of the elytra of a cricket. There was a strange correspondence between the reverberation of the firmament at night and the music of the tiny insect. I wrote these lines:

The sky’s big.

Up there, worlds scatter.
Persistent,
unfazed by so much night,
a cricket: brace and bit.

Stars, hills, clouds, trees, birds, crickets, men: each has its world, each is a world, and yet all of these worlds correspond. We can only defend life if we experience a revival of this feeling of solidarity with nature. It is not impossible: fraternity is a word that belongs to the traditions of Liberalism and Socialism, of science and religion.

latino-writers-octavio-paz-poster-c10095677.jpeg

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

-Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
Translated by Eliot Weinberger

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3 Responses to “Between Going And Coming”


  1. February 20, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    If only! Sometimes I think we have come too far to be able to return to a more symbiotic state.Most of us feel a connection with nature at some point…but unfortunately the ones in power seem to be too far removed to remember or care.
    Nice poetry. Interesting topic.

  2. February 21, 2008 at 12:54 am

    my favorite Paz poem i learned years ago:

    My hands
    open the curtains of your being
    clothe you in a further nudity
    uncover the bodies of your body
    My hands
    invent another body for your body

    this one’s great too:

    I travel your length, like a river
    I travel your body, like a forest,
    like a mountain path that ends at a cliff
    I travel along the edge of your thoughts
    and my shadow falls from your white forehead,
    my shadow shatters, and I gather the pieces
    and go with no body, groping my way…

    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…

    dressed in the color of my desires,
    you go your way naked as my thoughts,
    I travel your eyes, like the sea,
    tigers drink their dreams in those eyes,
    the hummingbird burns in those flames,
    I travel your forehead, like the moon,
    like the cloud that passes through your thoughts,
    I travel your belly, like your dreams

    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…

  3. 3 Nimesh Dadia
    March 3, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Profound! I was taken aback with a mild jolt and than left motionless and speechless by the last Four lines. They hit like a dagger int he darkness of the heart.

    Nimesh


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