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Sunstone (Piedra De Sol)

I was thrown off, initially, by the run-on, unfinished beginning of Piedra de Sol, or The Sunstone, by Octavio Paz. It’s all one jumbled sentence and it starts mid-way. I realized, when I finished reading, that the poem loops. When you get to the end, it’s not the end; Paz repeats the beginning stanza, which gives you a cyclical context in which to make sense of that first stanza.

Throughout the twelve page poem, Paz interchanges metaphors for love and time, so I wasn’t sure if he was talking about a lover or something bigger, perhaps space-time, or if he made any distinction between the two. Passages like this suggest either his lover is above humanity, or he’s being melodramatic:

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 on with no body, groping my way…

He continues in the same vein, attributing progressively higher qualities to the person he loves, becoming more frankly sexual while, at the same time, transcending creaturely concerns of procreation and pleasure. His lover is cosmic, and his love is beyond human comprehension. He says,

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

It’s not melodrama. Because the poem is so highly focused on the speaker’s beloved and the act of loving her, and because he is so erudite, we believe him when he calls her “a city the sea assaults.” He leads us to believe greater and greater things about her until, after a progression of extreme superlatives, our thoughts naturally turn to Venus. Distilled, “Piedra de Sol is a circular poem based on the circular Aztec calendar. Piedra de Sol […] is written as a single cyclical sentence reflecting the synodic period of the planet Venus. The poem reflects this period of 584 days within its 584 lines” (Wikipedia).

Paz is using Venus as shorthand to extol those moments of beauty which elevate our mundane perception of the people around us to otherworldly glory—what he sees in Piedra de Sol. Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of what he’s after—it doesn’t last long, but the sensation is sweet.

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