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I am the fosse of living limestone:

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The surreal goddess Izpapálotl in “Obsidian butterfly” by Octavio Paz
By Olivia Maciel

It is interesting to note that the lyrical voice in the prose poem “Obsidian butterfly” by the now deceased and prominent Mexican poet Octavio Paz appears to be that of the pre-hispanic  Chichimecan goddess Izpapálotl. This goddess, which to the ancient Mexicans embodied qualities equivalent of their own Coatlicue, was represented with both human and animal features, including eagle’s wings and sharp jaguar paws which took the place of human hands and feet. In his Historia de la literature Náhuatl, (1956) Angel María Garibay already stated that this warrior and mother goddess was also associated to mother earth in its mortuary and sacrificial aspects, as well as to women who died during childbearing, being their sacrifice a manner of nurturing the birth of new lives.

A fragment of the poem “Obsidian butterfly” by Octavio Paz, published in his book ¿Aguila o sol? (1951) captures this voice:

Siémbrame entre los fusilados. Naceré del ojo del capitán. Lluéveme, asoléame. Mi cuerpo arado por el tuyo ha de volverse un campo donde se siembra uno y se cosecha ciento. Espérame al otro lado del año: me encontrarás como un relámpago tendido a la orilla del otoño. Toca mis pechos de hierba. Besa mi vientre, piedra de sacrificios. En mi ombligo el  remolino se aquieta: yo soy el centro fijo que mueve la danza. Arde, cae en mí: soy la fosa de cal viva que cura los huesos de su pesadumbre . . . Toma mi collar de lágrimas. Te espero en ese lado del tiempo en donde la luz inaugura un reinado dichoso: el pacto de los gemelos enemigos, el agua que escapa entre los dedos y el hielo, petrificado como un rey es us orgullo. Allí abrirás mi cuerpo en dos, para leer las letras de tu destino.

Seed me among the executed ones. I will be born from the captain’s eye. Rain me, sunshine me. My body plowed by your body will become a field where one plants one and harvests a hundred. Wait for me on the other side of the year: You will find me as a thunder laying on Autumn’s shore. Touch my breasts of grass. Kiss my womb, altar of sacrifice. In my navel vertigo quiets downs: I am the motionless center that animates dancing. Burn, fall upon me: I am fosse of living limestone that heals the bones of sorrow . . . Take my necklace of tears. I wait for you on that side of time where light unveils a joyous reign: the pact between the enemy twins, water that escapes between the fingers and ice petrified as a king in his arrogance. There you will pry my body in two parts, to read the letters of your destiny. [My translation]

In an exhortative tone, the warrior goddess encourages amorous coupling as well as speaking of her desire to be fruitful. This suggests that from the fierce force unleashed on the ‘executed’ and from their sacrifice, it may be very well possible to transcend toward a fertile era in which joy and harmony reign. Characteristic of surrealist aesthetics, Paz personifies parts of the human body, ‘in my navel the vertigo quiets down’, and juxtaposes images of distant semantic realms ‘breasts of grass’. It is clear however, that the ancient Mexicans, in the conjured visions of their dualistic gods such as the “Obsidian butterfly” goddess Izpapálotl, had already entered into the surrealistic realms to be pondered upon, many years later by the French poet Andre Breton. Through this poem, Octavio Paz unveils what could be called the Pre-hispanic Surrealism of the ancient Mexicans.

© Olivia Maciel, August 31,2005

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Written by admin

March 4, 2010 at 2:01 am

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