Poet’s Invitation of Human Body into Meaning

… The human couple is the point of intersection of all forces and the seed of all forms. The couple is time recaptured, the return to the time before time.
Octavio Paz, “Alternating Current”, The Viking Press, 1973, p. 53


In my body you search the mountain

for the sun buried in the forest.

In your body I search for the boat

adrift in the middle of the night.

by Octavio Paz

In many of his poems Octavio Paz was able to do almost impossible – he takes poetry out of domain of the soul and settles it inside the domain of the body. He found a proto-soul in the human body and proved its symbolic sensitivity and philosophical inclinations. He made eroticism a vehicle of semantic proto-drives and saved human sexuality from biological positivism and medical complacency of our instrumental epoch motivated by existential misery stimulated by psychological cocktail of fear of and greed for life and phobia of mortality.

“Counterparts” is a poetic analysis (based on the mobilization of semantic auras of Paz’s metaphors) of the very intelligence of sexual act, the poet’s ability to see spiritual meanings of physical caresses. Paz deconstructs sexual act as the lovers’ unconscious search for the primordial meanings.

To search in the body of the lover for the sun buried in the forest on the mountain is a yearning to help the sun to resurrect. But to search in the body of the lover for the boat adrift amidst the night is to look for refuge and rest – for being in the very middle of non-being.

What is striking here is that both Paz’s lovers are unconsciously looking in their sexual act for awakening from non-being, which is the human unconscious’ primordial soil, bed and womb. The sun is reborn in a state of being buried. The night of non-being precedes the boat of silent rest. One lover’s unconscious looks for the sunrise of her lover’s orgasm, while that of the other – for the post- and pre-orgasmic relaxation amidst non-being. To define the genders of Paz’s lovers, as I just did in order not to lose the coordinates of semantic path, has only a limited value. The both lovers, it seems, carry both positions which are always ready to play themselves out. There is no need for a boat in the middle of the night, if there is no chance to find the buried sun in the mountains. Both motivations belong to the same ontological position.

The boat in the middle of the night … is the burial of the sun in the forest of the mountain. These two metaphors reflect one another like the souls of the lovers. It is a synergy of the two positions human beings are equipped to deploy in the cosmic wisdom of sexual alchemy.

Human creativity is included into world’s structure and became a kind of helper in the world‘s self-rejuvenation. We see in the poem the fundamental role of human body in realization of the miracle of the prolongation of the world. “In my body” and “In your body” start the both sentences of the poem, and this emphasizes primacy of surrounding/womb over the creative action of the search for the meaning through the very physical embrace. “You search the mountain” and “I search for the boat” signifies creative actions of human unconscious cognitive search coded in physical caresses of the two lovers of Octavio Paz’s poem.

Octavio Paz, 1914–1998
Octavio Paz, 1914–1998 (Paz as the father of the couple consisting of Marie-José Paz and himself younger)

Paz with Marie-José Paz, 1971
Paz with Marie-José Paz, 1971 (Amorous couple as the incarnation of human spiritual creativity)

Early photo of Octavio Paz
Early photo of Octavio Paz (Paz as the child of the couple consisting of Marie-José Paz and himself–adult)