The year’s doors open like those of language

Happy 2015, readers. Let’s usher in the new year (a day late!) with the incredible Octavio Paz (1914-1998); “El Primero de Enero” can be found in its original Spanish here.

“January First”

The year’s doors open
like those of language,
toward the unknown.
Last night you told me: tomorrow
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
once more,
the reality of this world.

I opened my eyes late.
For a second of a second
I felt what the Aztec felt,
on the crest of the promontory,
lying in wait
for the time’s uncertain return
through cracks in the horizon.

But no, the year had returned.
It filled all the room
and my look almost touched it.
Time, with no help from us,
had placed
in exactly the same order as yesterday
houses in the empty street,
snow on the houses,
silence on the snow.

You were beside me,
still asleep.
The day had invented you
but you hadn’t yet accepted
being invented by the day.
––Nor possibly by being invented, either.
You were in another day.

You were beside me
and I saw you, like the snow,
asleep among appearances.
Time, with no help from us,
invents houses, streets, trees
and sleeping women.

When you open your eyes
we’ll walk, once more,
among the hours and their inventions.
We’ll walk among appearances
and bear witness to time and its conjugations.
Perhaps we’ll open the day’s doors.
And then we shall enter the unknown.

translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bishop


2 thoughts on “The year’s doors open like those of language

  1. The new year begins, and another poem I’ve never seen or heard of quickens the afternoon for me and will now live on in memory. Another great beginning for the valuable work you do here—thank you.

  2. Natalie,

    I love the poem! There was a time when I thought I’d not see 20015. I’m very happy to be here – and sharing the world with you!


    Sent from my iPhone

    “Find the Good and praise it”


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