Archive for:September, 2014

Art of the Day: Octavio Paz’ “Salamander” (Trans. Denise Levertov)

September 20th, 2014

Today I just want to post, sans commentary (for once), this visionary, beautiful poem sent to me by my friend over at

by Octavio Paz


(the fire wears
black armor)
a slow-burning stove
between the jaws
-marble or brick-
of the chimney it is
an ecstatic tortoise, a crouched
Japanese warrior:
whatever it is, martyrdom
is repose
impassive under torture

ancient name of fire
and ancient
antidote to fire
flayed sole of the foot
on hot coals
amianthus amante amianthus

in the abstract city between
dizzy geometries
-glass cement stone iron-
formidable chimeras appear
raised up by calculus
multiplies by profit
by the side of the anonymous wall
sudden poppy

Yellow claw a scrawl
of red letters on a
wall of salt
Claw of sunlight
on a heap of bones

fallen star
in the endlessness of bloodstained opal
beneath eyelids of quartz
lost girl
in tunnels of onyx
in the circles of basalt
buried seed
grain of energy
in the marrow of granite

Salamander, you who lay dynamite in iron’s
black and blue breast
you explode like a sun
you open yourself like a wound
you speak
as a fountain speaks

blade of wheat
daughter of fire
spirit of fire
condensation of blood
sublimation of blood
evaporation of blood

Salamander of air
the rock is flame
the flame is smoke
red vapor
straight-rising prayer
lofty word of praise
of fire on the head of the psalm
scarlet queen
(and girl with purple stockings
running disheveled through the woods)

Salamander, you are
silent, the
black consoler of sulfur tears
(One wet summer I heard
the vibration of your
cylindrical tail
between lose tiles of a
dead-calm moonlit patio)

Caucasian salamander
in the rock’s
cindery shoulder appears
and disappears
a brief black tongue
flecked with saffron

Black and brilliant creature
the moss
you devour
diminutive herald of the rain-shower
familiar spirit of the lightning
(Internal fecundation
oviparious reproduction
the young live in the water
once adult they swim sluggishly)

Hanging bridge between eras
bridge of cold blood
axis of movement
(The changes in the alpine species
the most slender of all
take place in the mother’s womb
Of all the tiny eggs no more than two mature
and until they hatch
the embryos are nourished on a broth
composed of the doughy mass of their aborted brother-eggs)

The Spanish Salamander
black and red mountaineer

The sun nailed to the sky’s center does not throb
does not breathe
life does not commence with out blood
without the embers of sacrifice
the wheel of days does not revolve
Xolotl refuses to consume himself
he hid himself in the corn but they found him
he hid himself in the maguey but they found him
he fell into the water and became the fish axolotl
the Double-Being
‘and then they killed him’
Movement began, the world was set in motion
the procession of dates and names
Xolotl the dog, guide to Hell
he who dug up the bones of the fathers
he who cooked the bones in a pot
he who lit the fire of the years
the maker of men
Xolotl the penitent
the burst eye that weeps for us
larva of the butterfly
double of the Star
other face of the Lord of Dawn
Xolotl the axolotl

solar arrow
lamp of the moon
column of noonday
name of woman
scales of night
(The infinite weight of light
a half-drachm on your eyelashes)

back flame
you yourself in the sun
the moon
turning for ever around you
pomegranate that bursts itself open each night
fixed star on the brow of the sky
and beat of the sea and the stilled light
open mind above the
two-and-fro of the sea

The star-lizard, salamandria
saurian scarcely eight centimeters long
lives in crevices and is the color of dust

Salamander of earth and water
green stone in the mouth of the dead
stone of incarnation
stone of fire
sweat of the earth
salt flaming and scorching
salt of destruction and
mask of lime that consumes the face

Salamander of air and fire
wasp’s nest of suns
red word of beginning

The salamander
a lizard
her tongue ends in a dart
her tail ends in a dart
She is unhissable She is unsayable
she rests upon hot coals
queens it over firebrands
If she carves herself in the flame
she burns her monument
Fire is her passion, her patience

Salamander Salamater

(Translated by Denise Levertov)


For more information about Octavio Paz, please check out’s bio of him.

For more about salamanders, I can’t seem to find anything as comprehensive as this wikipedia page.

[posted by: C Way at 12:18 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| Literary Arts ||| poetry]