Thursday, October 29, 2015

Octavio Paz: "Brotherhood"

Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

"Brotherhood" by Octavio Paz. Text as published in Octavio Paz: Collected Poems, 1957-1987, edited and translated from the original Spanish by Eliot Weinberger (New Directions, 1991).

Art credit: "Admiring the Galaxy," photograph taken on May 20, 2013, by European Southern Observatory / Alan Fitzsimmons. From the caption: "This image is a self portrait taken by astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons ... at ESO’s La Silla Observatory [located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile]."


  1. Octavio Paz captures in the fewest possible words the vast idea of brotherhood of human beings. It is such a strange coincidence that I am reading this poem today, Sunday, May 22, 2016. In Muslim societies, there is a belief that tonight is "Shab-e-baraat" (literally the night of nuptials). During this night the fate of everyone for one year is determined. Many Muslims stay up most of the night steeped in spiritualism and prayers. The poem speaks to the fact of the littleness of fleeting humans and the unalterable vast eternity of the universe.

    1. Thank you for sharing your reflections on the poem in light of Shab-e-baraat!


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