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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Joan Mari Irigoien Aranberri > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

1989 Earth and wind | Erein

It was just after dusk. Martzelina gazed at the moon that seemed to be reclining on the horizon. It was a full moon. She crossed herself and began to pray a Hail, Holy Queen. Far away the sharp silhouettes of children broke up the moon's roundness. She became distracted during her prayers, and instinctively, together with the moon, became aware of her full femininity in her still shapeless belly. She opened the window. The already advancing night exhaled its earth scent. The children were dragging a sledge piled with branches. A child's voice cut the heavens to be joined later by the throng. The twilight echo of the song reached Martzelina's ears:

And the glow-worm came
With its silvery flame,
And sparkled and shone
Through the night of St. John,
And soon has the young maid her love-knot tied.


The children added the branches to a pile of wood and lit it. Almost immediately Martzelina imagined the flames burning right inside her and once again moved her hands to her belly.

With her eyes closed she saw the flames of the oven of her femininity in the changing screen of her imagination shaping her earth womb, shaping and making it firm.

Opening her eyes she gazed at her belly. In the place where the water had caught fire she felt fear and joy at the same time riding on the same murky wave. As the first sensation of fear subsided, she could clearly read the single feeling written there: joy in the clear watery depth of her body. It seemed to her the moment to feel joy itself. But she did not feel completely happy. Perhaps because at the same moment she looked into her heart. The craving for insatiable love left a lump in the throat of her heart. Or in the heart of her throat. She did not know.

-I love you! -she burst out, as she stretched out her arms and hugged herself.

Yet it was an empty embrace.

Leaving the window open she ran out of the kitchen to her room and lay face down on her bed.

-I love you, my dearest! -she said in desperation, and as she wrung the sheets and blankets, she closed her eyes again and the emptiness she had embraced shortly before gradually transformed on the screen of her brain: it resembled a man.

-Robustiano, it was you -said Martzelina, pressing the cross with her finger bones inside the coffin-. A year later we married: do you remember?

-Yes, I do -he replied, as he scratched the lower plank of the coffin with his right index finger-. And we swore to love each other for all time.

-As ordained by our Holy Mother, the Church.



That St. John's day Martzelina was up before sunrise. She was full to overflowing with joy, and as she went out, she made her way with light feet towards the wheat field surrounded by acacias. Halfway there she saw a barren peach tree. She picked up a stone lying beside her and put it in the spot where two branches met.

-This day the earth will breathe new life into all of you! It will breathe new life into each one of us! -she shouted to the peach tree.

She skipped all the way to the wheat field. Feverishly, hurriedly she undressed. She was naked. With the palm of her hand she stroked her round belly. The earth was damp with dew, dewdrops could be seen hanging from the ears of wheat as if they were beads. It seemed to Martzelina that they formed whitish rosary beads of thousands of mysteries. Attentive to the earthy echoes from the internal furrows of her round belly she could hear the voice of the cleansing dew, turned into a long litany, a murmur of love: Mater inmaculata, ora pro nobis. Yes, I love thee, pure Earth Mother. Causa nostrae laetitiae, ora pro nobis. She embraced the earth with affection and passion. She smelled deeply into the ears of wheat that entwined her body and, not knowing why, noticed she could smell Robustiano's wheaty skin. She did not know why, yet she was sure of it. And the sharp smell that penetrated her nose pierced her belly. "I love you," said the wheat, sighing from the sun. And upon hearing those words Martzelina sensed the earth being reborn inside her: renewed earth gently ploughed by the combs of the ears of wheat.

-That's right. And three or four months later I entered the fertile garden you had worked and my autumn turned to spring.- said Robustiano from his coffin.

-And henceforth the red river sludge that came from the moon and flowed through me once every four weeks, did not contaminate my body: the waters of my womb were clear, clean the fertile sweat of the earth.

As she rose from the ground she noticed the sun was about to rise like a red peach. After that, it seemed to her as if the sun danced upwards as it spread from her belly all the way to the ends of the earth.



Martzelina did not know how, but every time she approached the oak grove, she seemed to stop in front of the very same oak tree. She thought that that tree, like the other trees in the wood, talked to her through the innumerable forms it took on through the years, so she would often stand gazing at it, bewitched, as if those forms had now turned into hieroglyphics; she tried to decipher the hidden messages sent to her by Earth Mother or unmask the messengers' disguises: at one time, the swift, alert horses of spring, another time the robust bull of summer, here, the timid deer of autumn, there, the lost skeletons of winter.

That day, however, the late summer sun's rays filtered through the gaps of the oak tree down to her. There it was, like an apparition between the lines of the knots and lumps that mingled in the trunk, because the clear vision of a man appeared to her crowned by the sun.

-It was you, Robustiano, then, too -Martzelina told him, as she knocked on the oak of the coffin with her bony fist, as if she were trying to attract Robustiano's attention-. And going up to the trunk I embraced it.

-Yes. -replied Robustiano with a single word and a long sigh.

-All my life I could not forget that sun that looked like a ripe peach falling from the branch. -Martzelina went on.

Remembering the stone placed on the peach tree on St. John's day, she bent down and picked up an acorn; she held it lovingly in her hands and caressed it before removing the cup and putting it in her mouth: she turned the acorn over and over inside her mouth sucking and licking it, making a wish that the abundant liquid flowing from her mouth would fertilise the oak seed, and believed that her wish could come true.

Night fell. With the new moon in the heart of the night, she decided to keep the seed in her mouth for two weeks in the hope that it would burst by the full moon. During meals she took it out of her mouth and wrapped it in a small cloth, whereas every night she would leave it by the window in the bosom of the night, so that the moon would watch over the fertilization.

And the full moon came round, and as she was leaving the seed by the window together with the full moon, she noticed the seed's life quiver in her earthy hand, a shoot emerging from the seed. The next day she planted it in the forest.

Martzelina's habit of sucking acorns came from there, as a sign of her femininity and fertility.



Kaxilda, Robustiano Elizalde's sister and Martzelina's sister-in-law, also carried an acorn during the following phase of the moon, just like Martzelina: but unlike Martzelina, hers was the fruit of a barren tree. And she wept in despair.

But now Kaxilda remembered the day Martzelina married into the Elizalde farm household, how she became aware from the very beginning that she hated her sister-in-law. Imagining and visualising that Robustiano's seed could turn into a joyful spring in the ancient, eternal earthy womb of Martzelina made her stomach turn. And that is exactly how she felt five years later, with her stomach churning and her mind embittered, because it seemed to her that the day would soon come to pass; and that was how she felt when she discovered that the acorns had begun to bear fruit in that woman's earth.

-Robustiano's coming! -Martzelina told her with the acorn in her mouth as usual one day, when her husband had to go out with the intention of buying a plough; she sensed his presence and return from a distance-. Can't you tell from the smell of the earth?

A second later Kaxilda was to notice that special earth smell coming from her brother's body, two seconds later she was to notice the meaty earth waves that came from her brother two leagues away.

"In this house it's always the same: it's as if Martzelina lived a second ahead of me. and for that one second the acorn becomes fertile in her saliva and withers in mine."

And she cursed her barren womb and longed to kill Martzelina.

"Hidden hates and loves are my fate, joined together by a bridge of loneliness," she thought, and pressing her arms against her body she realised that all she was embracing was the cracking of bones.

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