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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Joxantonio Ormazabal Berasategi > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2001 | Elkar

IT'S BETTER...


When Itsaso's mum and dad separated, there were traces of sadness on both their faces. But there was neither anger nor hatred between them. Itsaso was eight at the time. Naturally she cried during the days that followed, but gradually got used to her new way of life.

Some years have passed since them. It just so happens that Itsaso, who is one of my dearest friends, has only today told me about a strange discovery she made. She found a poem somewhere among letters and photos while she was snooping around her mother's house having a look everywhere.

-What's this? -she apparently asked her mother.

Her mother took the sheet of paper and without taking her eyes off it, sighed deeply and gave her daughter the following answer:

-Look, Itsaso. I'm going to tell you the truth. Your father gave it to me the day we separated. I know it by heart, and I don't think I will ever forget it.

Itsaso says she, too, is going to learn the poem she found on her mother's bedside table by heart, because it is a very important milestone in her parents' history.

This is what it says:

It's better
to undo the knot of love
than to break the bond of love.
We fell in love,
but not enough to last until death.
Let us who came together in freedom
in the rose-filled garden of love
go our ways in freedom
at this thorny crossroads.


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PAIN


There are many reasons in this world to be sad. That is why there are all kinds of sadness: minor sadness, lasting sadness, overwhelming sadness, sadness brought by bad weather and taken away by the sun.

And the saddest of all is the sort that sends its roots right down inside, the longest-lasting, deepest type that goes on for ever, no matter whether it snows or whether the sun gives out its warmth.

Do you remember how on one occasion you told me with tears in your eyes what happened one morning as your fiancÚe was driving to work? A long time has passed since then, yet.


Oh, my pain,
the animal deep down.
Oh, my pain,
the animal that can't be tamed.

The wild horse inside me
gives me pain,
the bitter absence of my dearest,
unceasing pain.

I cannot tame
my inner horse.
I cannot alleviate
my bitter pain.

There was a person I loved,
but she died.
Since then
the pain
the hurt
the wild horse
have overwhelmed me.


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DISAPPOINTMENTS


Waiting yet not arriving. When it seems the outcome is going to be 'yes', but then 'no' triumphs. Believing I am loved only to find disappointment in the end. It happens very often and leads to much suffering. The little girl sitting on the bank of the river knows that very well.

The young girl cries
on the banks of the wide river,
her legs dangling in the water;
her heart is saddened
when she sees the love boat
approaching her empty.


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FAREWELL WORLD


The poet was born, he enjoyed life, suffered and died in the end. A prolonged terminal illness took him from the world.

I was at his side until the thread of this breath was broken. He was lucid right until the end. He knew he was dying. He bade farewell to me with his eyes and his right hand.

My poet friend told me the day before he died where he had hidden his last poem.

-But please don't read it till after my death -he begged me, his voice no more than a whisper.

The piece of paper was hidden in a thick tome and there was the poem my friend had written. And I took it and decided to hide it in the book that you now have in your hands.

My road has wearied
after endless walking.
As the days and years have come and gone
my green tree of life has withered.
Cold emanates from my sun,
the last remnants of love
rise up from my wrinkled heart.
Farewell world!


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THE SEA KNOWS HOW TO BREATHE, TOO


He often went to the seashore. "The sea is my best friend," he would say. An internal thirst, restlessness or magnetic pull took him to the rocks on which the waves burst.

He would spend hour after hour there gazing at the sea, most likely immersed in deep thoughts.

One afternoon in September last year he went there for the last time. There were spring tides at the time. Too rough for him.

The waves turned into claws. All of a sudden, his best friend the sea caught him, enveloping him in its white foam and swallowed him up.

Didn't he know that the sea gets hungry sometimes and then, just like the dragons in stories, has to eat human beings?

Anyhow he knew very well that the sea has to breathe. He knew that, because that is exactly what the last poem he wrote in his red notebook was about:

When you see the waves
first building up
and then exploding,
you have to remember
that the sea knows
how to breathe.


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AT THE STATION


I am sure you know what railway stations in large cities are like. In those vast places people go to and fro like so many ants. And there are all kinds of scenes: people kissing each other, others hugging each other in tears, some calm, others in a hurry.

And haven't you ever seen anyone downcast, anxious and worried, because the person they were supposed to be meeting has not arrived on the train they were meant to arrive on?

I once went to one of those big stations at around four in the afternoon with a book under my arm. I came home when it got dark. The hours passed by without my realising it as I read, wandered around, wrote.

I remember seeing more anxious, downcast and worried people than ever that afternoon. "It looks as it the person they love and have been waiting for has not turned up," I thought to myself.

And this is the poem I wrote on the hard cover of my book, as I sat on the cast iron mesh bench in the station:

In the station of love
trains come and go.
Waiting and waiting
in the station of love,
waiting and waiting all day long.

Night is falling.
A black void
has filled me
as the day draws to a close.
And my train
has still not arrived.

And in which station
and on which train
is my dearest?
On which does she come and go?
I go all over the world
from station to station,
from train to train
in search of her.


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ONLY ONCE DID MY DAD EVER HIT ME


My dad only ever beat me once, but he gave me a real thrashing then. He tanned the hide off me.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. When I was eight I started to pester my parents to buy me a bicycle. They did not buy me one until I was eleven.

One Friday evening I went with my mum and dad to buy the bicycle. I was over the moon! I could not contain my happiness. I started laughing when I went to bed, too. I spent the whole night daydreaming.

I went out on my new bicycle for the first time the next day, one Saturday afternoon. I cycled round our neighbourhood three or four times. And when I was as pleased as punch a boy came up to me. I did not know him from anywhere. He put on a pleasant face and asked me in Spanish:

-"Me dejas dar una vuelta? (Will you let me have a ride?)

Without giving the matter a thought I lent my brand-new bicycle to the young stranger. He rode off as a cyclist does when escaping from the peloton. He cycled off all right, but never came back.

Naively I waited until it got dark, but to no avail. I went home with my tail between my legs, feeling sorry for myself and afraid.

-What's up? -asked my dad.

-A boy's stolen my new bike, dad.

-What? Yesterday we bought you a bike and today it's been stolen?

-Yes. A boy asked me, I lent it to him and that was the last I saw of him.

-And who is that boy? -asked Dad, raising his voice.

-I don't know him.

-So you lent your new bike to a stranger, did you? -my Dad burst out, quite beside himself.

And then my Dad thrashed me for the first and last time in my life.

The bicycle did not show up again and my parents did not buy me a new one. I bought the bicycle I have now with my own money when I was eighteen.

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Passages taken from the book Bihotza zubi published by Elkar.








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