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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Juan Ramon Madariaga Abaitua > Extracts

Poetry

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DEAD TOMATOES

He thinks the large bottle of Extremaduran oil given by his friend
has been there for ages.

He thinks he has used the same brand of the same green oil
with the tomatoes for ages.

Each time fresh tomatoes are chopped,
the words for ages occur to him, piece by piece.

He hasn't seen it for ages, but memory comes
in synchronous diastoles, beat by beat.

The bottle of oil was used up ages ago
and no drops come out to lubricate the tomatoes.

He thinks memories will never be deleted,
like the few grains of salt which will disappear on a plate.

The bottle has been placed upside down on the oil dispenser
in an effort to extract a last drop.

That final drop that should have come ages ago
will never come out of the bottle.


TEACHERS

I've been told the French teacher I had
twenty years ago has passed away.
A little woman
with circumflex accents on her eyebrows
mouthed the letters with rounded lips,
and turned special pronunciation into smiles.
The maths teacher I appreciated so much
told me today that she died of cancer.
He's told me he is depressed.
My old maths teacher
later sobbed Je suis désolé.
Je suis très désolé.


THE END OF THE GROUP

Goldfish lying on the rug
forming shapes of waves in their drowning dance.

Tortoise makes its way to the fridge,
the expression of ignorance on its face unchanged.

Cat goes up onto the roof and stands on the edge,
without taking its eyes off the abyss that swallows it up.

Budgie takes granny's needle
and attempts hara-kiri for a third time.

Cockroaches climb up to the cooker
and jump onto the electric hotplate.

Argi, the house dog, sniffing like bellows,
has followed unknown steps down to the river,

And on the twenty-fifth turn catches his
fleeting tail between his teeth.

God can bear it no longer
and commits suicide in the local cinema.

It's a sign the world is coming to an end,
says grandpa from his chair in front of the house.

I have no option but to believe
as I measure my jugular with my razor.


GRANDPA AND THE BANANA

Grandpa gazes at the bruised banana.
It's one of those with large, brown marks.
It's surrounded by plums and mandarins.
Grandpa picks it up with great care.
Chuck it away, grandpa, it's gone bad.
We all stared at him as he carefully peeled the banana
until he said:
the core inside the rottenness is sweet.
The banana was very white inside,
like the flesh of a freshly skinned rabbit.



THE RUINS

The seed you developed from,
the name which is your cross,
the path marked out for you,
the breath you endure,
the words you work on,
the life that sits beside you,
the gunpowder that propels you,
the ruins that limit you,
the love that bleeds you,
the kisses that become brittle,
you have mentioned them now, when there is no need,
for soon you will renounce all.

And the word ruins is repeated
in the cogs of your mouth.


WITH GANDIAGA

Your presence,
the greatest of absences,
which goes nowhere, but which is there,
light resembling a stone,
the greatest of lights,
the wild dark in the darkness,
so silent inside,
so violent in the distance,
when I have no need, cruel, withered
when I do have need, limestone, ivory, word.

Absolutely still before my fireside,
and so telluric on paper,
the baptism of my people,
the third dimension of the syntagma,
the psalm that gathered us all together,
the only angel that never escapes,
the irreversible way,
the remains of what we are not,
the future of what we shall be,
your presence.


THE FRONTIER THAT WILL MELT

Forgetfulness has no rest,
nor silence the fatigue that will strangle it.

Sadness has no flavour of life,
Nor death a frontier that will melt it.

A whole life to bury you
and time does not feel like forgiving my loss.


THE LOVE OF WILD ANIMALS

And that is how it was.
The head panted.
The world of legs, which described
what imbalance was, was far away.
We understood about emotion as much as God did.
That was true love.

But rhinos are more faithful than you,
elephants are much more sensitive than you,
because when the dead of their herd must be left behind
they retain their tears
and the eternal magic of those moments
in that powerful memory.
And that, too, is true love.


CREASES

He has seen the creases in the lips in the bathroom mirror,
the creases in the trousers left in the room yesterday,
and the passive creases in the curtains,
the creases in the ripe tomato chopped up on the table the day before yesterday,
the creases in the absurd verses left in the bedside table drawer,
the creases in his swollen belly under the shower,
the creases of all the moments that have passed through his memory,
and now, in bed,
Quiroga is gazing at the cyanide and at the sticky creases of your absence.


THE WAKE OF OTHERS

What we find is the wake of others.
When I find myself, I will not be myself,
because I will see the film
as if shot by someone else.
My life has gone on for too long
and I'm already at the point I never thought I'd reach.
I've been waiting to reach this point for ages.
And the accumulation of forgotten images will choke me.
Listen to me now, let me explain:
forgetting is the most powerful denial of our feelings,
and this does not happen in documentaries.


LONELINESS

You had a bright piece of Colombian cloth
hanging from that solitary nail ages ago.
You've lost the cloth by now,
but the nail is still there, stuck in the wall,
thirsty,
thanks to the surroundings.
You could put up another painting,
a work of Klee or Cezanne, or for want of anything else,
the sepia photo of the old grandfather.
It's empty.
Yet you have nothing to hang,
to lift to that height,
to hang,
for everything has long since fallen,
thrown on the floor,
like an exhausted world,
and that nail somehow
confirms your inability
in a firm, tragic way.
What is properly hung from all the walls
is loneliness spread to all corners.
No more.


LIKE DIRTY COTTON

The sky over Sestao is like dirty cotton.
We've cast good intentions into the murky water
and now they'll say we are new men.
Aresti reviewed the notebooks he had when he was five
before chucking them away.
Finely drawn wild animals
appeared on the cover.
The imperfections inside.
Life's poor calculation, mockery,
praise and rejection,
cleansing has caused him pain,
he has felt like a cracking branch.
That branch which is about to fall
wants to be closer to the sky
before bending.
Tie it again firmly.
He who is against fleeing
would be like that, but
the sky over Sestao is like dirty cotton.



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