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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Miren Agur Meabe Plaza > Extracts


2000 | Susa

The Code of the Skin
(translated from Basque by Amaia Gabantxo)


I can't lock you in:
you are the street of sparrows and madmen.
I can't smooth you out:
you are a lascivious dark knot of wetness.
I can't capture you:
you are the gallop of the wandering horse.
I can't love you:
you are every mythic fear.
I can't dream you:
you are the crazy idea that feeds my insomnia.
But I can know you, because
you are me, with a different skin.


I left the bedroom window open last night
and a beast entered.
It sniffed the air:
I think it sensed me curled between the sheets.
It never guessed I was naked, waiting,
nor that I knew its name.
It was a mammal, this creature,
grown bald,
with sparse fuzz on its chest,
and round, pert buttocks,
eyes full of sleep and the horizon,
and a mixture of sea salt, tobacco and
bread gone slightly stale on its breath.

It dribbled froth all over the carpet,
and like a hell-bound ocean,
the fool started to spit and crackle,
looked right and left
and the walls gave way
like tombstones moulded in mud.
It scratched one shoulder
and my breasts billowed
like the world in the springtime.

I swear.


I remember rain on my clitoris.
Lightening shimmered on your chest:
it looked like blood,
but they were shadows
come to rest at the flatlands of your skin.
Your sex smelt of smoke,
stale and old.
But me, I shone blue
and you stole oxygen
from my pink holes.
Your brown fingers in my vagina
like rough autumnal branches.
You found a handkerchief, I don't know where,
and threw it out of the car window,
all damp and wrinkled.
My breasts were about to explode.
I remember rain on my clitoris.


There's flesh and flesh.
I dream of a new flesh.
The atoms of that flesh adore each other
because they know nothing
about adverts for fat-free yogurt
or the rules of sizes in boutiques.
Echoes of the word comparison
have never reached the cells of such flesh.
Such flesh rejoices in its cracks,
in the labyrinths foetuses have left behind,
in the anonymous calls of urine,
in the excesses of fat.
Because it is immune to mirrors
no evil viruses inhabit such flesh.
It achieves perfect synthetic fusions
of brain and bone, flesh and skin.


These grapes my breasts, they're wet.
You dampened them tenderly, in tendril webs.
These apples my breasts, they seem eager:
roaring at the wind before they burst.
Someone has bitten these cherries, my breasts:
planted the root of a gold pip in my womb.


Yesterday I burnt a sheet,
with the iron,
did it myself,
embossed a burnt-toast coloured triangle on it
thanks to the TV.
I always keep the small TV on in the kitchen
when ironing beckons:
A black child from a war
suckled his dead mother's breast.
I felt like I'd swallowed a ball of hair.

I won't forget it:
milk seeped into my bra.

Scoop the pale flow of my frozen demilune,
the sweet syrup of my platinum sex.
Knead the dormant curve of my burning waist,
cup the sad oval of my perennial breast,
grind my bitter nipples with your mouth.
Until flying fish witness our sideways fall
and mingled semen and saliva evaporate at my lips.

As you guess
the dolphin's leap or a trace of lemons in the north wind
you foretell my clumsy words
when we renew our love in the mist.
My smile comes easy
on days when blue rain washes the coastline.
An earthy wind drifts from one window to the next.

You left me, yes, you did.
But in the bodies of others I still have you.

The hum of anxiety is there:
the threat and bang of a terrifying immortelle
in the life journey the palms of your hands purport,
in the geographical map of my violet silences.
On days when smoke-clouds soak the island
it's likely that I'll let you in.
The limp valerian knocks softly on the slate.

You left me, yes, you did.
But in the bodies of others I still have you.

Hoping to become a woman of glass
I amble through empty streets each night, naked.
My skin glimmering like a tenuous moon
while dogs avoid my vacant eyes.
The stench of un-knowing that I carry in my head
embarrasses them so they never howl.
Sleep overtakes my brave feet
satiated by butterfly dust.
And I'm going nowhere,
vertigo cradles me.
And I am like an ancient dream,
I exist only in myself.
Night has chosen me as her lilly,
said yes to my milk-soaked breasts, my belly.
I want to be a woman of glass,
invisible to my lovers,
recipient of blood sacrifices from those
who dare to threaten, to challenge my femaleness.


This illness is degenerative,
it gradually weakens the communicative tissue,
shrinks the skin
(so sensitivity to caresses is lost),
reduces our field of vision
(so it's limited to the book we're reading).
Even talking becomes tiresome,
and every time we make a noise
it comes out with a long grey pseudopod
and stays there, floating in the living-room,
as if that were its final destination:
a strange amoeba that disregards bedtime.
It affects our hearing, we turn bunker-deaf.
Taste buds and tongue are eventually paralysed
and the nose becomes an antennae adept at detecting
the stink of a complaint or
the sickly-sweetness of a sigh.

Cyclical cancer of the silence
Incubation period:
Spouts of impatience
Relapses (unless the science of forgiveness
finds other remedies):
As many as the fuck-ups perpetrated by one or another
Prophylactic treatment:
Dinner at a pretty restaurant
every so often, and, every single day,
a happy thought with your 'good morning'.


Where did they go,
the delirious heartbeats
we said we'd gather as we laughed back then?
Where the portable home
we said we'd build out of ships' carcasses?
Where the new nation
we would decorate with tiger stripes?
Where the landscape we said we'd rob
from the hidey-hole of the past?
Where did that special clock we kept by our first bed go?
Where did we lose the water of mysteries
with which we blessed so many utopias?
Where did you put the suitcase of the imagination?
What do you keep there now?

We dig into the pain of others
like cats into rubbish bags,
never losing hope:
the dawn of day
never brings the light we'd hoped for.

We could talk about the weather, or, if you prefer, we could talk about our child's school report and the paediatrician' s recommendations, about shopping, about bank statements, about our recently defunct television ? which has so altered the mechanics of our existence; about the next community meeting, the price of tobacco, that article you're reading, our next holiday, about that damned colleague of yours and about those other decent colleagues as well, about that infection with symptoms so like depression you've been suffering from lately. And as we begin to speak, watch the zipped-up pocket of my soul unzip. Watch the Milky Way fluidly escape from between my legs.

We were silent.
Waiting for this or that.
Seasons passed by, one after the other.
Trees reached us, then books, then children.
Death came by too,
with her mouth full of nails.
And in the meantime we just went on,
because we never learnt
to live without miracles.

Wild roses have gobbled up
the latticed arch in front of the hermitage.
It was there, against the stone wall,
that we made love that afternoon so long ago.
The rain dispersed the meadow's cool dampness
and your fingers reconjured it from my sex.
I could see a rainbow on a spider web
as you rammed and rammed
fighting my body against the void.
Later, we gracelessly lost each other in the path,
our bodies still dripping with the lukewarm sauce of heartbreak.
That precisely was one of our most definitive encounters,
our ripe flesh aware by then
we weren't made for eah other.


I am sitting in the kitchen, while the pasta boils.

I love concrete things
and to learn their words before breakfast:
alarm clock, rain on the pavement, supermarket,
kisses at siesta time,
a glass of wine, friends,
my son's small hands,
people in the square,

They produce the sweetest, most languorous tickles,
like a sybarite's feast after a diet.
I find it impossible to turn from such things:
they've stuck to my pen and I can't seem to shake them off.

But nevertheless,
concrete things don't admit of delays,
and the pasta is ready by now.
Such is life,
Just when the seedling of a poem starts to germinate,
there comes the mundane barging in.
And I have to get up from the table,
while the shadow of a viscous mood settles.

I had heard that love was a circle,
a secure, invariable ring without alpha or omega;
but I think love is a cube
that floats in space,
follows the trajectory of the sun, and
will not allow its boundaries to be described.
For each of the faces of this cube
is changeable and metamorphic,
nameless -
and indefinable.


I proclaim an alternative code:
one that's unrelated to words,
a language without phrases,
a tongue that cannot be condemned to memory,
a prose to fool promises,
a mute dialect with no
price-lists or complaint forms,
a free fountain of ambiguous meanings,
a way to express all that cannot be expressed.

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