LASA, Mikel:
The Tamarisk and the Fig Tree

I. Lost loves

My soul loves
figs that ripen early

The sadness of the rain
on and on in incessant eternity.

Cats sleeping in the attic day and night
spending time on time...

It is a memory of paradise lost
how beneath a large palm tree
the shadows were our friends
how beneath the tamarisk and fig tree
we sinned
a sin of the flesh
sad because of the rain
sad like tamarisk branches
beside the sea
under the rain
the palm tree sad and rotting
in the fall
in the garden of the blue chalet
not far from Zarautz beach.

How our bodies met
(we knew we didn't love each other)
each seeking in the other
what was lacking in ourselves:
what the careless world the tremendous sea the solitude of the beach
did not give us: a hint of love.

That afternoon was the last day of the world
and we gave in to life.

I don't remember the first day I sang in the spring
the day God made man
when he breathed life into him
I don't remember
on this last day of paradise.

Cats are asleep in the attic
dreaming honest dreams
destroying years and times
or multiplying time by thousands.

"EVERYthing" and "NOthing" form a circle.

II. The mark of time

The sad strangeness
of my life
has colored all the threads of life
through the years
has marked the sagging sculpture of my face
with wrinkles.

The old metal of the copper of ancient ships
does not share the sadness of my sad face
and an empty sand beach in the fall
does not share the bitter taste of my despair.

The tamarisk and fig trees
from the island of my youth
have all been pulled up by the roots!
They murmur
psalms of sadness
facing the wind
making the north wind blow and repeating:

"Alas, our times, what desolation!"

Torn verses

Let us not burn a poem at the bottom of the sky
when a seagull's ocean roar or the round back of a boat
is more beautiful than any poem.

In his childhood, they relieved the poet of the lie of the delicacy of money
because they knew the misery of the mere idea.
But I say:

If we do not prove the truth of our poems with blood
we are nothing but unfunny clowns.

If the poet through his strength
does not examine the hollow space of lack
who will dare to bring our decaying truths
to light?
But León Felipe says:

The cradle of man is made of stories... the tears of man are buried in stories...

Who would not take pleasure in saying:
I am a ragged poet a peasant poet
and I know nothing but the thousand colors of the butterfly
and the ugliest words in my dictionary are "rose" and "carnation."
But I say:

As long as the lord's heir is not of the people
I won't believe his tangled stories.

Words from our dictionary disappear
and now they are but
the sweet-sour recollection of an absent-minded memory.
But Basques would know that even the poorest language
is too rich
to tell
this broken history we carry in our pockets!

Theater of the grotesque

It's carnival time
and on carnival night
we walk the quiet streets
lost in this large northern city
among brothels
for four dollars or three
our meager funds allow one dollar.
All are women
and we seek the decaying charm of their used bodies.

Male-female committing adultery greedily
against the wall of an old church.

In this loneliness it doesn't matter
if the faces are beautiful or ugly
in all the women's faces
I glimpse low animal nature
the fixed stare on the face frozen in rapture.

It's carnival time carnival night
and no one knows another's loneliness.
Every light dies in shadow
in silent agony
I believe
profane, naked Christ
despairing so desperately on the side of the road
fallen in agony to hell
a Christ with no third day.
And though there be a thousand lights they give no light.
Night rules from time to time.

We are like this, like this in our solitude
just after three on carnival morning.


It's nothing it's not true
I am one who is against
against being against
and no one is on my side.

In the middle of the night
I am on the island of the romantic
the edge of being
the border of the border.

And in the castle of the Marquis de Sade.

In the middle of the night
the dead are my friends
young Aragon, Tzara, Neruda
Lautréamont, pauvre Lelian,
and Baudelaire's sad gaze.

In the middle of the night
the shadows are my friends
I am never
ever alone.

Trite and eternal images

In love I wrote your
beloved name in the sand
in the sand at the edge of the water

B. La femme que j'ai choisie
la femme que j'ai chérie.
As I drew
trite and eternal images
(heart and arrow)
in the sand at the edge of the water.

The new poet

Your speech
is not butter and milk:
stone sea and wind.

I would like to catch
the breath of the world
on many European roads
(so many crowds and I so alone)
adore the noon sun
work from one morning to the next
frolic with black gods in the afternoon.

(But I don't mind)
and in the evenings
I will sit by the road
next to a small pile of rocks
and with legs crossed
I'll pick up my guitar
like a bard
and sing an elegy
careless and sad:

Oh city oh star oh sky
you are not worth anything
a single human smile or gesture
is worth a thousand of you
oh city oh star oh sky
you are not worth anything.

Go and tell Rilke:
stardust is pitiless
and the milk of the moon
nauseates me.

And I will populate
the solitude of my soul
with the smiles of men and young girls' kisses.

In the manner of Baudelaire

Men don't cheat on her
with disgust and sadness in their eyes.
The passion of the flesh does not ignite
her lips or heart
in false smiles and laughter.
Scorn and disgust flow
from her two black eyes.

I love you, love you
foolish child of the street
I love you, love you
but in hatred and rapture
your body in exchange for my soul.

Under a new sun

After a night of dark dreams
if you see a new sky
with new eyes, the true color
of love, without seductive starlight,
think no further,
you are under a new sun.
Do not ask, seek no more,
push all your doubts aside,
you are under a new sun.

When all creatures may wake, and shadows fall,
when the day rises,
mountain borders in flames,
all is true, all is clean, with no ordinary dream illusions
though the sun has not appeared yet,
you know:
you are under a new sun.

If you don't feel comfortable around
nineteen or twenty years, your body
and spirit overflowing with strength within your sphere
out of necessity of the wide world.
If you feel the strength to create,
the need of another creature,
an explosion of love, muscle,
do not ask, seek no more,
push all your doubts aside,
call out without a care:
we are under a new sun.

"Today I opened the window to the sea and the wind"1

How amazing naked beauty is!
A line on the edge of the sea heading north
the flight of large grey birds that love the winter
the sun's giant eye over the island.

Dawn is the paradise of new man
and it is the destiny of the clean splendid angel inside me
to destroy the black god of the afternoon.
I will sing the litany of new man
the glint of a thousand humble things hidden:
the wild carnation I carry between my lips
the green water dancing among the rocks
and the seven different lights of day in my room.

I will sing the hallelujah of new man:
so many ships on the sea of my eyes
so many metal sounds from afar shrieks from the side
so many pieces of crossed iron such apt structures
solidifying the ground beneath my feet
and above all things the sun's giant eye
bringing the truth into the open
putting the dot over all the diabolical i's in the world.

Oh if one day man would only dare
what strength what terrible seriousness in his love
when it's time to free that weak body!
On that day I will be a river and a mirror
and like Adam gave all things
a new name,
I will withdraw the names
from all dead things, old, ancient
so they can be simply things.

Then man and stone will again make peace
and the red mist will shine,
the dead sun, the color of rust now revealed
(man's erstwhile hope)
the weariness of the river
and will be the patience and hope of my soul.

One day we will have to rest
after long dragging summer days
a human lying in the bed of humble reality
naked of all vanity, of all whispering
and we finally return to ourselves.
I look at myself, so strange
so odd, my self crushed
and damned, and I return to myself
look at the surrounding walls with the eyes of a child
strip, empty, put all feelings aside
do not hate, make no effort
slowly take in the simple flavor of the eternal silence
to the bottom of the belly of silent water-sleep.

1. León Felipe

The ghetto

An amazing place was open
empty spaces of light on all four sides
it forced the closed world

My heart was captive but
in the delirium of the endless
turning movements of four more closed ideas.

But I saw it, I saw
a bare tree
naked of all provision
in a glowing sunset
reflected against the light of the sky
just a line

The only tie to my soul

Le cheval de la liberté

In the beginning: a tempestuous dream
For a while: window of the dream
The day before yesterday: hole of the dream
Yesterday: crack in the dream
Today: a narrow path
For the horse of my freedom

Here lies Popeye (in memory of Faulkner)

On the patio in the jail where they put Popeye
gusts of wind at sunset
beside the tree of paradise
shaken by a frightening gust of wind at sundown
Calder's mobiles in the UNESCO gardens in Paris
look like huge prehistoric fossils.

And who would dare to pay homage
to UNESCO's director?
And who would sing an elegy
to their servant Mister Anybody?

But Popeye, the black killer, sings
his life and death by the prison
window and another miserable group
of black criminals form a chorus
with him,
screaming to the bad fate of their people:

"Quat' jou' enco'! et alo'! y vont pend'
le meilleu' ba'yton du Missisipi du No'!!"

©Lasa, Mikel. Memory Dump 1969-1990, EHU-UPV, Leioa, 1993.

© Translation: Kristin Addis