MARKULETA, Gerardo:
Selected poems

Solitary labor

Life is a solitary labor.

      Only once in a while
does destiny offer a rose
for us to
look at
      admire
            desire
                  taste,
so that, satisfied for the moment,
we return to the path.

      Living is a solitary labor;
but, from time to time,
we gather in twos
for a photograph.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Larrosak noizean behin (Roses once in a while), Erein, Donostia, 1990.





I shouldn't remember any more

I shouldn't remember any more:
the night
was a labyrinth without known borders,
each of us adrift and lost, seeking the door,
like a sea bird in a wardrobe mirror
like a hat in ancient Greece.

      Next,
what I shouldn't remember:

it was light when I closed my eyes;
that strange smell came from my own body;
a black piano
that bit and scattered the light;
a corner of the world
fingers proud to know you
lost playing in your lush hair.

      For the rest,
I don't remember anything, I don't recall.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Larrosak noizean behin (Roses once in a while), Erein, Donostia, 1990.





Portrait of the artist

"Ahora, amiga mía,
que una flor preside el aire..."
J. A. Valente

Yes, I have lived, I admit
at this time of calm confession,
dragging my weary body
through dark and misty forests.

      My first patio was a round childhood,
empty on the inside, like a ring;
like a cake made only of wild cherries.

      All skies flew too high,
like loose kites fleeing
(I was always small, yet
this helped me greatly).

      Unbelievable as it may seem, I gave birth
at the age of seven to my beloved daughter:
a precious, beautiful weakness (a mother's love).
I rocked her cradle composing music,
covered her carefully with tiny lies
(which ascended the throne of truth
in the swift, quiet lift of time:
memory has always been my ally).

      It was then, my love, that I learned
to show my best side for photographs
and to enliven friendly conversation
with blue star juice.
I also learned to string together
nouns and adjectives in tight necklaces.
I learned to hide my clothes
and my fear of water.

      What can I tell you? They encircled
my frail chest with those long tresses.
A mirror for each ray of light,
a hollow for each anchor,
on the elusive, slippery, dry bottom.

      There was no lack of tenderness
at each inevitable winter meeting;
sex (absent) shone;
the nape of my neck was so wet
that (even today) instead of a penis
I have a school of sardines sleeping in Acapulco.

      Aflow in my writing, I ride;
I know no better stirrup to mount
and ride the light;
and - perhaps, maybe, who knows,
possibly, perchance - some day,
in the concrete of weighty declensions
my silhouette will appear,
etched deeply in accents and phrases.

      The pain and hurt I owe
for loving myself so much
I believe I have paid in flesh;
I confess I don't live on air;
however I turn often to the open air
to see life falling with the rain
in cold, bitter pieces of ocean, rough.

      I scarcely go on, my love, only with difficulty,
dragging myself along;
and all the gods I can't imagine
are of little use to me.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Sagarraren hausterrea, Erein, Donostia, 1994.



Old furniture

      We carry an old piece of furniture like a new one,
like we carry the new day - every morning - on our backs.

What to do in the wide open time after lunch:
lose our gaze in the designs in the old wood,
smooth out the marks left by woodworm,
force the hinges on the dilapidated doors,
furniture
knowing
by night that it hides a secret compartment from us;

by day we know
that we cannot bring its secret to light
without destroying the day.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Sagarraren hausterrea, Erein, Donostia, 1994.





Senses of defeat

      From time to time a small victory
steals from shameless cruel time:

      a sweet hiding place, clear to the eyes;
a word from a friend, a healing voice;

      on your fingertips, the caress of a rose;
lips on lips, the taste of never

but know: it was there

the smell of ruins, the enemy in your entrails.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Sagarraren hausterrea, Erein, Donostia, 1994.





Military action against the clock

      Observe the seconds falling one by one;
classify the silent march of the hours;
carefully count every slip of every day,
                                    without mercy;
weave together the fallen leaves of the years:

secrecy against time.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Sagarraren hausterrea, Erein, Donostia, 1994.





Time to leave

The suicide victim took off his shoes
before flying,
and placed them
side by side, lined up, as if
by his absence
he wanted to leave the world neater.

© Markuleta, Gerardo. Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Alberdania, Irun, 2003.





A tree is beautiful

A tree is beautiful
if by luck it has loosed
a clean seed,
a strong root,
many shoots,
plentiful flowers,
a straight trunk,
a canopy
stretching up to the light;

a tree is beautiful
if it has known
winds in the proper measure,
storms from afar,
plenty of rain,
little frost,
no landslides
and, above all,
an indomitable
urge to grow.

But if instead it has
mixed lineage,
weak roots,
a twisted trunk,
barren branches,
a drooping canopy;

if it has felt
raging winds,
frequent thunderstorms,
scant rain,
snow too near,
and, above all,
an indomitable
tilt toward the ground,

it is just as beautiful,
the tree is beautiful
if it makes it to its own funeral alive.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Erein, Donostia, 2003.





Lack of communication

The third time also
the answering machine picked up
but this time I didn't hang up.

After the beep,
I was about to say "It's me"
but I imagined you, unreachable, listening to the message later.

But when I was about to say "It was me"
I imagined you, within reach, answering the message later.

And after saying "It will be I"
I left to look for you, across the city, on the other side of the tracks.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Erein, Donostia, 2003.





Mirror message

After a sweet
battle with love,
eye to eye
with the wardrobe mirror,
there's no turning back - I said,
to myself - already
there is no straight line
from my head to my back:
with my spine against
a firm mattress,
my head doesn't touch the pillow.

The cunning smile
harshly reflected
in the mirror's message
doesn't look good,
makes me think
of my stiff body,
twisted, time for
the coffin -
but it won't go in.

All of this, of course
- I thought to myself
after a sweet
battling love -
without breaking
my spine, no cremation,
the luck
to finish
my whole self.
Around here, you
never know how.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Erein, Donostia, 2003.





The black box of lovesickness

The black box of lovesickness
is hard to find: if it's not
swallowed by snow, it's covered
by brambles, or invisible
under the mist. It is
a rare stroke of luck
to find it whole.

What is inside
the black box of lovesickness? Burning
rainbows, recycled storms,
forests of ash, insane
lands, wasted clouds,
tools that turn on and off,
a firmament shooting out sparks.

What does the black box of lovesickness
bear inside it? Monologues
the size of conversations,
arrows of desire that cross
or that remain on parallel paths, pieces
of the journey keeping each other company,
yesterday pleasure, today pain, tomorrow who knows?

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Erein, Donostia, 2003.





Until you arrive

Until you arrive all is but an interval,
a bridge, a leap, an attempt, an effort
unrepeatable but with the
sweet-sour taste of the known.

Until you arrive all is but an interval,
a gap, a cliff, a precipice;
everything with the changeable and lively
mood of stone and sand.

Until you arrive all is but an interval,
fragile flower, perishable
fruit, unpredictable seed.

Until you arrive all is but an interval,
a stopover, a station, a crossroads.
Once you arrive I won't be able to write.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Erein, Donostia, 2003.





The size of lies

A lie... is it always a deception?
Is a deception always a lie?
And even if it's tiny,
is it still a deception?

Are the changing colors of the chameleon's skin
the color of lies?

The lies we tell ourselves,
our own lies... What are they?
Are they lighter or heavier?
More easily swallowed or thornier?

Are the internal shifts of lovers
the color of lies?

How many little lies do you need
to make one regular-sized lie?
How long does a little lie keep being
a little lie?

Are the dances and chances of the flip side of protocol
the color of lies?

Is the fear of one's own guilt
not the most harmful of all lies?

A lie can kill.

Another lie - or the very same lie -

helps us live.

© Iriberri, Jon (Gerardo Markuleta). Batak ez du bestea kentzen, Erein, Donostia, 2003.





Ignorance

I have never known
when to start greeting
          someone I've just met.

I have never really known
whom to greet
          with a nod
whom with both hands
          out of my coat pockets
when to shake hands
          when a hug
whom to pretend
          - unintentionally -
                    not to see.

I have never once guessed correctly
when to offer my cheek
          when my left hand
when to purse my lips;
          nor when it should be
two kisses,
          or three, or one.

I have never known for sure
when to approach
          when to retreat
                    when to remain
to get to know better
          someone I've just met.

I have never really known
when to write a new name
          in my address book,
when to move it
          from the old address book
to the new address book
          and when not to. And
when to erase it from all address books
          forever.

© Markuleta, Gerardo. Ezjakintasunak (Ignorance), Alberdania, Irun, 2006.





How to die well

He came to visit me this morning.
I had had no news of him for a long time.
Though today it wasn't Death himself,
but just a dim concern for what comes after.

After death, what anxieties,
what worries, what business to attend to? As if
the dead person had to host
his own funeral.

But I didn't know, for example,
who would compile my unpublished papers;
or who would arrange, nicely and neatly,
half a dozen critical editions.

No: out of my own idleness,
I took on the serious details.
Who would conduct the ceremony,
if I could choose, so that it wouldn't be too Christian?

A roadside, a grave or the oven?
In the obituaries, a plain cross or a Basque cross?
The readings: should each person choose his own?
And especially the music: who will take care of it?

"There's nothing bad after death," or so they say.
By dying, we help life itself.
And they say the happy men in the funeral homes
are especially nice.

© Markuleta, Gerardo. Ezjakintasunak (Ignorance), Alberdania, Irun, 2006.





© Translation: Kristin Addis

© Photo: Alberdania