ORMAZABAL, Joxantonio:
A Heart Like a Bridge

There is nothing more beautiful
there is no nicer work
than to build
a bridge of love with stones made out of letters
from one heart to another
from where I am
to where you are.

My rainbow

I fell in love for the first time at summer camp. I saw something special in Oihane. Otherwise it would not have been possible. Several years have passed since then, and the rainbow of my first love has long been lost from my sight, but the bridge is still there from my imagination to my heart. I can't see it, but I can feel it. I think she was also in love with me. Her eyes told me, her sweet shy smile. I don't know what hidden power she had to attract me. We participated in all the events of the camp together. Every single evening, we sat next to each other around the campfire beneath the stars. Do you remember, Oihane, how we sang that magical song watching the long red tongues of the flames? "In the dark of the night, among the trees?" But I never told her I loved her. And she never told me. Summer camp was only two weeks long, two heavenly weeks. Too short a time for two shy lovers. Yes, we said goodbye to each other with a trembling kiss between two buses on the last day of camp. All our friends started laughing and whistling at us. And just like that, blushing red, the rainbow of my heart ran to hide: Oihane, whom I never saw again but will never forget. I don't know if you'll read this, but I wrote this poem for you:

A rainbow was born
sun in the rain
a Roman bridge
in my sight.

I fell in love
with the rainbow
my lady
of seven colors.

I look at you
from the earth to the sky
happiness on one side
sadness on the other.

You are born
to last a short while
but while you live
love me.

Two friends on one bench

I have a friend who always speaks to me in the familiar. And I do the same with him. You will forgive me, but I am not going to write his name here. I know he would't like it at all. And I have no intention of angering a friend. However, this friend of mine also has a gorgeous fiancée, whose name I have changed in this story. This nameless friend of mine came to my house the other day. After talking about this and that, he said, "Hey, I still haven't told you why I came over."

"So what brought you here to your old friend's fifth-floor walk-up?" I asked him ironically.

"Well, I'll tell you," he said. "I don't know what kind of writer you are. Since you always write for children, you'll have to forgive me, but I don't read your verses and stories."

"You're not missing anything," I said to him ruefully. "You'd do a lot better to go for a walk with your fiancée than to read my books. That's a lot more poetic."

"Yeah, well, it's because of my fiancée that I came today."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"I'll tell you. Sunday is her birthday. I want to give her a gift and nothing whatsoever comes to mind. I'm no good at things like that."

Then, even though I was quite surprised, I tried my best to give my friend an idea or two: "Why don't you give her two tickets to the movies?"

"One ticket for her and the other one for whom?" he asked me curiously.

"The other one for you, of course, for you!?"


"Or gift certificates for seawater spa treatments?"

"Seawater what? Huh?"

"Massage and stuff?"

"No, no. I give Edurne the best massages."

I fell silent, placed my index finger across my lips, closed my eyes and let my imagination run free. But my friend was quite nervous for some reason and didn't give me time to concentrate.

"But couldn't you write a verse or something nice for me to give her? She likes that sort of thing a lot. It would have to be something sentimental, a tear-jerker, y'know."

I said yes, I would try, and to come back the next day. My friend left the house thanking me. He said he was sorry but he was in a hurry, he had to meet his fiancée. I also left the house within half an hour, seeking inspiration. However, everyone knows that starting to write without inspiration is like starting to eat without hunger or trying to play soccer without a ball. So I headed for a circular city park full of trees and benches, and there what did I see but a couple sitting together on one bench. I must have gone around the park more than ten times that evening. On each pass, from far away and from close up, I carefully watched the two lovers on the bench. They held each other tighter and tighter. Among sweet kisses, caresses and smiles, they were floating in a cloud of love, apart from all the world. They would never have guessed that they had become the fountain of my inspiration. And it's no lie to say they were apart from all the world. Would you believe the people on that bench were my friend who had left my house half an hour earlier and his fiancée? And they didn't recognize me. It is true that love is blind. I went home, took out a blank piece of paper and wrote the following poem for my friend. I gave it to him in a sealed envelope the next day. And I still don't know what happened next. I haven't seen my friend since then.

When I am sad
I feel like a thorn
and when I am happy, a flower.

When the thorn of sadness
pierces my heart
I can't hear
my friends' words or voices.
I feel nothing
but ice-cold solitude.

I am a flower of happiness
other times
in the garden of love
when you take me
in your arms.

They say

They say, a long, long time ago, in the time when man first started to make fire, a lonely bird fell totally in love with the flame. It seemed to him, with its sharp winged dance, that that red witch could be his best friend. The lonely bird flew around the fire, closer and closer, crazier and crazier? Some other birds that were flying nearby told him to get away from there, not to fall into the arms of that ghostly red killer. But his friends' advice was in vain. The fire scorched that bird-brained bird. They say, also, that many, many people who approach the fountain of love are wounded by its waters, because they are poison. And the effects of the poison are said to last a lifetime in some people. Don't forget that love can also burn, madden, blind, make ill and drown. And the following poem tells how the moon fell in love with the sun the way the bird fell in love with the fire.

At dawn
in a white dress, graceful and elegant
looking for the sun
the lovesick moon
set off.

The owls and the stars
told him not to go
but it was in vain.
It would have been much better for him
to fall in love with the river.

He doesn't realize, no
oh, crazy love
the moon doesn't realize
how lethal
is the hot tongue of flame
of that ball of fire.
Oh, fiery love!
Oh, blind love!

It is better...

When Itsaso's father and mother separated, there were signs of sadness on their faces. But there was no anger, no hatred, no ill will between them. Itsaso was eight years old then. Yes, she cried in the days that followed. But little by little, she got used to her new life. Several years passed. And just today, my best friend Itsaso told me of a strange find. As she was snooping around her mother's house peeking everywhere, she found a poem in among the letters and photos.

"What's this?" she asked her mother. And her mother took the little piece of paper and without looking away from it, she heaved a great sigh and gave this answer:

"Look, Itsaso. I'll tell you the truth. Your father gave this to me the day we separated. I know it by heart and I don't think I'll ever forget it." Itsaso will also learn by heart the poem she found in her mother's night table, since it marks such an important milestone in her parents' history. This is what it said:

It is better
to untie love's knot
than to cut love's rope.
We fell in love, but
not until death do us part.
In the flowery garden of love
we who were freely united
can freely part
at this thorny junction.


There are many reasons to be sad in this world. That's why there are many kinds of sadness: brief sadnesses, lasting ones, the kind that leave you devastated, the kind that arrive with bad weather and leave with the sun... But there is no such thing as a happy sadness, just as there is no sad happiness. And the saddest sadnesses are those that put down roots deep into your heart; those are the longest lasting, the deepest, the ones made of snow or warmed by the sun, the ones that last forever. Do you remember how I told you once, with tears in my eyes, what happened to your fiancée one morning when she was driving to work? It's been a long time since then, but...

Oh, my pain
the animal inside.
Oh, my pain
untamable animal.

The wild horse inside me
hurts me
pain and pain
the bitter cavity of love.

The horse inside me
cannot be tamed
my bitter pain
cannot be sweetened.

To have a love
who dies.
Ever since
I wander under the command
of the wild horse
of the torment
of that pain.

I like...

At school, the literature teacher assigned the students to write a poem over the weekend. Txomin woke up early Sunday morning and looked out his bedroom window. When he saw that the sky was as blue as blue can be and the sea was as calm as calm can be, he was seized by a desire to go to the beach. But the assignment the teacher had given him gave his mind no rest. "Better do it right away," he thought to himself. And so he started to write a poem. Started, but it was very hard for him to continue. "Sea, waves, sun, blue sky?" Finally at least, for better or worse, he wrote five lines and called it quits. This is what the blue ink on his white page said:

Yes, I like
the wave that is born in the ocean
and gently, gently
dies on the beach.
I like - how could I not? -
the heavens as blue as blue can be
tinted by a distant fire.

On Monday morning, the teacher collected all the poems turned in by the students and read them.

"It's excellent, very pretty, but it feels like an unfinished house," he said to Txomin. And Txomin thought to himself, "Finish it yourself then, if you want!" And that thought came true. At home, the teacher worked on Txomin's poem and rewrote it his own way. It was very fortunate that he had it to give to his fiancée the next day, since it was her birthday. But he never said anything to Txomin. Nor did he tell his fiancée how he had built that house of letters. Nevertheless, it is true that the teacher's gift tickled his fiancées fancy. It had ten lines by then:

Yes, I like
the wave that is born in the ocean
and gently, gently
dies on the beach.
I like - how could I not? -
the heavens as blue as blue can be
tinted by a distant fire.
But what I like best
Lies in your eyes
and in your tears, my bitterness.

© Ormazabal, Joxantonio. Bihotza zubi, Elkar, Donostia, 2001.

© Translation: Kristin Addis