50

The old man searchs his old pipe in the pocket of his frayed jacket, but it’s not there. He looked more carefully, now surprised, in his other pockets. On one of his hands there are some dirty springs that had been attached to his slightly sweaty skin, but not the pipe. It was neither in any of the multicolored pockets of the shirt, nor in the pants, where he ends up looking in distress. The pipe remained nowhere to be found.
He was sixty five years and for twenty years he had been dragging the same pipe from his lips to his hands, from his hands to his lips, with brief stays in the depth of the right pocket of his jacket, which strongly smells of nicotine, a rough old nicotine smell. In all those years he had changed jacket four or five times, not more, and with every change the smell would install there, unchanging and persistent. Only he had gotten used to it. Not his young daughter. She had not been able to get used to that ocre stench that would stir her guts every time. Not very often, she would take the jacket for a was. The stench did not fully go away, but the piece as a whole was more presentable. Not that it mattered much. That was above such things. His temper was naturally philosophical and when, later, due to health issues he had to stop working in the construction business to become a gravedigger, this innate disposition grew accentuated by the imperatives of the trade.
He took the episode of the lost pipe badly, despite his philosophy. It was an old friend that would not be easy to replace. Buying a new pipe was easy enough, but it took time to get used to it, to get it used to him. First it had a certain taste or aftertaste of wood, something extremely unpleasant only removed by the days and years. There was nothing like an old pipe, blackened and burnt. He had lost it, it was evident. He returned early enough, retracing the path that he had walked an hour before, to the foot of the niche, and there he began to think about the circumstances of his departure, the gestures he had made, the moment he had put the pipe in his pocket for the last time, since it was not there, when he had removed the pipe from the mouth to leave it in a place he could not figure out. He could not remember it well.
He went out of the cemetery, crestfallen and melancholic, because only there he could have lost it. One last time he went back, as he came to think that he would say the keeper that if he found a pipe of its kind it was his. But the keeper knew the old man’s pipe by heart, and no descriptions were needed. He wasn’t very concerned anyway. If he found it by chance, fine, but if he didn’t, he would not think about it that much.
Later the old man thought about whether to also warn his colleagues, but they were already far ahead. He would tell them tomorrow. It would be strange if the pipe wasn’t recovered. They would certainly not understand his anxiety. None of them smoked a pipe, and they did not know what such an object could mean to someone after twenty years of uninterrupted use. He would warn them anyway. And if they found it, they would give it back to him. He was sure about that. But they would not spare a joke or two.

49

Lord,

Can you hear me? Can you see me? When I am falling, when I am crying. On the floor. When I am trying my best not be get angry. When I am wondering how I will manage not to explode and break everything in sight. Can you hear me Lord? When I am asking to make the pain go away. I don’t want to let the pain drive me crazy. I don’t want it to creat rage and make me break everything in sight. I don’t want to let it make me be somebody else. I don’t want to be pain. I want to stand up and fight for peace.

Give me strength so I can stand up. Give me courage so i can fight. There is so much pain in my heart. So much pain in my life. They say slavery is over. They say black and white people are now good friends. There is so much pain in my heart. So much pain in my life. I remember the bilge of the boat and our blood in the sugar cane field. There is so much pain in my heart. So much pain in my life. They say nowadays we do not suffer anymore. Things that happenned in the past are far away and dead for good. They say nowadays we do not suffer anymore but look! Today black folks, my family is in pain.

hands up

There is so much pain in my heart. So much pain in my life. They say slavery is over. So much pain in my heart. They say black and white people are now good friends. So much pain in my life. Look at my children’s tears. So much pain in my heart. Look at my brother’s endless fight. So much pain.

48

DAWN WITH CLYMENE

amanecer con climene

I can see the nymph from here in all her glory. Her skin, her clear body, the dawn reflected in her neck. The eternal line of her back, the dimples on her buttocks. The hair loose, flooding the pillow. She, carefree from me and everyone, plays to seem inert in the calm of her rest. She plays to sleep without letting me enter in his dream.

The nymph always turns her back on me. Now, when I try to make love to her; and also when she shows hermetic and unsympathetic to my attempts to drink her lips, or give my eyes to her. She has too many suitors; however, little or much, she ignores them all.

The nymph dawdles on the white canvas of her blankets, draws hills and mountains on the bed and on her body. I look at the bruises on her side. Damn nymph, why don’t you let me love you, why I do not cease to love you, why don’t you keep far of your hips all of those that hurt you, taking your back – your everlasting back now I kiss – and mark on them their gross men fingers, their unconscious kicks. No, nymph, not; can’t you see that they are wearing you out?

In the morning light, the nymph looks incredibly beautiful, mysterious, like a river to plough through or a bunch of stars. Her skin smells like cinnamon and sandalwood; and beyond, like musk and fruit. Like church incense her breasts, which I guess when I crown the top of her neck. And her belly, which smells like bread, as it smells good women bellies.

Perhaps I love the nymph. Only perhaps. Desire is confused with the hatred in such an easy way… How to love her imperturbable back, her unwavering stubbornness, her mysterious coquette woman’s face. How not to love every one of those rays of sun, in order to settle on her skin and penetrate her with sweetness, and warm her heart. How not putting my heart and soul in the attempt to see her smile, determined, in my arms, away from the bruises of all those that should never, never have touched her.

48

ALBADA AMB CLÍMENE

amanecer con climene

Des d’ací, es veu a la nimfa en tota la seua esplendor. La seua pell, el seu cos clar, l’albada reflectida al seu coll. L’eterna línia de la columna, els clotets sobre les natges. La melena solta, inundant el coixí. Despreocupada de mi i de tots, juga a semblar inert a la tranquil·litat del seu repòs. Juga a dormir sense deixar-me entrar al seu somni.

La nimfa sempre em dóna l’esquena. Ara, quan intente fer-li l’amor; i també quan es mostra hermètica i incompassiva davant els meus intents de beure-li els llavis, o regalar-li els meus ulls. Té massa pretendents; però poc o molt, els ignora a tots.

La nimfa ronseja al llenç blanc del seu llit, dibuixa colines i muntanyes amb el cos. Li mire els moretons del costat. Maldita nimfa, perquè no em deixaràs estimar-te, perquè no allunyaràs dels teus malucs a tots eixos que et fan mal, que prenen la teua esquena –la sempiterna esquena que ara et bese- i marquen en ella els seus dits d’homes bèsties, els seus cops d’inconscients. No, nimfa, no; no veus que t’estan desgastant?

A la llum del matí, la nimfa es veu increïblement bella, misteriosa, com un riu que recórrer o un manoll d’estels. La seua pell fa olor a canyella, a sàndal; i més enllà, a mesc i fruites. A encens del d’església els seus pits, que endevine quan corone el cim del seu coll. I el seu ventre, que fa olor a pa, com fa olor el ventre de les dones bones.

Potser estime a la nimfa. Només potser. El desig es confon amb l’odi d’una manera tan fàcil… Com estimar la seua esquena impertorbable, la seua tossudesa incommovible, el seu rostre misteriós de dona coqueta. Com no desitjar ser cada un d’eixos rajos de sol per a posar-se en la seua pell i penetrar-la amb dolçor, i escalfar-li el cor. Com no deixar-se la vida en l’intent de veure-la somriure, resolta entre els meus braços, allunyada dels moretons de tots aquells que mai, mai degueren haver-la tocat.

47

Of Walls & Beasts

Of all the things she could have said to him she chose the one that made less noise of all. That short, lousy combination of words rushed out of her mouth, through dry lips that he would never kiss again; for all the beautiful things in his life were cruelly destined to disappear.

“I think you should…” she started in a broken thin voice.

The air around them froze, so the rest of her words had no way of reaching his ears. There was no use for it anyway, as he had already lost the will to listen when he saw what her eyes were saying. He turned his gaze away –the ice around them cutting every single inch of his skin –as the world fell apart without him expecting it.

As he slowly walked towards the wall, he could barely hear her remaining words; she sounded like an echo of the person she once  had been, her voice alienated by the unbearable look in her eyes. He reached the cold surface with the palm of his right hand, before leaning his head towards the whiteness, until his right ear was flat against the wall.

He heard nothing. There was no last advice, no comforting song coming from the heart of the bricks, not a single wise whisper to be heard. He trembled as he grasped the first handful of gypsum and brick out of the wall. He did the same with his left hand, tearing apart another piece of the white cold wall. His fingers would come first, penetrating the wall as a knife stabbing meat, followed by tense hands that would easily tear off chunks of debris. By clinching his fists, he turned the pieces of brick into dust, following an almost mechanical ritual.

During all this time she had been looking past him, her eyes aiming at a point beyond his figure, apart from the things he had always known; somewhere too far away for him to reach. Only once she dared to look at the huge hole in the wall, just in time to see his silhouette disappearing through it. The rest of the time she just kept on looking at someplace beyond that room.

That is why she could not see the beasts coming.

46

Mother

“Víctor.”

“Yes?” he answered mechanically as he tensed; delicate topics could only grow in crescendo.

“If you ever have babies, and one of them is a boy, would you name it Blue?”

“Blue?”

“As a name.”

“But Blue is not a name for a person,” he repeated, feeling himself at the beginning of the conversation again.

“But I like it,” she argued, tenacious, like every time she made a decision she was fully convinced of.

“You like very weird things.”

“Ana is weird and you like her.”

“Ana is weird?” Víctor was surprised, he did not thought his girlfriend had any particular weirdness at all; the fact was that he actually considered her to be excessively ordinary.

“Yes.”

“Wow…” he did not want to ask the nature of such an assertion.

“So, are you going to name your baby Blue?”

“I’ll have to ask Ana.”

“Why?” the girl’s utter surprise tone pleased Víctor.

“The baby’s mother should have an opinion, shouldn’t she?”

“But I don’t want you to have babies with Ana,” Cristina was horrified, she did not know his brother’s girlfriend but she was sure she would not like her, she was not appropriate for him, her brother, her constant and pillar, who deserved more, so much more, someone unique, exceptional, like him; someone absolute.

“Why?”

“I don’t like Ana.”

“You don’t know her. Also, I’m the one who has to like her.”

“Do you love her?”

“I don’t know,” that he had asked himself more than once, but he also did not sense from her any specially stirring behaviour.

“But she’s your girlfriend.”

“Yeah. But that comes with time. Would your rather she wasn’t?”

“Yes. I want you to have a boyfriend named Blue.”

“Well, that’s not going to happen,” he repeated once more.

“Because you like girls.”

“Yes…”

“You’re weird too,” sentenced the girl with a firmer tone than him.

“Well, thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she articulated while smiling with her mouth full of bread and cheese, not even waiting for the last chunks Víctor had just removed from the fire to cool down.

45

(13)
And her lips trembled with the tears that distorted her face where he had slipped the muzzle, and hands, bent, still scratching the wood where it was losing bits of nail and that little warm voice also wept and said, at his side -
- And mother, Alba?
Dídac had followed her from the pond, where she had crossed the street and was visited by death, she had jumped mountains of rubble, and the maze of alleys.
- Because we lived there, along with Margaret, years ago, who went out to serve herself and was left pregnant by a black man.
Alba hugged him, pressing him against her in a desperate gesture, but she interrupted his cry and went to straighten the sharp body of the nine year old child, who begged a cry:
- She’s not dead, right?
(14)
And they had died. They found it (death) at the foot of the stove, after having penetrated into the house through a hole in the roof, and she still had a spoon in her hands with which she must have been ready to stir the pasta that could be seen in the an intact, clay pot.
The boy embraced her with a beastly cry/the whimper of a bug and called out to her as is if she was sleeping and just wanted to rest, while Alba stroked his curly hair and left him to vent, now with dry eyes, though her heart inflated as if tears sprouted there, in the crevices of the arrhythmic beats.
After Dídac had clung onto her like a castaway grips wood and wet his cheeks with his tears all the while babbling nonsense words. She said:
- They must have killed everyone.
(15)
When she was explaining to him what had happened with the aircraft, which he hadn’t seen because of being under the water, they heard an unexpected trill that makes them turn towards the courtyard’s window that still had its windowsill, and they saw the intact cage straightaway, with the bird flapping its wings.
The goldfinch!
Dídac got his hands off Alba’s neck and straightened his back.
It’s Xica…
The young girl, feeling hopeful, was squeezing her hands against her breasts to calm her unbridled heart.

44

(10)

 

And everywhere, half buried by rubble, inside the parked cars, on the streets, there were corpses, a huge amount of corpses, all their concrete faces had a strange sneer and they had yellow-rose hair.

 

They hadn’t been beaten by either stones or beams of lights, some even resting in clean spaces and lying whole, without any visible blood or wounds, simply fallen as if struck by lightning. Others, however, hung from open soils or everything had been removed but one limb, or at the end, between the debris that imprisoned them. She knew almost all of them; they were neighbours, friends, people she was accustomed to seeing every day.

 

Also there had to be her parents.

 

(11)

 

And then she ran again, puffing under a shred of her blouse that she had wrapped in her face like a muzzle, because of the dust that made her cough. She moved towards the main square, where the belfry’s higher part, practically untouched, erected straight over the church’s ruins that closed the entrance to the back alleys, which were sufficiently narrow to make her climb piles of furniture walls and corpses, and to make her descend by embankments with its surface rolling away down her feet.

 

She was orienting herself in a city’s geography now unknown, she crossed a slope on the ground floor of a building that collapsed and nearly hung her. She jumped a high wall, her shorts got caught and tore in half, fastened only by the waistband and then she continued by a short and deserted street which had been flooded running towards the bend in the road where her house was.

 

 

(12)

 

 

And the house was no longer there. The two floors of the building had fallen over the low ceilings, which must now also have been demolished behind the door, the wall slightly  inflated with pressure, closing the tomb where her father lay, her mother, her sister who would have married next month..

She raised her hands, flattened against the solid wood, letting them slide slowly along with her, her whole body sagging on her disadvantaged legs until the laps touch the ground that was full of studs. All of her, indifferent to the physical pain, curled up and muttering:

 

- Mother! Mother….

43

(7)

And then she saw that they were lying down on the ground, flabbergasted and with their features contorted, as stunned as if they had had a stroke that had left their faces the colour of jaundice. The basket was upside down and all the figs were scattered around, although they hadn’t eaten them, because she saw their lips were clean. Dídac, who was recovering, asked:
- What are they doing, Alba?
- I don’t know… C’mon, they don’t want you.
- You mean they aren’t dead?

(8)

And then Alba, who turned in realization that she had a large tear on her blouse, lifted her head to the village and opened her mouth without making a sound. In front of her, about 300 meters away, Benaura seemed to be something else, flatter; below the dust that hung like a distinguished and persistent fog, the houses crowded on top of each other as though they had been crushed by a crude hand. She closed her lips again, re-opened them, and exclaimed:
“Oh!”
And then, without remembering that the blouse no longer covered her breasts, she ran off down the road.

(9)

And there was nothing left standing in the town. The buildings had been crushed, as if suddenly the walls had wavered above the debris which had fallen through the roof. All the stones and the roof were scattered on the streets and they covered, completely, the sidewalks, but the collapse was so severe that it had left the wider roads impassable, where the water ran though the broken pipes, in some places, spouting raging geysers between the dust.
In many places, the low walls continued right, as if the inside contained runoff from the piled high flats, in some cases, between walls that, completely cracked, had resisted the fierce impulse of an annihilating attack. Why those mysterious devices had done all of that, Alba was unsure.

42

And in the water, when she had already swam to the depths, Alba felt as though she was pulled by the strength of an internal movement that wanted to take her back to the surface, but she fought vigorously. With all of her knuckles against the waves and the swirls that altered the usual calm of the pond, she threw her arms out with effort to the place where she’d seen Dídac disappear.
​Another commotion in the water, more intense, separated her from the bank without overpowering her, as she opposed all her will and resources of her distress. Beneath the vortex that she was about to conquer, she still sank and swam to the plants that imprisoned the boy.
And without touching the ground, in water that now was suddenly calm again, she pulled Dídac from the scrambling plants, among the tendrils from where other children had found death, and, without him giving any trouble, since he had lost consciousness, she dragged him with one hand, while the other and her legs opened a hole to the surface, where her bated breath exploded, like a bubble that has been pierced, before continuing to swim to where the river shallowed out.
As she climbed and hoisted the boy’s lifeless body, she still had time to see how the clouds of devices disappeared over the horizon to the east.
And, without entertaining herself, Alba lay down in Dídac on the edge of the grass, she removed as much water as she could, she turned his face upwards to see if he gave any signs of life, she sunk her mouth between his lips in order to pass air through his lungs until the boy blinked and moved, as if her mouth had bothered him.
She pulled his wet clothes off so the sun could dry his body. It was only when he recovered that he realised that the boys who had pushed him had gone.