Joseba Barrenetxea



Smells are the path for memories, mother.
Those I have from my grandma
Blowing and blowing her nose down the fields;
Under the wing of sea water
Memories of childhood playing come to me.

What I did not know then
That they would all die
The grandmother and the child.

Smells, mother, are the path for memories.
Suddenly they come to me,
The fish factory in the sun, gasoline, my uncle
And guessing among the waste of Katu Kale
Were a mistery in those times.

What I did not know then
That they would close down the factory
That you would die.

Mother, smells are the path for memories.
Suddenly they come to me,
Your hands in my hands then when we hanged the clothes;
Always, or nearly always the smell of laundry
Once in a while one from the love spills.

Mother, the path for memories are smells.
Suddenly, I cannot iron without
The scents bringing me memories of you;
I burst into tears at smelling the laundry
And so do I after love, sometimes, mother.


Joseba Barrenetxea



On the edges of the way to the beach, brambles
Were shivering with the feeble sea wind,
And you kept on picking blackberries.
Dyed in mahogany colour, your lock shone reddish.

Intoxicated, wanting the ones from the upper branches,
Such you offered me your waist for holding;
Your happiness was an eternal instant
Of the one who has suddenly become a child again.

At changing your loose trousers, navel hole uncovered,
Up your ankles your legs were forced long,
Even your nipples looked like ripe fruits
Upright, under that light white T-shirt.

It was september, and our flesh was so very ours,
By releasing one button I procclaimed
Lips, waist, the navel hole, your blackberries,
And tell that down there the sand was a bed.


Joseba Barrenetxea



Once upon a time America blinded the soul of this merchant town, as America gave it silver. O’ Geography of merchants. Silver: atomic number 47; atomic weight 107.86; on the Mendeleev table.

Then, iron blinded the silver-fond soul of this town, as iron could produce silver. O’ merchant’s alchemy. Iron: atomic number 26; atomic weight 55.80; on the Mendeleev table.

Nowadays Titanium blinds the iron soul of this town, as titanium acts as iron; and iron can make silver, and because the ancient merchant soul of this town, once blinded by silver, cannot live without being blinded. Titanium: atomic number 22; atomic weight 47.90; on the Mendeleev table.

O’ the soul of this mutant city that gets blinded by metals with a lighter weight floor by floor and number by number with lower and lower numbers.

Meanwhile, the ones that are not on the Mendeleev table scare me. Do not the blinded souls of this mutant city see the wounded flesh? – atomic number 0; atomic weight 0; you cannot find them on the Mendeleev table- bodies torn apart- atomic number 0; atomic weight 0; they do not show on the Mendeleev table- hurt souls- atomic number 0; atomic weight 0; they are not explained on the Mendeleev table.

With time, silver darkens and iron gets rusty. We do not yet know whether Titanium will darken or get rusty, maybe. The ones who know the Mendeleev table better must know. For sure.


Joseba Barrenetxea



Her feet are showing purple toenails
Pearls on her ankles,
Her long body in long linen trousers
And a Lycra jacket.
The Queen of Sheba is waiting for the bus.

Her hair falls down her back, butterflies on her earlobes,
An Mp3 or Mp4 is playing in her ears
Be it dance, House, Reggae, Indie or Chill-out?
The Queen of Sheba is on her way to work.

On the shelves a wide range of cheap
Scents of spices, tea or perfume;
Her smile is a gift, How beautiful lips!
The Queen of Sheba at the supermarket.

There I stand at the counter queue
And she, on the other side, her name showing on her uniform,
If I’m not wrong, it reads, Anny G. Makeda.
The Queen of Sheba working as a cashier.

She is another slave, in a chain of slaves,
I caress her with my eyes, like in the morning,
When the day is about to finish, she is there again,
The Queen of Sheba is waiting for the bus.


Joseba Barrenetxea



Its squid time down in the sea
The old fisherman, in silence,
Prepares the boat diligently,
To go fishing for alive females
Ashore apples are already ripe.

While The sun is about to strike up
The fisherman returns to the harbour,
Female squid, tied up to a line in the side,
Is left alive in the water
So as to attract males.
Ashore, cherries are also ripe.

Bloods hurts inside the veins
And bonfires will be lit on the land edges
To caress wild cherries with their smoke
The skin of the plums is already shrivelling
Eyes will get intoxicated
By the spark of dusk txakoli wine,
Lips getting ripened too.

Next day he will get up early
Landing net in his hands, to fetch
The male squid who have drown near
the call of the females.
Ashore, the remains of the bonfire still hot,
You will tell me that pears are also ripe
While, stark naked, you look at the next door orchard.

The time of the female squid will be passed,
No males will grow near them
And the fisherman will chop the last ones for bait.
Apples will fall down as well as the pears
And the silent work of the spiders
Will continue sewing a country
Even if blackberries are not ripe yet.

It is squid time down in the sea now
Ashore, apples are ripe,
Injustice is taking over
And while words cannot be turned into an axe
Flesh, wounded, yells
to enjoy the wound that life itself is.


Joseba Barrenetxea



Wide Open your arms undisturbed,
Give in your hugs
Every single thing
that summer can give:
cherries, apple, plum.
(cherries and apple; tell me
Where you hide the plum)

Let me go down
the nations on your back
to the valley of drunk moons:
will it be there the dove field,
the partridge field,
the akelarre?

(the dove and the partridge;
Tell me where the meadow of pleasure is.)

Give me the beautiful agony
Of an instant
Crying during the spill
The last smile:

(Tears and honey;
Let our lives go in
Beautiful agonies.)


Joseba Barrenetxea



I would like, my dear whore,
Early in the morning, while you have your coffee
To dress you slowly.

I would dress you, my dear nasty whore,
From your feet up
Up and up,
In a sigh, You would call me
Bastard! You bastard!
More slowly! Or
Not now!, later…

And not now!... later…
I would hold your waist tight
And tie the string tight to your back
My lips, fugitive,
Look for your lips, my whore,
My dear whore,
My dear nasty whore.

And trying not to be too late
We would get lost in
Stolen pats, slowly, very slowly;
Smelling the earth-scent of your nape
Caressing your still wet locks with
My throat
While eating the cherries, and looking for the juices.

And already about to eat from the apple
And coffee
Almost untouched,
Left on the table
You would get yourself dressed
In a hurry
And would tell me smoothly:
Not now, later, later;
Or, you bastard, more slowly!

My dear whore, my most beloved whore.

Joseba Barrenetxea



Yes, a rope must be broken in the rain
Of our roof, granma!
Even the port cats themselves know about it.
They are under the boats and the covers
Hiding their tails under their whiskers.

We are old orphans.

Tears, turned into dust,
Do not come to our eyes anymore,
Yet, dried to our mouth instead.
Frogs and their Croak!
Have not returned to the port holes lately.

The world is mute in our ears.

Rocks, thus, September and the south wind,
Like us, they dream of blackberries and calm seas
Under the winter rain.
Meanwhile your shadows scare
Our hearts and the wild cherries.

The port is still a temple.


Joseba Barrenetxea



Then tell the bees: Omar Nabarro is dead!
And tell them that together with him so are
Jimenez and his other heteronyms,
School time nicknames, secret family names,
The ones from the military service and others;
And that all of them can be used by anyone
Now As they were before.

And if there are not bees tell
The spiders, the dragonflies, the mosquitoes,
The butterflies, except for the flies
To all flying insects,
Even to the coleopterouses
Who can hardly fly:
Omar Nabarro is dead!
Go fly and spread the news.

And if the demise should happen on a Thursday
Look back on Cesar Vallejo,
Especially if it is raining;
And should it otherwise happen on a Tuesday,
Look up, do look upwards
At midnight, see whether the red planet, Martitz,
lies there, and do not cry
For as much bloodshed and floods of lies
Which ever happened in this world.
Mars has had nothing to do with that.

So tell them, even if it happens on any day;
Bury me in front of the sea,
Like Robert Louis Stevenson,
Though knowing that my heart
Was long buried in Wounded Keen;
Bury me with my feet facing north, and my head facing south,
On the exact axis of
the passage of the spoonbells and the herons
Do not produce smoke with me,
As The smoke would frighten bees and others away.

The smoke of burnt living flesh,
To the bees, the smoke of your own burnt living flesh,
To the bees, the smoke of flesh, Graziana,
Did it perhaps baffle them, Graziana?
Was it perhaps the smoke what brought you
Tears at the time of your death,
Graziana, what was brought to your eyes,
And what left you there forever frozen?
Smoke, Graziana?

Do not make smoke with me, please,
And bury me under the ceiling of a firmament of flying gulls,
Remember Paul Valery;
In the plot of the tufted titmouse, of the wagtail,
Of the bullfinch and of the thrush, of the bees, there,
Next to the transparent emptiness
Of the grandmother and mother
Who made me an indian;
In the very ear of the silence
Of the father
Who turned me into a mestizo,
In that Cantabrian Natural History Museum,
Where I am, while the species is there
In the hope of the same end of the ammonites.


Joseba Barrenetxea


Translation: Ana Larrinaga