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Words Without Borders is an inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize winner!
from the May 2017 issue

Life with a Tiger

Tigre batekin bizi

Never mind how it got here.
If the previous tenant left it behind thoughtlessly or on purpose,
if it sneaked in through a window while we weren’t looking,
if, maybe, the neighbor who hates our vinyl collection put it here to fuck us over
or was it maybe the man in the blue overalls
who comes monthly to check
the water, the gas, the electricity meters.

I’ve consulted my favorite thinkers: Wittgenstein, Cioran, Steiner,
but they have no answers.
All I know is there is a tiger in our midst.

Even when days pass without a sighting
we no longer voice the hope that he might be gone,
like we used to,
because we know he’ll return and he does, he does.

A tiger is not a cat, so it’s hard to know
if his lives have run out at last.

Often the mere thought of him out there can make it hard to leave the bed.

The tiger should have awakened our desire to hunt, but… nope.

So many siblings we were yet we aren’t all here now,
but, can we blame the tiger?
There was always a fight just before
each one of them left forever but,
we couldn’t be sure of his guilt,
even though it can be handy sometimes
to have a tiger at home
to pin the blame on.

Late for work, we tell ourselves: it’s all because of the tiger.

Sometimes it’s true, others… not really.

Clocks run slow when you live with a tiger,
it seems so early that, suddenly, you realize, it’s very late.

It’s never as early as you think.

It seems impossible that a tiger, with such paws,
could move the hands of a clock.

It’s a grandiose statement but it’s true: tigers can stop time.

Maybe we didn’t interpret the signs correctly:
the food missing from the fridge, the wardrobes in a mess,
all the torn-up clothes.

You have to be watchful with a tiger in your midst.

He’s not a tiger cub anymore,
although maybe he was younger once.
Did he grow up with us? Was he an adult tiger from the start?
Maybe he isn’t just one tiger? Maybe there are two? Three, you say?
We can never be certain; it’s a mystery.
At home, we never agree,
because we have rarely seen all of him:
sometimes he is only a vague presence behind us,
something that breathes, something that stinks:
he spies on us when we party,
he scrutinizes our dreams,
he’s jealous of our laughter,
our tears intrigue him, he wonders what causes them.
We turn our heads to just catch a glimpse of his tail                                                            all velvety sneaking away.

Paw prints on the carpet,
wild roars,
creaking wooden floors,
little trails, practically invisible,
signs that he’s still there.

I hear the experts on the radio:
the tiger this, the tiger that, the tiger blah blah blah…
And I tell myself: “You wouldn’t say that
if you had a tiger at home.”

We taught our youngest to walk very soon
because we worried the tiger wouldn’t take kindly to
seeing someone else
walk on all fours.

Hardly anyone comes to visit when you live with a tiger.

Often we forget that we have a tiger with us,
we forget him for days until, damn,
he is suddenly right there
one thoroughly uneventful day:
let’s say a Wednesday, let’s say in the Fall,
let’s say on our way back from work,
tired, whistling.

Some tigers are noble, you say?

Tigers are tigers. I’d hesitate to say much else.

This isn’t government housing but we shelter a tiger here all the same.

We’ve thought about it: sell the house, say nothing to the buyer,
open all doors, wait for him to leave,
open all faucets, get the hell out.
All possibilities have crossed our minds but, you know what, in the end,
we just got used to living with this tiger.

Can love for a tiger happen, and then grow?
It can happen and it can grow, but a tiger is a tiger,
he’ll never lose his stripes.

Is he male or female? Is he fifty years old?
Fifteen? Seventy-two? Five hundred?
After dinner, while we munch on the few walnuts he didn’t eat,
we ponder the tiger’s age, quietly:
Has he aged at all? Did he get softer, or sharper instead?
Could it all be a lie?
Could he, maybe, be a devil wearing
a tiger’s mask?

I would like to write clearly and concisely on the tiger’s oblique stripes.
I look at people in the street and dare not ask:
Do you live with a tiger? Tell me the truth: doesn’t everyone?
Isn’t Gash the name of the nation we all live in?
Isn’t it true, what they say, that all men and women are alike?

I live with a tiger and, honestly,
I don’t know
how
I’d make sense of life
without one now.

 

"tigre batekin bizi" © Harkaitz Cano. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Amaia Abantxo. All rights reserved.

Tigre batekin bizi

            Alferrik da hona nola heldu zen galdetzea.
            Gure aurreko maizterrak ahaztu ote zuen deskuidoz edo maleziaz,
            leihoak zabalik utzi arau sartu ote zen gu ohartu gabe,
            geure disko bilduma gorroto duen bizilagunen jukutria ote den
            edo hilean behin ura, gasa, argindarraren kontaduria
            aztertzera datorren
            langile buzo-urdinarena.

 

Irakurri ditut gustuko pentsalariak, Wittgenstein, Cioran, Steiner;
            baina ez dut haietan erantzunik topatu.
            Dakidan gauza bakarra da tigre bat bizi dela gurean.

 

            Hura ikusi gabe egunak ematean ere,
            jada ez diogu, lehen bezala,
            joan ote den itxaropenik elkarri aitatzen:
            badakigu itzuliko dela eta itzuli egiten da.

 

            Tigre bat ez da katu bat, horregatik,
            ez jakin noiz bukatuko zaizkion bizitzak.

 

            Hor dagoela irudikatze hutsak eragozten digu sarri ohetik ateratzea.

 

            Ehiztari bokazioa piztu behar liguke tigreak, eta ez digu piztu.

 

            Ginen anai-arrebetarik ez gaude guztiok,
            baina tigrearena da errua?
            Beti izan zen haserreren bat haietako bakoitza
            betirako partitu zedinean
            eta ez ginen erabat seguru egon
            tigrearen erruaz,
            nahiz eta ongi datorren batzuetan tigre bat etxean
            errua nori egotzi izateko.

 

            Lanera berandu iristean diogu: tigreagatik ez balitz.
 

            Batzuetan egia da, beste batzuetan ez. 

 

            Tigre batekin bizi zarenean erlojuak atzeratu egiten dira,
            hain goiz dela ematen du ze, oso berandu dela jabetzen baitzara.

           

            Inoiz ez da uste duzun bezain garaiz.

 

           Gezurra dirudi, tigre batek, atzapar horiekin,
            erlojuetako orratzak mugitzeko abildadea izatea.
 

            Berba anpulosa dirudi, baina hala da: denbora geratzeko gaitasuna du.
 

            Beharbada ez genituen ongi interpretatu zeinuak:
            hozkailuan faltatzen ziren gauzak, armairu nahasiak,
            arropa tarratatuak.

 

            Erne ibili beharra dago, tigre bat bizi bada zurean.

 
            Ez da tigre kumea batere,
            baina akaso kumeago zen lehen orain baino.
            Gurekin batera hazi da? Tigre heldua zen hasieratik?
            Ez ote dira, bat bakarraren ordez, bi tigre? Hiru, diozue?
            Ez dugu segurantzia erabatekorik.
            Etxekoak ez gara horretan ados jartzen,
            gutxitan ikusi baitugu osorik:
            batzuetan ez da geure bizkarrean sentitzen dugun
            presentzia lausoa baino,
            noiz hats, noiz kirats: 
            gure ospakizunen zelatan
            geure ametsen aiduru
            geure algaren jeloskor
            geure lantuen zergatien jakin-min.
            Burua jiratu orduko isatsa baino ez diogu ikusten,

                                                 arrastaka leun desagertzen.
            Oin arrastoak moketan,
            zurrunga oihanekoa,
            egurrezko zoruaren karranka,
            arrasto txikiak, ia ikusezinak izaten dira batzuetan
            hor segitzen duen seinale.

 

            Entzun izan ditut adituak irratian hizketan:
            tigrea hau, tigrea hura, tigrea bestea…
            Eta nik, neure artean: “lekutan hitz horiek
            tigrerik bazenute etxean”.

 

            Tigre batekin bizi gara baina ez
            ditugu elkarren begiak ezagutzen.
 

            Agudo ikasarazi genion etxeko txikienari oinez,
            beldur ginelako ez ote zuen tigreak isekatzat hartuko
            bera ez beste inor
            lauroinka ikustea.

 

            Inor gutxi ausartzen zaizu etxera bisitan,
            tigre bat bizi denean zurean.

 

            Tigre batekin bizi garela ahaztu egiten dugu sarri,
            egun luzetan akordatu ere ez, aizue, 
            bat-batean aurrez aurre topatzen duzun arte,
            egun seinalerik gabekoenean:
            demagun asteazken batez, demagun udazkenean,
            demagun lanetik etxera goazela, txistuka, nekatuta.

 

            Tigre batzuk nobleak direla diozue?

 

            Tigreak tigreak dira, haratago ni ez naiz ausartzen.

 

            Ez da babes ofizialeko etxea, baina tigre bat
            bizi da geurean. 
           
            Pentsatu izan dugu: etxea saltzea, erosleari deus esan gabe.
            Ate guztiak zabalik laga eta aldegin dezan itxoitea,
            etxeko iturri guztiak irekita utzi eta guk geuk aldegitea.
            Ia denetik pasa zaigu burutik, baina atzenerako, horixe da egia,
            ohitu egin gara tigre honekin bizitzen.

 

            Sor eta gara al daiteke kariñorik tigre batekiko?
            Sor eta gara daiteke, baina tigrea tigre da,
            ez ditu bere marrak eranzten.

 

            Arra da ala emea? Berrogeita hamar urte ditu?
            Hamabost? Hirurogeita hamabi? Bostehun?
            Afalostean, hark miazkatutako intxaurrak jan bitarte,
            tigrearen adinaz mintzatzen gara isilpean:
            zahartu ote den batere, moteldu edo zabartu,
            ez ote den dena iruzurra,
            ez ote den tigre baten karetaz mozorrotutako
            bizkarroiren bat.

 

            Zehatz eta zuzen nahi nuke idatzi tigrearen marra bihurrietan.

 

            Kalean barrena jendeari so, ez naiz galdetzera ausartzen:
            baduzue zuek tigrerik etxean? Esan egia: badea tigre gabeko etxerik?
            Ez ote da Harramazka guztiok bizi garen nazioaren izena?
            Ez dute bada esaten, antzekoak garela gizon-emakume guztiok?

 

            Tigre batekin bizi naiz eta ez dakit
            asmatuko nukeen bizitzen
            tigrerik batere gabe.

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