In Catalonia

This is one of 3 or 4  that I wrote for a remembrance of the Spanish Civil War – and Hull lads’ participation in it –   last year – especially pertinent these days.

Stunted cacti, shrubs,

Blasted tree stumps

Scarcely high for a man

To stand and pee behind,

Dry gullies to hide in – or die in,

Criss-cross Catalonia.


Bomb-shattered boulders

Cast razor fragments of flint

Over dun grit beaches

Shredding feet.


The withering sun beats hot.

Harsh unrelenting hot.

Flies feast on corpses,

Blooded bandanas and bandages.


Close to la Placa de l’Eglisia, 

Rich crimson blood spatters

An arching pattern on

A whitewashed alleyway wall.     


Owing to a sniper’s gun

A slogan reads, “No pasará…”


Flies cluster the fresh corpse

Lying in a red mud puddle of blood –

And paint from the pot-shot can.


Fascist forces crushed “No pasarán.”

But the dream lives on,

Etched fresh, undimmed,

In still-life memories.


As old men smoke in la Placa shade,

Squawking hens dodge cockerels,

Cats stalk pigeons,

Pigeons scrap for crumbs,

Stray dogs fight and children tussle.


The scrubbed-clean, sun-bleached,

Blood spots remain sequestered in that

Cement-rendered once bullet-pocked wall

Communing down decades yarning

Tales of Hessle Road and Boulevard.


Growing up, Mam and our kid

In our end-terrace Bean Street sham four*

And dad away at sea.



*A sham four is a two up two down terrace house – usually filled with 14 kids  🙂


© coolhermit 2023
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This is great. Very pertinent read at moment as you said, but also rich and moving in its imagery. Really good piece. What’s ‘sham’ though? Didn’t get this at the end.

Rachel 🙂


Very good. Just on small niggle: shouldn’t it be plaça?


Actually it looks as if we are both wrong: in Catalan the cedilla is used while in Spanish it is replaced by a z.
e.g. Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona
Plaza de Colón, Madrid
as you say, chacun à son goût.
Best wishes, Luigi.


Fair enough. I thought you’d be interested in an exchange of ideas and you have made it obvious that you are not. Point taken.
Best, Luigi


This is brilliant. I lived in Spain for a couple of years during the Franco era. Had friends who were tortured for merely smoking dope. It was a grim time.


What book, Hermit? Please give link.


This was a very good read, the imagery very stark and, as others have said, a particularly pertinent subject in these strange times in Spain.
You have a good edge on conjuring pictures with words. Not only the physical scene but the political ethos of that place at that time. I liked this.
Incidentally I was taught Spanish by a chap who served in the international brigade. I think he’s passed away now but he did tell us about that time within the confines of teaching us the language of course.


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