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,
Cast razor fragments of flint
Over dun grit beaches
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 🙂
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.
Sorry – that was not clear – in Hull a two up two down terrace house is called a sham four – a bit like a back to back kinda thing 🙂 Thanks for your kind words – 🙂 Rick.
Very good. Just on small niggle: shouldn’t it be plaça?
both with or without the cedilla is acceptable – I preferred without throughout, but chacun à son goût- it’s at the printer 🙂
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.
I chose to use ‘la placa’ – in my poem I make the choices as do you in yours :).
“Who sets up the rules in poetry? The poet who writes them is the one who determines what’s what. He determines it with his breath and his blood, with his wisdom and his ignorance, because all this goes into the making of the bread of poetry… poetry itself cannot be defeated. ” (Neruda) Enough said.
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.
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.
Thanks, Andrea – I’ve a few more Spanish Civil War poems – i’ll put them up over time 🙂 They’re all in my book 🙂
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.
The Russian commisars treated the ‘Brigade’ worse than dogs – I’ll submit a further Spanish Civil War poem this week – thanks for kind words – it is an unresolved situation to this day 🙁 Rick. ps. While I was aware of the historical situation in Catalonia it took a trip around the Nou Camp (my son wanted to go there) to see the importance of football as a touchstone of the seething undercurrent there and after asking (just the once) for a pint of San Miguel warned my son (he has mental health probs) to be sure to always… Read more »