Y Viva España
One of my Spanish Civil War poems
Who struck the lucifer
That fired the touch paper,
Lighting the rocket that shot Morris Miller
From his Hull chemist counter
To die on ‘the hill of the devil’,
Hill 666 of the Ebro Front
Was the spark lit in July 1936
On Corporation Fields, Park Street, Hull.
When Mosley’s Blackshirts swaggered into town
And steel-toed and black leather jackboots
Reinforced with Blakey’s at heel and toe
Flashed like sparklers on loosened cobblestones?
Those cobble missiles cracked teeth and noses
Razor-brimmed caps slashed hate-fuelled faces.
As “Jew boy” commies and left-wing comrades
Chased the Blackshirts out of town
With bloodied shirttails hanging down.
Or did socialist fire always course the veins
Of the son of Jews fleeing ‘Black Hundred’ pogroms
Sheltering and thriving in Kingston-upon-Hull?
No first-class Pullman carriage
No deluxe charabanc on a spree
Whisked International Brigade volunteers
Across the Pyrenees
They hiked instead.
Struggling smugglers’ tracks
Too sheer for pack mule riding.
Hot scree burned holes in their soles.
Each bloody blistered step
A pilgrim martyr’s penance.
Wounded, all but fatally,
Eight months past at Caspe
But patched up fit enough to die beside
Morris Miller was donkey-stretchered
Up the hill of the devil,
To face unseen foes
Holed up across a deep ravine.
Who knows the name of the Roman soldier
Who gave the order to pierce the palms
And crucify the half-dead
Flayed Christ at Calvary?
Who knows the name of the Spanish fascist
Who issued the order
That fired the mortar
That blasted Miller’s slit trench
Sending the junior commissar
Jewish former pharmacist of
Morpeth Street, Spring Bank,
Eight local lads set off for Spain
Only four came home again.