War in Spain 1937

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31

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That night, he heard the planes droning overhead, above the town.
They all heard the planes, and the deadly whistling of the bombs.
He saw the flames fall onto Guernica, and the smoke rise up. 
Immediately he felt an icy murmur tear through the veins of the earth.
Then, he listened to the radio, to make sure that all “that”, that everything that was being muttered under the blanket, rigid with fear, was not true.
All the insurgents listened to it, that blasted radio.
But the voice over the airwaves signalled the end of their hopes.
The end of all hope, that night.

A pale day of defeat and of tears. The flags are flying at half-mast.
What should he do?
What can he do, except bear witness to the horror?

That’s why he is there, alone, standing,
his arms hanging loose in front of his easel,
his stare turned in upon itself, reflecting his own dark fog.

He is there, white, in front of the canvas, which awaits color.
But his spirit is elsewhere, down there, lost in the town, lost... far away...
In the iron and the blood, the noise and the lightning flashes.

Brusquely, he grabs the brush, and makes a red rip, a blue cry, a pain which becomes so mauve that it reaches to the back of his eyes.
He becomes agitated, he trembles, he streaks the canvas with dead people, with gazes divesting themselves of life.
His senses clash! The winding scarf of his memory longs to unravel... To forget! To close his eyes! To erase the unimaginable!
But inside he is screaming! In his body, in his head!
The clamour swells and breaks out of his flesh. In the surrounding walls, time suffocates.
There is screaming outside as well, in the squares and the fields!
Suddenly he feels a dizzying fear, the fear of being swallowed up in that charnel house that is so potent and so intense!

So, he paints, and paints... in his own way, desperately. He clings to the edge, with all his inner strength.

He makes the lines cross, the diagonals entangle, tears triangulate the tortured bodies. 

All suffering becomes oblique!
But the screaming goes on! The open mouths shriek the thousand languages of the earth.
Yet nothing can cross the threshold of their lips, their lips sewn together by the salt of lies!
Suffering inside, outside! The compass of his heart is thrown off in panic!

Then, suddenly, everything is quiet!
The weapons, the shouts, the dying! And the blue as well, and the red, and the mauve that is so piercing!
Suddenly, silence!
Deafening! Terrible! Inhuman!
Then the colors escape, melt away and everything turns black and white, a glacial black and white!
An icy silence after the hurricane of fire.

Now Picasso is there alone, standing, still trembling, his arms hanging loose before his defiled easel.
He has given birth, a monstrous and magnificent painting is born. 
It is called “Guernica”.

Translated by Wendy Cross

31

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