Picasso (1937)

The canvas that yawns against a wall as blank as Guernica.
The hand that guides the brush that seeks a form.
The name of the town toward which the bombers dove: Guernica.
Cattle on green hillsides, sheep in flocks above Guernica.
a wall   a city   a ruin   a trope   a painting
For the fist and sickle, for the brotherhood of the republic: Guernica.
Against the triumph of lies, against the darkness: Guernica.
What painter, what artist, what other man than I, Picasso,
could create such a work, duly signed by my hand: Picasso.
As for Spain, as for politics, I have stood mute until Guernica,
watching from the safety of exile the tragedy of civil war.
Now, with paints and brushes, I march to war.

a flag   a tyrant   a lamp   the eye of god   a war
The name the lightning burns into our hearts: Guernica.
Let it stand as admonition and animadversion to all war.
Let it serve as totem and reproof to the idiocy of war
as the painting I so name bears witness to its modern form,
to Franco’s savagery, the death of innocents, to war
in its ruthless, mechanical guise, 20th Century war, total war.
Against the bombs of the Fascists I counterpose my painting.
Against the destruction of Spain and its people, let this painting
embody the tribute and testament of Pablo Picasso.
The name of the matador and the name of the bull: Picasso.

The name of the minotaur, the name of the tauromach: Picasso.
The name of the enemy and his implement: war.
Against which, like the thunderbolts of Zeus, Picasso
hurls paint against canvas, creation against death: yo, Picasso!
From the blue sky, by the hundreds, bombs falling on Guernica.
oil paint   the eye of god   a sword   a scream   Picasso
a candle   a memory   a dream   the world in flames   Picasso

Mothers bearing dead children are anguish given form.
Stink of burned flesh and wool is obliteration in animal form.
In the eye of the bull, in the scream of the horse: Picasso.
In art there can be no compromise; only while painting
can I perceive what transcends the historical act of painting.

a lance   a banner   a template   an annunciation   a painting
A brush is a weapon of vengeance in the hand of Picasso,
to strike down death-merchants, haters of modern painting,
Franco, Mussolini, Hitler with his sentimental flower paintings.
“If cities are destroyed from the air, the enemy cannot carry on the war.
The annihilation of Guernica resembles a victorious painting
by an old master, not this infantile, degenerate painting.”
From failure, from breakage, from silence, from loss: Guernica.
The name of the dove in the burning dovecote: Guernica.
a vision   a wound   a flame   a teardrop   a painting
With pencil, with chalk, with a brush I shall seek its form—
with my hands I shall remodel what tyranny deforms.

As for Spain, lost to medieval slumber, to a violent form
of self-abnegation, like an apparition from a Goya painting
she sinks again into the darkness. Power is a form
of narcissism; totalitarianism corrupts even as it informs
those who destroy and those who create, both Franco and Picasso.
In a century to which devastation has given its true form
Guernica is an elemental dispensation, a document formed
in the name of humanity to denounce the nightmare of war.
Against chaos, against ignorance, against all future war
a brush moves across canvas and truth takes the form
of Dresden, of Nanking, of Hiroshima, of Guernica.
The name of the burning world is Guernica.

a vigil    a vessel    a fist    a pyre    a form
a plume    a banner    a vision    a trope    a painting
a veil    a scream    a wound    the world in flames    Picasso
a tyrant    an elegy    a lamp    a dove   a war
a dream    a ruin    a teardrop    the eye of god    Guernica

Campbell McGrath is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Prize and a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, among many other awards. He has authored ten collections of poetry, including, most recently, In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys (Ecco Press, 2012).