Ronovan asks for a poem inspired by Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica. The image below is a mural inspired by the painting in the Falls Road, Belfast.
Robotic brains create and annihilate
lion, horse, sparrow,
your wife, her husband, their children.
Lessons of history?
There are none to be learned.
History records not teaches;
we know what we do,
we revel in the blood of the other.
The fire that fell out of the sky still falls,
applauded by the same hands,
anointed by the same dogmas.
Man, the apocalypse,
Je Suis Cronus,
and so much blood,
though the oceans they incarnadine,
will never be washed clean.
Today the air is heavy
six million and more flocking
until the air is too black and shameful
Children with faces that will never grow old
remind us why
the cry of the songbirds
smothered in glue traps
has so little chance
of being heard.
This morning a hero died, Arnaud Beltrame, the gendarme who exchanged himself for a hostage, knowing he had little chance of coming out of the siege alive. He didn’t. His assassin was not a hero, or a martyr, though that is how he wanted to be remembered. He was a small time delinquent with a great big chip on his shoulder. I don’t much care whether he represents his co-religionists or not, whether he was a good or a deluded Muslim. He used religion as an excuse to go on a rampage and rob others of their lives, but he could just as easily have used a political ideology, or the kind of nauseating notions that don’t deserve the title of ideology.
The US gun control debate has no place in this tragic episode, and the recuperation of these deaths for their own ends by the pro-shooters sickens me. Gun violence and sectarian differences are what caused it—only their elimination could have prevented it. Until we learn to think for ourselves, to be able to look at our fellow human beings as our equals, to stop defining ourselves by our colour, religious affiliation or gender, to learn compassion for all things, to find better uses for our spare time than shooting and killing or muttering prayers to one or other of the various gods/spiritual entities humankind has invented, our species will never reach the heights of goodness of dogdom.
Gull soars skyward
a spirit dissipates
our shame lingers.
The vines are full of blackbirds in the golden light,
No thought but to catch the dripping sweetness of the grapes.
No tangled webs they weave, of contracts signed and shipped,
Of blood and grief and men sent out to fight.
The blackbird eats until he needs no more,
Then fills the world with song without compare,
While we watch with eyes of stone or full of tears,
And count dead children washed up on the shore.
If, to earn paradise,
The price is murder,
I will take my handful of ashes
Into the earth’s gentle depths
And lie with the dogs.
I will curl in the warm darkness
With the ghosts of the fox and the hare,
And if you join me there,
We will make a paradise
Of our final bed.