POETRY: The Guernica Tapestry at the United Nations

Michael Wolfe

Posted Mar 13, 2003      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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The Guernica Tapestry at the United Nations
February 5, 2003

In fifty years of looking at this painting
It is the mare that speaks to me tonight,
Teeth bared beneath an aerial bombardment,
Head sharply jerked around to shy at death,

The muscled neck, the knowing eye, the whinny
Out of earshot that could crack a wine glass,
Lifes mute recoil from mindless waste, expressed here
By a creature more than human: by a horse.

With plumes of smoke, with corpses all around her,
With roofs in flame and gaping plaster walls
One can see how fragile are her chances
Of standing safely stabled through the night:

No better than a teacup, or this light bulb
Flaring like a glass eye on a string
Hung up here by the artist for a reason.
(Even in Hell he needed light to paint by.)

Horse and bulb that first outlasted Franco,
Now burned so deep into the public eye
That covering them just makes them more vivid.
You generals who veiled a classic nightmare:

May giant horses stalk your dreams tonight.

—Michael Wolfe

[A tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica hangs in the United Nations.
On February 5 when Colin Powell spoke at the UN promoting war in Iraq
this tapestry was covered with a blue cloth and flags of Security Council
nations, in the belief that the image was an inappropriate backdrop for
advocating the massive bombing of Baghdad.]