Pablo Picasso has words for Colin Powell from the other side of death

The author of ‘Death and the Maiden’ imagines what the Spanish painter might say to the US Secretary of State about his masterpiece Guernica

Ariel Dorfman
25 February 2003

Guernica by Pablo Picasso (1937) | Museo Reina Sofía

Yes, even here, here more than anywhere else,
we know and watch what is going on
what you are doing with the world
we left behind

What else can we do with our time?

Yes, there you were, Mr. Secretary,
I think that is how they call you
there you were
standing in front of my Guernica
a replica it is true
but still my vision of what was done
that day to the men to the women
and to the children to that one child
in Guernica that day in 1937
from the sky

Not really standing in front of it.
It had been covered, our Guernica,
covered so you could speak.
There in the United Nations building.
So you could speak about Iraq.

Undisturbed by Guernica.

Why should it disturb perturb you?
Why did you not ask that the cover
be removed
the picture
be revealed?

Why did you not point to the shrieking
the horse dying over and over again
the woman with the child forever dead
the child that I nurse here in this darkness
the child who watches with me
as you speak
and you speak.
Why did you not say
This is why we must be rid of the dictator.
Why did you not say
This is what Iraq has already done and undone.
Why did you not say
This is what we are trying to save the world from.
Why did you not use
Guernica to make your case?

Were you afraid that the mother
would leap from her image and say
no he is the one
they are the ones who will bomb
from afar
they are the ones who will kill
the child
no no no
he is the one they them
from the distance the bombs
keeping us always out of sight
inside death and out of sight

Were you afraid that the horse
would show the world the near future
three thousand cruise missiles in the first hour
spinning into Baghdad
ten thousand Guernicas
spinning into Baghdad
from the sky

Were you afraid of my art
what I am still saying
more than sixty five years later
the story still being told
the vision still dangerous
the light bulb still hanging
like an eye from the dead
my eye that looks at you from the dead


beware the eye of the child
in the dark

you will join us
the child and I
the horse and the mother
here on the other side

you will join us soon
you will journey here
as we all do

is that why you were
so afraid of me?

join us
and spend the rest of eternity
next to us
next to the remote dead
not only of Iraq
not only of

is that why you were
so afraid of that eye?

your own eyes sewn open wide looking
at the world you left behind

there is nothing else to do
with our time

sentenced to watch
and watch
by our side

until there will be no Guernicas left
until the living understand

and then, Mr. Secretary,
and then

a world with no Guernicas

and then
yes then
you and I
yes then

we can rest

you and I and the covered child

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