A poem after Denise Levertov. Her classic question and answer poem about Vietnam was a start point. My subject however, was a reflection on my walking from Seville to Santiago and my writing of that experience, in Show Me The Way To Santiago. In particular, the conundrum as to why there seemed to be an absence of dialogue about, or recognition of the impact the Spanish Civil war had on Spain and its people.


After Denise Levertov
Why did the people of Spain
adopt a pact of forgetting?
Did they leave their slaughtered
buried by roadsides?
Did they live in fear,
leave sores unpicked,
scabbed over with silence?
Did El Caudillo’s hand-picked heir,
a king, elected by a dictator,
oversee a transition,
to a democratic state?
Did that state use back handers?
Cronyism spreading like a stain,
impacting on land-use, urbanisation,
tourism, football; the virulent virus of enchufe

Sir, all countries have their secrets:
selective amnesias,
historical atrocities.
Truth and reconciliation commissions
are the exceptions to the rule.
Has Great Britain ever fully acknowledged,
eleven thousand Mau Mau killings,
150,000 Kikuyu in detention gulags.
Did they live and die in fear?

Sir, El Caudillo demanded respect
for forty years. Whilst Francophiles remain,
nationalists who remember
will soon be gone forever.
Not all the dead are buried
with due ceremony in official graves.
Roadsides sprout poppies,
reminding us of the fallen.
Sir, Democracies come in different guises,
dependent on who gets to vote,
what is said to win the ‘race’,
what power truly changes hands,
batons passing between politicians of differing hues.
Who you know has always held sway,
over what you know or promise,
a deadly silver thread that eschews
the power of enchufe to those who give favour.
Sir, Moors and Christians waged war
for centuries on Spanish soil,
built cathedrals, mosques, palaces,
El Caudillo used forced labour to build
a mausoleum in the valley of the fallen
Sir, The pacto del olvido was a deal,
republicans giving up a little power,
if nationalists didn’t rake the embers.
Does it matter how, where or why they died?
The dead are dead.

Enchufe: The art of being plugged in, having and cultivating contacts, especially one’s network of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.