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Viewing Guernica in Madrid.

 Their kindergarten teacher could be telling them this imaginary
horse was not in Picasso's early drawings. In the Spanish I cannot
understand, maybe he says once upon a market day in Guernica the world
collapsed around whole families whose luck ran out, or did not,
 from a burning building. Maybe he mentions German pilots high above the
town, who were imagining what would happen in that instant when their
dropped bombs stopped whistling, while down below, a horse was incapable
of imagining
how to gallop out from under the sky's sudden piercing rain. When
the teacher points to the wall behind him, his class rapt, surely he
explains they're lucky to sit cross-legged before a masterpiece, a
painting people come from far away to see. And I, who am one of those
look past the heads of tiny children to the painting that takes the
whole wall, and see it's not Picasso's wailing woman trailing
into ghostliness, infant slack and cooling in her arms, and not the bull
with its bayonet horns that makes this an object of devotion, but the
horse's gaping terror,
the horse's tongue razored sharp by pain, the horse's leg
severed and strewn, and most of all, its dumb dying scream still open to
us decades later and so pure in black and white-- as animal terror can
be pure-- because a horse could never understand
the human imagination, no matter how long you talked to it, how clear
your diction and enthusiastic your voice, how careful and small your
words. I wonder if their teacher's telling them only: Guernica
 started out in color, but color would have added nothing. 
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Author:Cohen, Susan (American journalist)
Publication:Atlanta Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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