In the Valley of the Fallen

(Dedicated to Josep Sunyol 1898 – 1936)


Dust waifs across the slabs

Where Falangists still gather

To remember the Caudillo

Once a year with hats and flags

Under a thicket of tilted arms.

A susurrus stirs the pines,

“Generalissimo” it whispers

Like a nurse to a pillow.

“Generalissimo” it expires

Like the prisoners of his war

Forced to build this mausoleum

Into the belly of the mountain,

Refilling the quarried stone

With their own skin and bone,

Veined and quiet as marble.


At the entrance to the tomb

A boy kicks a ball at the column

Wearing the blaugrana shirt

Of the team whose lefty President

Was murdered down the road

Eighty years away as the crow flies.

“Pass,” I say. He lobs. I nod back.

His shot arcs bright as a sabre

Across the shadow-spilling steps:


He condors away on Stuka wings

And thermals of fanatic glory

I shiver, halted and haunted,

Not by ghosts but the drip

Of this calcite moment.


Runner-up in the 2014 Frogmore Prize for Poetry

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