That night, in Paris, when the news came that
they had bombed the village, you kept waking
from sleep. In one dream I heard you call out
‘Maya, Maya,’ your mistress’ daughter.
Across from you I lay barren, afraid to breathe.

Next morning, the soul that just yesterday
wept was quiet, charcoal in hand, as you
tried to corral in the vast cold room the last
nuance of the night’s dream into a
silhouette of form, reshaping your nightmare:

Underneath the condor’s swirling legion,
the bull’s retreat, the stallion’s agony,
the screaming of the sixteen hundred men
and women and children, a market day
turned into fire, a holocaust of innocents.

Once you stopped, watching me. You strode over,
cut a swatch of my hair, fixed it onto
a sketch, as a collage; then fell to work again.
Three hundred drawings, and every drawing
a dream, and every dream another death.

Finally, on the fifteenth day, you stretched
your mural’s canvas, twelve feet by twenty-six,
slant-braced to fit under the studio ceiling.
There, on that expanse, you found a way
to give voice to those unspoken horrors:

The woman with a dead child in her arms;
the man engulfed in flames; the subjugated
bull; stigmata on a soldier’s open palm;
a javelin in a writhing horse; daggers and fire;
and the lightbulb’s bale, unblinking stare.

From across the room I aimed my camera
at you, my sniper’s rifle, counting each shot
with your every stroke – color against white,
politics against art, anger against tears, as you
waged across the canvas your uncivil war.


  1. Short link -

  2. You rocked this one; few wars worse than that one, burned into our brain by art and what came after. I especially am caught by "the lightbulb's bale unblinking stare" and "every drawing a dream, and every dream another death..." A noise of words that make movement both elegant and terrifying: your severe and lovely calling. My honor to read and learn and dance among your spare sweet stars.

  3. Thanks, Stacy. The poem also has as subtext the relationship between Pablo Picasso and his muse and lover, Dora Maar, a renowned photographer in her own right, who was present at the creation of 'Guernica'.

  4. Feedback on Facebook:

    Pamela Cogswell Niles, Christopher Reilley, Yunuen Perez, Kat Ostrow, Mara Buck, Nahid Kabiri and Veronica Shine like this...

    Lavonne Westbrooks: When I first saw that picture (in high school) I was fascinated - would stare at it for hours. It was the most emotional painting I had ever seen. He was one of the the most magnificent painters that ever lived.

    Samuel Peralta: Thanks for reading, Lavonne. The relationship between Picasso and Dora Maar is similarly fascinating. Picasso wasn't shy about other lovers, and even had a daughter from one, while Dora Maar was unable to have children. I tried to capture some of that subtext, against the backdrop of the painting's creation, in this poem.

    Mara Buck: When I first rounded a corner at MOMA and saw Guernica, I thought, this is where it all comes together --- there is noise in the painting. A painting of war must be ugly. I am no Picasso fan --- for me, this is his only work. You have captured the spirit well.

    Martie Ingebretsen: You paint well with words, the turmoil of color and rage, of love...that brought the brush to canvas, as well as the significance of the one there in the background, with her own art.

    Samuel Peralta: Veronica, Nahid, thanks so much for reading, and for the thumbs-up!
    ...Mara, Martie, thanks for taking the time to elaborate your thoughts about the artists and their work. Guernica has many levels of meaning, and in writing this poem, I found many other avenues to explore - at least two more 'Guernica' poems coming from me - someday!
    ...Kat, I really do appreciate the read, thank you!
    ...Yunuen, thanks so much, such a stalwart reader!

    Veronica Shine: With pleasure!!!

    Samuel Peralta: Veronica, the pleasure is mine!
    ...Christopher, great to see you on the page. Thanks for the thumbs-up!

    Pamela Cogswell Niles: Exquisite. A masterpiece that might make Picasso jealous.

    Laura Lawless: I especially liked the line: "every drawing a dream, and every dream another death..."
    ...I have not long finished reading a book about Picasso's creativity and it touched on his affair with Dora.
    ...As always I am amazed by your talent in capturing scenes and emotions so vividly. Well done.

    Samuel Peralta: Pamela, thanks so much for the thought! I don't think I come within a camelhair brush width of Picasso's talent, but I am happy with how the poem turned out. I really appreciate your kindness!
    ...Laura, yes, my turning point on this poem came when I decided to write it from the point of view of Dora. It really gave the events in the poem a unique slant, different from other pieces I've read on Picasso or 'Guernica'. Thanks so much for your perspective!

    Laura Lawless: You are welcome, Samuel. I always learn so much from reading your poetry.

    Samuel Peralta: As it happens, Dora Maar loved and wrote poetry herself, and, in homage, I alluded to one of her verses in the poem ;)

  5. Anonymous9:52:00 PM

    Amazing Sam, incredible emotional breaking ground in this. Brought me to tears. Excellent skill of writing in sad notions of awful historical events.

  6. I am always amazed by your words Sam, but with this you've left me speechless.

  7. I'm always fascinated by your poetry and the way that your words move readers. This poem is incredible!

  8. I so appreciate everyone's kind words, thank you...

  9. Sam, as usual, this piece reveals your true gift. Always your poetry brings me to two places ~ I see the images and yet the subtext presents to me another poem that you help me create. You really ask a lot of your readers ~ well done.

  10. Sam, after reading your poem I had to google the painting Guernica to get a sense of what it looked like. I had heard of it, but never SEEN it.

    " Three hundred drawings, and every drawing
    a dream, and every dream another death.

    Your poem definitely gives an idea of how this work was born, its immensity, its feeling, its depth; and I enjoyed the subtext as well in regard to Picasso's lover. A brilliant work.

  11. I love the fact that you took Dora's point of view in this poem, it really gives an added dimension to the creation of the painting. And much like Picasso's work, your poem requires several views to get a good grasp of everything going on. I also liked the idea of the camera, brush, and pen as weapons of war...physically subjugating a population may be effective in the short term, but true change comes when you reach people at a deeper level, which may indeed be the calling of the artist. Wonderfully written!

  12. For those who asked, here is a link to Pablo Picasso's piece:


    And here is an extract from the Dora Maar poem that I allude to:

    The soul that still yesterday wept is quiet - its exile suspended
    a country without art only nature
    Memory magnolia pure so far off
    I am blind
    and made from a bit of earth
    But your gaze never leaves me
    And your angel keeps me.

  13. I remember the Guernica painting well with its agony so starkly drawn. Excellent choice for this prompt and strong statement here. Good to find you through Poetry Jam.

  14. I don't believe any comment I leave will begin to describe my feelings about your poem ... reading it once, then again because it that good! This was immensely satisfying, Sam.

  15. stunning!

    thank you for participating at Poetry Jam! i hope to see you there again.


  16. A fantastically rich poem, Sam.........I, too, especially am struck by "every drawing a dream, and every dream another death." Brilliant work!!

  17. dang sam...this is vivid and intense and i can just see them lost in this moment wanting to capture it all like a fever...really nice turn in the end to the photographer as a plays well...great piece man

    1. Anonymous4:29:00 PM

      Intense like a did wonderful here, like a little play. The crying out for a lovers' child's name speaks volumes in a short span. Great!
      I will need to google it.

  18. Sam, this is brilliant. I know something of Picasso's personal life from researching Gertrude Stein, and while much of his work is lost to me as well (personal taste and nothing more), I agree that Guernica is his masterpiece. Your speaking in Dora's voice was touching and had an understanding of her need to allow Pablo to be Pablo. The photography... I would love to see that as well. Your lines about every dream being another death and on from there... masterful. Can you get this one published? Peace, Amy

  19. Again you reach through the morass of generalization to find the details that expose the heart. Dear Dora, might indeed wish, at times, her camera a rifle capable of puncturing the incivility of the artist's intense concentration. Poetry as witness--I love the power of your work.

  20. Wow--this took my breath away. So beautifully written

    and every drawing
    a dream, and every dream another death.

  21. I tend to read yours last Sam, my good friend, mostly because you just crush me, I feel like I just watched Hendrix rip the roof off, I wanna be you when I grow up. Damn. This one was wonderful, cerebral (there is that word again) and finely woven.

    I repeat - Damn.

  22. Anonymous7:26:00 PM

    This lives and breathes....

  23. Wonderfully woven, especially like the camera-sniper rifle analogy; potent words and images

  24. Powerful capture of the painting ~ Each word, each stroke, an unspoken horror ~

  25. A solid and impressive poem--wonderful ekphrasis, of course, but as it should be, more than that, with it's sideways viewpoint at the relationships and the human beneath the art, and the suffering. That fourth stanza just knocked my socks off. Fine poem, Samuel,written with depth and sympathy.

  26. Better with every poem of yours I read. You are a very impressive writer, and this was really, really good. Damn.

  27. I love this as much for your writing as for the fact that it outlines one of my very favorite books. Rarely, do I enjoy reading about war, but this book, Picasso's painting, and now your poem enlighten the truth of suffering, of war and of ordinary people trying to make a life from its destruction.

  28. Amazing write, Samuel. I've been reading a lot of poems on war and such. This is tops.

  29. This is really wonderful... of course. You capture Picasso in your poet's camera eye as surely as did the mistress photographer. Your subtle and deft understanding of the other and how She reflects the other emotionally and intellectually is astonishing.

  30. What a perspective you chose for this poem!

    That in itself is a stroke of genius. And its development took me as much by surprise as the painting itself did when I first saw it on display in Amsterdam.
    They ought to attach it to the painting for enlightenment and homage.

  31. ok..i have no words that can express how fantastic this poem is excellent, outstanding write...just left me speechless

  32. Powerful, I know one thing at times I can wait to come and your work it's like a good book for that can wait to read.

  33. Powerful words here.....

  34. Wow, to put yourself into the mindset of the artist. I was not familiar with Picasso's painting (ashamed to say) and had to look it up after reading this. I think your words have brought the painting to life quite vividly, and left us with an understanding of it that we wouldn't have appreciated otherwise. This is amazing!

  35. Oh my, Samuel. This is flawless and powerful, particularly S4 and S7. You have deeply moved me.

  36. Anonymous3:05:00 AM

    The fear, anguish, pain, noise, chaos, confusion in the painting — You've got it all. You make the observer, Dora Maar, both a thing in Picasso's working eyes and a person with her own agency in the last stanza. This speaks to me as a person who has experienced the trance of engaged work on drawings; it's truly another state of being and way of looking. Susan, above speaks of the "incivility of the artist's intense concentration" but I see it differently — They were both artists and they used each other as artists. He needed a snip of Dora's hair; she needed to join in the battle with him, to capture his disciplined, emotional engagement with the canvas to express the incivility of the Civil War.

  37. Picasso was Dora's Guernica...the quintessential bastard. I have never been fooled by any of his work. Matisse was the real genius.
    Even Picasso recognised this.He said Matisse's work look as if he had swallowed the sun. Yep, and it drove Pablo wild with jealousy.
    And there's your art history for today Semaphore:)

  38. You brought us into the realms of the war,the aftermath. What Picasso did you had narrated each of the episodes and the sufferings. The human and animal forms as belligerently depicted had your comments and attention. Brilliant Sem!


  39. Always, always, your words leave me breathless... So beautiful. Thank you.

  40. Hello,

    A well thought out poem that captured a moment. A well crafted write.

  41. Many images worth mentioning but the sniper rifle/camera one at the end was my definite favorite. Nice write, Samuel, as always.

  42. I love the intensity of making art and translating life into it. Makes me want to make a collage with clipped hair and travel the world with my camera.

  43. I read this as addressed to of the best takes I've ever seen of this sort of poem that (for me, anyway) tells of the man, his lover, his passions and a piece of history behind one of the greatest masterpieces of all times. Brilliant. And thank you so much for the coupon, Sam, of which I've availed myself...remembering I've yet to do the review of your other book!

  44. I love that it's in her voice, so we see through her eyes the artist at work and also feel the bleakness of her long night observing.


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