One Small Act – For Milton….

Venis desde muy lejos mas esta lejania

que es para vuestra sangre que canta sin fronteras?

La necesaria muerte os nombra cada dia

no importa en que ciudades, campos o carreteras.
De este pais, del otro, del grande, del pequenyo

del que apenas se el mapa da un color desvaido

con las mismas raices que tiene un mismo suenyo

sencillamente anonimos y hablando habeis venido
No conoceis siquiera ni el color de los muros

que vuestra infranqueable compromiso amuralla

La tierra que os entierra la defendeis, seguros

a tiros con la muerte vestida de batalla.
Quedad que asi lo quieren los arboles, los llanos

las minimas partidas de luz que reanima

un solo sentimiento que el mar sacude: Hermanos!

Madrid con vuestro nombre se agranda y se ilumina.

-Rafael Alberti
In Translation:
You come from very far away.. But this distance,

What is it for you blood which sings without borders?

Necessary death names you each day,

no matter in which cities, fields, or highways.
From this country, from the other, from the large one, from the small one,

from the country to which the map barely gives its faded color,

with the same roots, sharing the same dream,

so simply anonymous and speaking out you have come.
You do not even know the color of the wall

that your insurmountable commitment fortifies

You defend the earth that buries you, secure

in a shoot out with death, dressed for battle.
Stay; this is how the trees, the plains,

and the smallest particles of light would want it – reviving

a single feeling that the sea tosses forth:Brothers!

Madrid, with your name, shines with greatness.
Rafael Alberti (trans. by V Waddick)

Milton Wolff died this week. You probably have no idea who he was, or what he did… If there was ever a heroic personality, I think Milton might qualify…
From Brooklyn, at the age of 22, he went to Spain to fight for the Republic, and was the last commander of The Lincoln Brigade… at the age of 23. Milton claimed he only got the job because of two causes… Everyone above him had rotten luck and ended up being killed by the fascist. He also had a bull horn of a voice, that when he was shouting, could be heard over the din of battle. A commander was made. He led the brigade to their final battles before disbandment in 1938.
He was hounded for many years after by the right wing and the red hunters of the 40′s-50′s along with the other members of the Brigade that had come out of Spain, but he survived, and died at the age of 92 this week.
There is going to be a statue dedicated to the American Brigades at the end of March 2008 in San Francisco. Milton knew before he died that he would not be there. I pray some of you who are in the Bay Area would attend, and lay flowers to his memory, and for the others who gave so much to preserve liberty. One small act….
Here is to Milton, and to all the members of the Foreign Brigades….
Bright Blessings,

(Milton Wolff – Center)

(These are excerpts from Milton’s writings about the Spanish Civil War)
Excerpts from Another Hill
THEY CAME OFF THE SLOPE onto a dirt road, white in the light of the stars and level, and after the hours of climbing, it was like flying. The stars were close and moved with them, and Mitch thought they looked bigger and softer than he had ever seen them. Bigger than they had seemed in the night skies of the Alleghenies, where they had bristled like spikes of blue ice. He silently thanked President Roosevelt for the CCC’s where forestry in the Allegheny Mountains had conditioned him for the Pyrenees, though in 1933 he hadn’t known it would. Neither had FDR, who along with France’s Leon Blum and England’s Neville Chamberlain had closed the border and embargoed Republican Spain. Mitch’s passport, like those of all the others, was stamped NOT VALID FOR TRAVEL IN SPAIN. (p. 5)

Leo was conscious of the wetness between his legs and the warm lumps there. He had shitted himself and this gave him comfort. It took him back to his childhood, to his mama, to a warm bed in a warm room full of warm smells and the comforting warmth of shit between his legs.

He began to relax, the sun on his back easing the tension of his muscles. He heard the bullets whip overhead, but now he listened easily to the sounds around him. He heard a machine gun firing from behind, and every so often Murray would fire a round and then he heard the pull and slam of the bolt. He thought he heard the spent cartridges fall into the stubble. He was so close to the ground, almost part of it; his muscles, nerves, brain all gone limp and washed into the bittersweet smell of earth. (pp. 46-7)

Milton & Ernest Hemingway

“Something’s afoot,” Rolfe announced. He nodded toward the open door of the bathroom. “Who’s in there?”

“Eulalia, the gal who was with you and those other guys at Chicote the other night. It’s all right. She can’t hear and she doesn’t understand a word – well, not quite – of English.”

“Hemingway’s girl. He let you walk away with her.”

“He did?” Well, if he did, thank him for me; tell him it’s the best thing he’s done for La Causa as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’ll tell him,” Eddie laughed. “But there’s nothing else I can tell you except to get down to the Plaza de los Torres and grab a truck.”

“How much time?”

“You’re late now. Kiss her goodbye for me.” As he was leaving, he called over his shoulder, “The rent’s been taken care of.” (p. 59)

“Comrade Rogin.” He began slowly and calmly, but his tone sharpened and became more penetrating as he ticked off his points. “The penalty for desertion under fire is death. The penalty for dealing in the black market is death. The penalty for aiding and abetting in desertion is death. The penalty for buying and selling forged passports is death.” He had reached the extreme range of intensity in his voice before he paused. He let it sink in.

Leo stared at him, at the handsome face with planes that went slightly flat under the cheekbones, flat lips under a strong nose that also tended to flatten out, the elongated brown eyes staring intently at him.

Leo was incredulous. “Death?”

“Firing squad,” Serrota snapped.

Leo winced. “Oh, no. No, I’m a volunteer… a … a Communist. That’s ridiculous. No, you can’t. You don’t have to stare at me like that. I said I’m willing – What do you mean? What do you want?”

“We want you to realize the seriousness of your actions,” the man in the middle said.

“I do. I said I did. What more -”

He stopped as one of the men got up and went to the door. The man opened it and beckoned, and in came Sebastian, smiling, between two guards. A well-dressed civilian followed behind.

“Hello, Sebastian,” Leo forced a smile. “I’m in a little trouble -”

“I can see,” Sebastian used the English he had picked up from his customers. “I can see. And you want me in it for company, no?” (pp. 135-6)

“Hey Mitch! Hey, what happened?”

“Fuckin’ mud!” Mitch bent to scan his face. “Leo! What the hell are you doing here? Let me in out of this fuckin’ rain. When’d you get back? How the hell are you? This your hole?”

Mitch squirmed, fishing under his cape, and came out with a pipe which he stuffed from a Bull Durham sack and lit with a machero, sparks spraying in every direction.

“Goddamned dehydrated horseshit!” he cursed, pulling in sunken cheeks, the white of his teeth flashing as he drew his lips back with each puff.

Good Christ, the kid from Bensonhurst, Leo though, looks like a cadaver, a pirate, a roaring, fire-spouting dragon. But Leo was glad to see one of the men he had known from the bucolic days in Capestan here on this muddy plain somewhere near Huesca, wherever that was. He avoided Mitch’s questions and repeated his own instead: “What happened to Lyons? I saw you put him in the ambulance -”

“He had an accident, but – Oh, hell, everyone will know by morning if they don’t already. The stupid bastard was cleaning his pistol… a little bit of a thing… it went off… and powie! a neat little hole in his foot.”

In the dark Leo thought he saw a smile on Mitch’s face. “Powie!” Mitch repeated. “That sonofabitch has more bad luck than anyone I know.”

“Bad luck, what bad luck?”

“Aaagh!” Mitch said. “He’s been bucking for battalion commander ever since Tarazona. He finally gets it when Amlie chickens out at Belchite, and before he can take us into action, powie! Tough shit.”

Crowded and huddled as they were, they warmed the space under the poncho. The stink of mud that Castle had brought in combined with the smell of wet wool and the sharp reek of burning tobacco. They were silent for a moment and then Mitch asked again, “When’d you get back?”

“As soon as I got out of the hospital.” Leo wanted to bring the talk back to Lyons, away from himself. …

“Just back, huh?” Mitch leaned back. Leo could feel the wetness coming through the poncho where his humped shoulders pushed against it. “You got a ride out of Bruneté, didn’t you? That was in July. This is September or October, shit, I don’t know which. So where’ve you been all this time? What in hell’d you come back for?”

“What d’you mean? I was in the hospital. I was sick. You’re not spreading that rumor too?”

“No, I ain’t spreading nothing. I just listen.” Mitch twisted to a crouch in order to crawl out of the pup tent. “They sent me to a hospital too, only I didn’t go until the shooting was over. I came back the next day.” (pp. 104-5)

Poetry Of The Spanish Civil War:

Load upon load of bomb and shell

Shakes down the brick and stone and dust,

But what does all this ruin spell

When only brick and stone are crushed?

Beneath your storm of steel the town

Shivers, and sinks slowly down,

And you believe that hearts lie deep

With homes under the rubble heap!

Your loss is greater than your gain;

Men whose homes are here no longer

Spread the fever of their anger

Through the length and breadth of Spain.

A million hearts you have made stronger,

You have armed a million men.

What you destroy, shatter burn,

Are not the things that in their turn

Will strike you and your cannons dumb,

Is not the spirit in whose name

We built an army, and defied

Your steel, your thunder and your flame:

These cannot die till we have died.

You understand so little. You

Have more than walls to batter through –


Such as your brutish heroes never knew

the way to overcome.
Miles Tomalin

Instructions From England
Note nothing of why or how, enquire

no deeper than you need

into what set these veins on fire,

note simply that they bleed.
Spain fought before and fights again,

better no question why;

note churches burned and popes in pain

but not the men who die.
Valentine Ackland

Bombing Casualties: Spain
Dolls’ faces are rosier but these were children

their eyes not glass but gleaming gristle

dark lenses in whose quicksilvery glances

the sunlight quivered. These blenched lips

were warm once and bright with blood

but blood

held in a moist bleb of flesh

not spilt and spatter’d in touseled hair.
In these shadowy tresses

red petals did not always

thus clot and blacken to a scar.
These are dead faces:

wasps’ nests are not more wanly waxen

wood embers not so grely ashen.
They are laid out in ranks

like paper lanterns that have fallen

after a night of riot

extinct in the dry morning air.
Herbert Read

A Song for the Spanish Anarchists
The golden lemon is not made

but grows on a green tree:

A strong man and his crystal eyes

is a man born free.
The oxen pass under the yoke

and the blind are led at will:

But a man born free has a path of his own

and a house on the hill
And man are men who till the land

and women are women who veave:

Fity men own the lemon grove

and no man is a slave.
Herbert Read


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