Poems for International Workers’ Day / May Day 2012: “We hurl the bright bomb of the sun, the moon like a hand grenade.”


Alfred Hayes

Into the streets May First! (1934)



Into the streets May First!

Into the roaring Square!

Shake the midtown towers!

Shatter the downtown air!

Come with a storm of banners,

Come with an earthquake tread,

Bells, hurl out of your belfries,

Red flag, leap out your red!

Out of the shops and factories,

Up with the sickle and hammer,

Comrades, these are our tools,

A song and a banner!

Roll song, from the sea of our hearts,

Banner, leap and be free;

Song and banner together,

Down with the bourgeoisie!

Sweep the big city, march forward,

The day is a barricade;

We hurl the bright bomb of the sun,

The moon like a hand grenade.

Pour forth like a second flood!

Thunder the alps of the air!

Subways are roaring our millions –

Comrades, into the square!




International Workers’ Day (May Day) is back in earnest – though in some nations the voices have always been there, only elbowed out by the slickness of advertising and the ruthless editing of media in an all-round cacophony of contemporary life.  Here in Toronto the Occupy Movement has joined forces with No One is Illegal to draw attention to the economic vulnerability of refugees and “hidden” immigrants.  Though few of Toronto’s 2012 marchers will cry: “Up with the hammer and sickle!”  as does the inspirational voice in the above poem (set in Depression-dreary New York City) by British-American writer Alfred Hayes (1911-1985), surely the same energy and enthusiasm will be felt.




Milton Acorn

Demonstration on a Sunny Afternoon (1970)



These days not even death seems so certain;

But, considering the system, I’ve lived too long anyway.

For the young it should be more serious, but oddly

enough it’s not


(an odd whimsy, considering this isn’t

the Viet Nam jungle, or the streets of the USA;

death is remote – but I’m convinced

it won’t be always)


Nevertheless, to think of Crazy Horse

putting Crooke to flight on the Rosebud;

two weeks later eating up Custer,

waving his war-club, shouting:

“Come on, Dakotas…It’s a good day to die!”


It steadies my nerves…makes

a confrontation even pleasant…




In this poem from 1970 Milton Acorn (1923-1986) muses on the

zeitgeist of 1960s USA – the spirit of rebellion and protest

(rebellion and protest are not the same thing).

He speaks from a Canadian perspective in that era;

social unrest and political agitation were more muted here,

save for the FLQ Crisis and, later, in 1976, the victory of the Parti Québécois.

A sensitive tough guy and a boozer, Acorn fills the poem with a combination

of idealism, pessimism and humour – uniquely his.

He described himself thus:

“I am a Revolutionary Poet.  Not revolutionary in my poetry but revolutionary in my politics.”




Rose Pastor Stokes

Paterson (1913)



Our folded hands again are at the loom.

The air

Is ominous with peace.

But what we weave you see not through the gloom.

‘Tis terrible with doom.


You dream that we are weaving what you will?

Take care!

Our fingers do not cease:

We’ve starved–and lost; but we are weavers


And Hunger’s in the mill!…

And Hunger moves the Shuttle forth and back.

Take care!

The product grows and grows …

A shroud it is; a shroud of ghastly black.

We’ve never let you lack!


The Warp and Woof of Misery and Defeat…

Take care!–

See how the Shuttle goes!

Our bruised hearts with bitter hopes now beat:

The Shuttle’s sure–and fleet!….




Several thousand Paterson, New Jersey, textile mill workers went on strike for six months in 1913.  They were demanding a shorter work day – 8 hours instead of 12 – and an end to the use of child labour.  Many women were involved and more than 1800 silk-weavers were arrested during the strike, which, though failing to produce any immediate results, put workers’ rights front and centre as a matter for public and political action in the USA.

In her poem, Rose Pastor Stokes (1879-1933) imagines the weavers back at their looms after the failed strike…

“Picasso’s sure a weird one!”: a poem and some pictures / “¡Este Picasso es un caso!”: un poema y unas pinturas


May 1st 2012 sees an awesome Picasso exhibition from Le Musée National Picasso in Paris opening here in Toronto, Canada…

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Málaga, Spain, and by the end of his teens was already an energetic and talented imitator of all the “fin-de-siècle” painting styles then current in Europe.

He made his first trip to Paris in 1900, and moved to the city – the centre of the art world – in 1902.  It was the right place at the right time.  Two crucial events occurred when he was in his mid-twenties.  First – he met Gertrude Stein – a wealthy young American art collector who bought his paintings and championed him to everyone in her circle.  And second – Picasso visited the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro where he saw masks and sculpture from Oceania and Africa.  Highly stylized, these “primitive” artworks, unlike anything else Picasso had ever seen, were to make a forceful impression on his restless artistic sensibilities.   The innovative effect of his “quick study” of Oceanic and African art was soon seen in his 1907 painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”.  In this one canvas Picasso broke with 19th-century European art traditions and, along with a handful of his contemporaries, brought Western painting into the 20th century.

And yet – time and again – he would return to a theme straight out of the Classical Academies – that is:  The Artist and The Model, or, for Picasso, The Artist and His Model.
Picasso’s lust and egomania are well documented in their vigour and even ugliness. Yet in his prolific artwork, spanning 75 years, he shows his undeniable energy for Life – all of Life…the subtle, the tender, the brutal and raw.
Famously, as an old man, he stated: “When I was young I could draw like Raphael, but it has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a child.”
We feature here a light-hearted poem by Spanish children’s writer, Carlos Reviejo (born 1942), entitled “¡Este Picasso es un caso!” (Picasso’s sure a weird one!) – along with a selection of Pablo Picasso’s paintings and prints.



Carlos Reviejo

“¡Este Picasso es un caso!”



¡Qué divertido es Picasso!

Es pintor rompecabezas

que al cuerpo rompe en mil piezas

y pone el rostro en los pies.

¡Todo lo pinta al revés!

¡Este Picasso es un caso!

Es un puro disparate.

No es que te hiera o te mate,

pero en lugar de dos cejas

él te pone dos orejas.

¡Vaya caso el de Picasso!

Te deja que es una pena:  te trastoca y desordena,

te pone pies en las manos

y en vez de dedos, gusanos.

¡Si es que Picasso es un caso!

En la boca pone un ojo,

y te lo pinta de rojo.

Si se trata de un bigote,

te lo pondrá en el cogote.

¡Menudo caso es Picasso!

¿Eso es hombre o bicicleta?

¡Si es que ya nada respeta….!

Esos ojos que tú dices,

no son ojos…¡son narices!

¿No es un caso este Picasso?

Todo lo tuerce y disloca:

las piernas, brazos y boca.

No es verdad lo que tu ves.

¡Él pinta el mundo al revés!

¡Qué Picasso es este caso!




Carlos Reviejo

“Picasso’s sure a weird one!”



A funny one, that Picasso!

A puzzling painter

who breaks a body into a thousand pieces

and puts the face where the feet should be.

He paints everything upside-down!

This Picasso’s a nutty one,

100% crazy!

It’s not that he might wound or kill you,

no, but in place of your eyebrows

he gives you ears.

A pity how he leaves you:

altered, a mess –

feet for hands

and worms for fingers.

Yes, Picasso’s a weird one!

In your mouth he puts an eye

and he paints it red.

When it’s all about the mustache,

well, he’ll place it on your neck.

What a case, that Picasso!

Here – is this a man…or a bicycle?

True, he respects nothing!

These eyes you said were eyes – ?

They’re noses!

Picasso’s a real head-case, isn’t he?

He twists and dislocates everything:

legs, arms, and mouth.

What you see is not for real.

He paints our world upside-down!

Yes, Picasso’s sure a weird one!




Spanish-to-English translation/interpretation:   Alexander Best