Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

The colours of Asturias


 

the flag of the region (if we must have any damn flags at all)  

should be green

black

and red

 

Asturias is certainly verdant green

but it is also

black

 

the black of the miner’s lung

and the almost permanent colour of his stained spit

it is also that sightless place of no mercy

at the bottom of the pit where

another of Franco's victims is thrown  

 

Asturias has a history the color of carbon

the same earthy tint as morcilla blood sausage

those guts and organs that have fed its people


and black like

the hide of a cow

who has quietly ruminated

on its producing hills

 

and there is that ash black of a thousand widow’s dresses

mixed with the black of children’s despair

at their father's early death

the same dim sackcloth shade

of the early morning forest where

the dictators enemies hid shivering

hungry but unbroken

 

and the crucial Asturian black

 

as brutal as an unlit mine

the lump of its fresh coal now released

or a neglected fully-rotten pear

slate like the night-time ocean that empties itself

into the Nalón river

 

and this colour too might have been

the charcoal feathers of a bird

that flew over and coldly watched

all this great grim past

with its darting granite eyes 

 

also austere Asturias has a culture

full of red

red like trees of ripened apples

that make the drinker's everyday cider

but not as red

as those huge painted silos that hold it all

 

the enflamed red too of the wildflowers that grow here

and the smoky paprika powder that is sprinkled

on boiled potatoes

again and again

 

but it is also the red of the dead

the civil war corpses and the slaughtered soldiers

that vile hue that inhabits the church wine

though also the vino tinto waiting on the table

 

or there is even that red

like the double bars of the Spanish flag

with that saffron yellow lying

in between those rusty stripes

 

and functioning like a tale  

that arterial red

of painted iron trains

the ferrocarril

that opened up the heart

of this day’s Asturias.