My name is Llorenç Benedito. I was born in Castellón in 1860 and now I am dying in my own bed on June 14, 1938. The bells of my funeral are the bombs of the approaching nationalists.

They told me that when you die you see your whole life. They told me the truth. I am frightened neither by death nor the encounter with God. But the question remains as to what I leave here below when the bombs stop and this dirty war against each other in our own land ends. To the world I have given two daughters and a vast expanse of rice fields.

Grandpa showed me the stars. For all of them he had stories. And I gawked at the sky on summer nights. I, Pepita, his favourite granddaughter. Grandpa was tall, blond, with light eyes, handsome and strong. He had a benevolent look.

None of us were born when he undertook, alongside other men, the epic enterprise. They transformed the Serradal bog into rice fields. The water was not lacking, but to overcome and subdue it was memorable. He did not boast, he had done it and that was enough. Kilometres of rice fields. And in a piece of his land he built a cabin. In order to look at the stars.

He sat on the plough behind the horse. The plough penetrated the mud, the beast tired. The grandfather hummed old melodies, maybe he prayed.

Now that I am leaving, I do not care anything for all that. I care that my daughters and my grandchildren will find the work done. They will reap the benefits. If this filthy war is silenced. How much hatred and betrayal. I, who will soon die, have forgiven them.

Everything is taken, everything is charged

the holy back of the Earth

what walks, what sleeps,

what frolic and what pity;

and he's alive and he's dead

the Indian drum of the Earth.

(Gabriela Mistral)

My Grandfather died on the last day of the war, but not the last of the anguish. They locked his body at home to run to the shelter, the goddamn bombs. They buried him in a common grave along with all the dead of battle.

And when the dream comes

to extend and take me

to my own silence

there is a great white wind

that knocks down my dream

and the leaves fall from it,

they fall like knives

about me bleeding me.

(Pablo Neruda)

When I was a child I never heard of great-grandfather Llorenç. I lived, yes, the last years of those fields of Serradal. We spent summers kneading in a new farmhouse. Grandparents, uncles, cousins, parents and siblings. Large paellas, a lot of desert and wild beache. Baths in the ditch and children's excursions on a raft in the channels that the ducks crossed.

The harvesters arrived from some distant and mysterious place and they watered the fields in the sun with the mud up to their knees. Sometimes they allowed me to do their job. And the Grandmother (mine, the mother of my mother Pepita) prepared memorable sandwiches and salads. The sacks, jute sacks full of rice, sacks and more sacks that those men wore on their backs.

I met the birds, the frogs, the snakes, the eels, the dragonflies, the butterflies. Mosquitoes and ointments against mosquitoes. They did not show me the stars, I discovered them myself. And at night time I looked at them. They gave you vertigo.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Sun of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water.

 (T.S. Eliot)

That's how it went. That world died. They dried the Serradal for hygiene or for money. In exchange for nothing. We built another house where the reapers had sweated. Perhaps for the best. The dragonflies and the frogs and the snakes left. The canals were dirty. The beach was populated by bathers and beach bars. The noise came, a lot of noise, noise, noise.

Nobody spoke of the great-grandfather, nor rice or salads. He was old, he was poor, he was ignorant and uncouth. He was an Ecce Homo.

Michele Dolz