Monday, March 20, 2017

The Colonel by Carolyn Forché

The Colonel

What you have heard is true. I was in his house. His wife carried 
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went   
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the 
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over 
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English. 
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to 
scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace. On 
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had 
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for 
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of 
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief 
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was 
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot 
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed 
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say 
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries 
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like 
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one 
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water 
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As 
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them- 
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last 
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some 
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the 
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground. 
                                                                                     May 1978

 

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