Carolyn Forché

Here you will find the Poem The Colonel of poet 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 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 f--- themselves. 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