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Not Soon But Sooner Than You Think

The Colonel by Carolyn Forche

“What you have heard is true. I was at 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 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.”

Carolyn Forché : The Poetry Foundation

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • GreenEyedJinn October 17, 2019, 10:31 AM

    I’ve spent my entire adult life in and around the military. So, I’m always bemused when considering ideas of, “we must respect local culture and history,” when they come crashing into what so many local cultures and histories are capable of and willing to do.

    Understanding Human Nature cannot blithely forget our highly evolved ability to be brutal. There are reasons I will assert some cultures are superior to others. Moral constraints applied to brutality are some of them.

    Last, reflecting on the essence of the earlier Z-man piece and the NBA: Human Nature also knows Power. And power can come in many forms. Nietzsche wandered the halls of his own dark logic and discovered: without a higher morality, the human condition cannot rise above, “Do as thou will.” I think the NBA will quickly discover that bowing to a power that will deliver wealth will leave them bankrupt when confronting moral power that derives from a greater source.

  • ghostsniper October 17, 2019, 12:08 PM

    I’ve seen this some where before.
    It was the kneecap scoops.
    Easy to remember, hard to forget.

  • Punditarian October 17, 2019, 12:53 PM

    I don’t think it is fair to illustrate this prose poem with a picture of General Pinochet. Pinochet rescued Chile from an impending Marxist/Fascist dictatorship; during the coup d’etat and subsequent struggle, approximately 3,000 people were killed. Some of them were undoubtedly innocents. But only if you can show me any leftist/statist Marxist-Leninist dictatorship that was established anywhere in the world without murdering 50,000 people at a bare minimum, will I agree that Pinochet was a brute. Chile today is a prosperous country, too.

  • Vanderleun October 17, 2019, 1:49 PM

    A fair point but it presumes I think Pinochet or the Colonel are wrong.

  • Punditarian October 17, 2019, 1:59 PM

    A very palpable hit.

  • BlogDog October 17, 2019, 9:13 PM

    And some musical accompaniment: https://youtu.be/vATLlSPnGxE

  • rabbit tobacco October 17, 2019, 11:19 PM

    Don’t tell secrets in the garden ’cause the corn has ears
    and the taters have eyes

  • james wilson October 18, 2019, 10:09 AM

    If Alexander Solzhenitsyn had murdered a few thousand Soviets in a coup to depose Stalin and his merry Marxists in 1948 the left would still be wailing about the inhumanity. Chile remains the only fully functional spot in South America. Btw, they have school choice and government social security is optional.

  • James ONeil October 18, 2019, 12:29 PM

    “A fair point but it presumes I think Pinochet or the Colonel are wrong.”

    Me, I’m not quite ready to buy in to posting heads on pikes ’round the White House fence, yet, but I think we do need to bring back stocks, tar and feathers, and the occasional whipping on the congressional steps.

  • Punditarian October 18, 2019, 12:35 PM

    The Village in which I live has had a jail that was in recent years “certified” for the detention of prisoners for only 6 hours; I have repeatedly advocated the construction of stocks outside the police station, but instead they replaced the jail with a bench inside, to which prisoners can be shackled.