Tag Archives: listening

The Colonel

I am going to state right now this poem is about listening. But, first you have to get through the horrors of reality that this piece brings to the forefront.  It is also about timing -the beat of the words, the rhythm of the reporting and the selection of images are masterful. And I can’t imagine a better ending to a poem.

“We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

The Colonel                           Carolyn Forché

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.

 

“The Colonel”relates Forche’s experience in El Salvador in 1978 and exposes the military brutality of Latin American dictatorship. El Salvador was in the midst of a civil war waged between the country’s US-backed military-led government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

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Yes

Let us hope for a time of striving to understand each other right now and in the future. Presently, there seems to be a great deal of discussion around what was meant, what is truthful and what is respectful as well as based in intelligence. We need to remember there are valid differences between each of us, practice listening and asking openly framed questions. There is a lot to discover out there, not just protect.

Yes                                                                              Denise Duhamel

According to Culture Shock:

A Guide to Customs and Etiquette

of Filipinos, when my husband says yes,

he could also mean one of the following:

a.) I don’t know.

b.) If you say so.

c.) If it will please you.

d.) I hope I have said yes unenthusiastically enough

for you to realize I mean no.

You can imagine the confusion

surrounding our movie dates, the laundry,

who will take out the garbage

and when. I remind him

I’m an American, that all his yeses sound alike to me.

I tell him here in America we have shrinks

who can help him to be less of a people-pleaser.

We have two-year-olds who love to scream “No!”

when they don’t get their way. I tell him,

in America we have a popular book,

When I Say No I Feel Guilty.

“Should I get you a copy?” I ask.

He says yes, but I think he means

“If it will please you,” i.e. “I won’t read it.”

“I’m trying,” I tell him, “but you have to try too.”

“Yes,” he says, then makes tampo,

a sulking that the book Culture Shock describes as

“subliminal hostility . . . withdrawal of customary cheerfulness

in the presence of the one who has displeased” him.

The book says it’s up to me to make things all right,

“to restore goodwill, not by talking the problem out,

but by showing concern about the wounded person’s

well-being.” Forget it, I think, even though I know

if I’m not nice, tampo can quickly escalate into nagdadabog

foot stomping, grumbling, the slamming

of doors. Instead of talking to my husband, I storm off

to talk to my porcelain Kwan Yin,

the Chinese goddess of mercy

that I bought on Canal Street years before

my husband and I started dating.

“The real Kwan Yin is in Manila,”

he tells me. “She’s called Nuestra Señora de Guia.

Her Asian features prove Christianity

was in the Philippines before the Spanish arrived.”

My husband’s telling me this

tells me he’s sorry. Kwan Yin seems to wink,

congratulating me–my short prayer worked.

“Will you love me forever?” I ask,

then study his lips, wondering if I’ll be able to decipher

what he means by his yes.