Wednesday, June 2, 2010

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Last night was the end of my six-week class with Meera Nair. It was excellent. We did a writing exercise at the end and picked four words from different categories - Who, What, Where, Why. The results were interesting for me. I wrote about a demented guy who practically beats his father to death. Crazy. I read it to the class and they said it was so disturbing that they thought I had to tone it down some. I shrugged and said it was a writing exercise and we didn't have time to edit so I couldn't. I'd like to work on it. Though not sure yet how much I'll tone it down.

Anyway, one of the other girls in class read hers - about a dictator who is usurped by a clown. It sounded like something I would do. Meera said it reminded her of a poem by Carolyn Forche called The Colonel.

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

Then we went out for pizza and everyone turned from literature to politics. I mostly kept my mouth shut because I didn't agree with a lot of what was being said. Then the discussion turned to China and I couldn't help myself. I opened my mouth and started talking. All in all, I loved this workshop with Meera and I would do it again.

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