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.
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.
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.