Carolyn Forche’s “The Colonel”
In the poem “The Colonel,” Carolyn Forche recounts a cruel encounter with the titles main character of interest while working for Amnesty International in El Salvador. The colonel personality can best be summed as a remorseless man in a chaotic country where violence is customary to the colonel and his people. He also cares not for the civil liberties of the citizens of El Salvador that he governs or the fact that he is revealing his evil personality to Forche with no compunction. The theme for “The Colonel” could be that if people see that wrong is being done in their presence they should try their best to give those a voice that don’t have one.
The poem begins with Forche narrating saying, “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” (1-2). The colonel’s family is seemingly normal and the setting of the encounter is very homey and domestic. No one would ever suspect a killer lived in the very same house Forche is visiting. However, this scene begins to change after the first and second lines and then the reader begins to see that the speaker is trying to foreshadowing some sort of evil is about to take place. For instance, in line three the speaker talks about the colonel” keeping a pistol next to him on a cushion”. This should give the reader an indication of something not being right or that the colonel must protect himself at all times for he is a very wanted man of his people. Furthermore, in lines 4-5 Forche then speaks of broken bottles embedded in the walls around and what they could be used for (i.e. to scoop the man’s kneecaps from his legs or cut his hands to lace). Also in line 6, “On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores.” This indicates that maybe the colonel has some enemies and that he is trying to keep them out of his home. After line