done by: Jayda Isaac

Carolyn Forche was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950,
She is an American poet, editor, translator, and human rights advocate. Her writing gives voice to the silenced and the oppressed and serves as a reminder of historical atrocities. She has received many bawards including The Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada Award, and The James Laughlin Award, for her literary work. She is now Director of the Lannan Center for Poetry and Poetics and holds the Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The Colonel
Salvadorian War

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 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 them-
selves. 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” is narrated by Forché in the first person. This prose poem is the most interesting of them all. Forche tells a real life story, full of imagery. I feel as if I'm in the room with her- experiencing this terror. At first the family She experiences the horror of being questioned and tortured visually and mentally. The most gruesome part of this poem is when the colonel dumped a bag of human ears in front of her and threatened her. This man believed that Forche was some sort of spy for her people (U.S). I do not blame him at all though, because they faced the terrible Salvadorian War not long before Forche arrived. The country was torn apart, and Forche was not like them, and told them that it was for a poem that she was writing. This poem brings you into the room, sitting at the table with the green mangoes and bread, overhearing the cop show in English playing in the background. It almost makes you wish you weren't there, but wait- you're not. This gives you a taste of the civil war without the boring online, or textbook history of it. Not only that, but it speaks a loud message about the many people that are missing in this world today, and what they may go through traveling these different countries. Carolyn Forche Is a very visual writer, many of her works are full of poetic imagery. This work in particular gives us a warm, family, comforting feel at first, but then reveals a very different, terrible, but realistic, viewpoint on what she went through.

The Garden Shukkei-En
By way of a vanished bridge we cross this river as a cloud of lifted snow would ascend a mountain.
She has always been afraid to come here.
It is the river she most remembers, the living and the dead both crying for help.
A world that allowed neither tears nor lamentation.
The matsu trees brush her hair as she passes beneath them, as do the shining strands of barbed wire.
Where this lake is, there was a lake, where these black pine grow, there grew black pine.
Where there is no teahouse I see a wooden teahouse and the corpses of those who slept in it.
On the opposite bank of the Ota, a weeping willow etches its memory of their faces into the water.
Where light touches the face, the character for heart is written.
She strokes a burnt trunk wrapped in straw: I was weak and my skin hung from my fingertips like cloth
Do you think for a moment we were human beings to them?
She comes to the stone angel holding paper cranes. Not an angel, but a woman where she once had been, who walks through the garden Shukkei-en calling the carp to the surface by clapping her hands.
Do Americans think of us?
So she began as we squatted over the toilets: If you want, I'll tell you, but nothing I say will be enough.
We tried to dress our burns with vegetable oil.
Her hair is the white froth of rice rising up kettlesides, her mind also. In the postwar years she thought deeply about how to live.
The common greeting dozo-yiroshku is please take care of me. All hibakusha still alive were children then.
A cemetery seen from the air is a child's city.
I don't like this particular red flower because it reminds me of a woman's brain crushed under a roof.
Perhaps my language is too precise, and therefore difficult to understand?
We have not, all these years, felt what you call happiness. But at times, with good fortune, we experience something close. As our life resembles life, and this garden the garden. And in the silence surrounding what happened to us
it is the bell to awaken God that we've heard ringing.

Carolyn Forché

The Garden Shukkei-En is symbolic in the name itslef, Shukkei-en is a historic Japanese garden in the city of Hiroshima, Japan. "Shukkei-en" means "the Garden of Condensed Scenic Beauty." This poem, like the previous one is also filled with poetic imagery and is very descriptive. It is based off of a women's experience surviving the bombing of Hiroshima. The most significant part to me is when she says "Do Americans think of us?" because she starts questioning if the Americans even took the innocent people into consideration. She goes on to describe the reason why important symbols such as the red flower, and the garden, take her back to the experience she endure and how it has shaped her life. In lines 9–16 the poem switches and is spoken in the voice of the Japanese survivor, who is recalling what used to be in the garden and comparing it to what she sees now. She is so consumed with the past that she hallucinates a teahouse that is no longer in the garden and in it the victims of the bombing. It is sad that the survivors will never get to live a normal life again. This poem touched my heart because it was a first hand viewpoint of the bombing rather than the history I read in textbooks.

h gbggf grandma.png
The Morning Baking
1Grandma, come back, I forgot
2How much lard for these rolls

3Think you can put yourself in the ground
4Like plain potatoes and grow in Ohio?
5I am damn sick of getting fat like you

6Think you can lie through your Slovak?
7Tell filthy stories about the blood sausage?
8Pish-pish nights at the virgin in Detroit?

9I blame your raising me up for my Slav tongue
10You beat me up out back, taught me to dance

11I'll tell you I don't remember any kind of bread
12Your wavy loaves of flesh
13Stink through my sleep
14The stars on your silk robes

15But I'm glad I'll look when I'm old
16Like a gypsy dusha hauling milk

I used this picture because in the movie "Tammy" her grandmother seems exactly like the grandmother in this poem that isn't the best, and is not as nice as most, but still has love for her granddaughter. This poem definitely was hard to understand at first, but as I re-read the poem I finally understood what Carolyn Forche was really saying through her words. The food, symbolizes family, and unity, it is a way of bringing us, as readers to the time period they are in where cooking, and eating together as a family was important and cherished.
Though It begins with a tone of reminiscing back to her and her grandmothers' past and it seems Forche clearly misses this relationship, The poem is predominantly negative. Carolyn does not speak highly of her grandmother in majority of the poem. just as line 9-7 bluntly suggests. The poem becomes a little unsettling when she talks about the disgust, abandonment, anger, sadness, and resentment she felt for her grandmother. But I love this poem because I can relate to it, with my grandfather, because the theme of the entire poem is a form of love hate. She longs for her grandmothers presence, and wishes she could speak with her again. At the end she's even saying that she hopes and knows shell be just like her grandmother. The structure of this poem is a free verse poem because it has no set structure and does not need to follow a rhyme scheme. It is filled with sarcasm and the author is free to speak her mind without any form of rhyming or pattern. This poem is very unique and nothing like the others she's written.

Citation: "The Morning Baking - Poem by Carolyn Forché." 13 Jan. 2003. Web. <>.


Taking Off My Clothes

I take off my shirt, I show you.
I shaved the hair out under my arms.
I roll up my pants, I scraped off the hair
on my legs with a knife, getting white.
My hair is the color of chopped maples.
My eyes dark as beans cooked in the south.
(Coal fields in the moon on torn-up hills)
Skin polished as a Ming bowl
showing its blood cracks, its age, I have hundreds
of names for the snow, for this, all of them quiet.
In the night I come to you and it seems a shame
to waste my deepest shudders on a wall of a man.
You recognize strangers,
think you lived through destruction.
You can’t explain this night, my face, your memory.
You want to know what I know?
Your own hands are lying.

This poem right off the back fills with imagery. "My hair is the color of chopped maples My eyes dark as beans cooked in the south." is an example but, each line in the entire poem does in fact, put your mind to work and give you a visual of each thing being said. The structure of this poem is also free verse because as in mainly all of Forche's poems she does not rhyme, she just writes with her creativity, feelings, and heart without the typical rhyme schemes. In line 6, (My eyes dark as beans cooked in the south.) this metaphor means there is not form of shine and brightness in her view. This is a poem that can be looked at through many different views depending on the person. Personally, I read this poem through a feminist lens. in every line suggests all the things that are socially acceptable for women. As in line 12, Forche is saying she will not spend her time on pleasing society, or in this case man. The tone of the poem is shameful and recognizes the back round of a women.

"Taking Off My Clothes- Poem by Carolyn Forché." Jan. 2015. Web. <>.