Thursday, October 30, 2014

Acclimated to Death

I chose this poem because it was one of the very first things I ever read in a college course and since this is one of that last college courses before my first degree I thought it's would be interesting to analyze a piece of writing I read and analyzed about 4 years ago. (Geesh this took far to long to graduate) The first time I read this I remember loving the set up, and I still do. The poet isn't simply reciting a poem, they're telling a story, giving the facts. There's very little embellishment. Similar to a news article. At first you're given the facts, the who, what, when, and where and then comes the why. The image of the house is frightening, "broken bottles were imbedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace" (Forche 3725) this image is terrifying, and really places you into the story. In understanding what kind of fortress they are in. When the poet describes her friends reaction to her having been asked how she enjoyed El Salvador you can picture their face. Hoping that she'll have the right response, that they won't offend their host in this den of horror. The ears are of course the most gruesome of all the images, that poet wants us to really understand this part, to understand the symbolism behind the ears and how important it is. The ear in the glass of water "coming alive" (Forche 3725), the ears that fall to the floor, some hearing the colonel's words while others are pressed against the floor unable to hear. These ears belonged to someone, multiple someones, this is the most gruesome image of this poems, the gun on the couch and then gratings on the windows paled in comparison. It's funny to me how the Colonel and his family though seem so accustomed to this, the daughter is not distraught, she's not filled with unnerved angst, she's painting her nails calmly. One of my favorite and most relaxing of all past times, it requires patience and a steady hand, not something you can do under stress. They were living the high life, for dinner they had lamb, even the bell for calling their maid was made of gold. This fortress was truly their home, and ears and all they were comfortable in it. I think that image might even be slightly more disturbing than the ears laying on the floor. The fact that they are raising children in this environment and that the kids are completely acclimated to it. There are ears on the table and yet there is not a distress in the house. No one is bothered besides the guests, it's astonishing. The first time I read this I didn't really pick up on the family as much, I mostly focused on the ears, the discretion, the way at first they are described as inhuman, peach halves but once dropped in water they are not only alive but now they're listening. But they aren't the only ones listening, his family is listening, his wife and daughter, his son out for the night but whom I'm sure has heard this spiel over and over. I guess that's most shocking of all, is this family. They are so consumed by their father's ideals. So poisoned by rhetoric, so numb to violence that their home, their father's temper, and human body parts on the floor doesn't phase them. 

How can children brought up in a home like that possibly ever feel empathy? How could you not live in constant fear when your house is a death trap, telling you at all times you are in danger and people want you dead? How can they be so calm? And how can the son even feel safe enough to go out for the night having a sadistic father who obviously has earned numerous enemies? 

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