"Here is poetry of courage and passion, which manages to be tender and achingly sensual and what is often called 'political' at the same time. This is a major new voice." -- Margaret Atwood The Country Between Us opens with a series of poems about El Salvador, where Carolyn Forché worked as a journalist and was closely involved with the political struggle in that tortured country in the late 1970's. Forché's other poems also tend to be personal, immediate, and moving. Perhaps the final effect of her poetry is the image of a sensitive, brave, and engaged young woman who has made her life a journey. She has already traveled to many places, as these poems indicate, but beyond that is the sense of someone who is, in Ignazio Silone's words, coming from far and going far.
Elena was a friend of Forche whose husband was a journalist who was critical of the government. One evening as the couple came home from a dinner celebrating their wedding anniversary there were government troops waiting for them to gun them down. She was wounded in the mouth and her husband was killed. Elena was scheduled to be executed but there were so many street demonstrations supporting her that she was allowed to go into exile..
IN MEMORY OF ELENA
We spend our morning
in the flower stalls counting
the dark tongues of bells
that hang from ropes waiting
for the silence of the hour.
We find a table, ask for paella,
cold soup and wine, where a calm
light trembles years behind us.
In Buenos Aries only three
years ago, it was the last time his hand
slipped into her dress, with pearls
cooling her throat and bells like
these, chipping at the night—
As she talks, the hollow
clopping of a horse, the sound
of bones touched together.
The paella comes, a bed of rice
and camarones, fingers and shells,
the lips of those whose lips
have been removed, mussels
the soft blue of a leg socket.
This is not paella, this is what
has become of those who remained
In Buenos Aires. This is the ring
of a rifle report on the stones,
her hand over her mouth,
her husband falling against her.
These are the flowers we bought
this morning, the dahlias tossed
on his grave and bells
waiting with their tongues cut out
for this particular silence.