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POTD - The Memory of Elena by Carolyn Forché

POTD - The Memory of Elena by Carolyn Forché

The Memory of Elena

by Carolyn Forché

We spend our morning
in the flower stalls counting
the dark tongues of bells
that hang from ropes waiting 
for the silence of an hour.
We find a table, ask for paella,
cold soup and wine, where a calm 
light trembles years behind us.

In Buenos Aires 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.

From The Country Between Us

Often people speak of the poetry of witness when they talk about Forché's work, and certainly the subject matter of this poem makes it clear why they do. But to my mind, it's the impact of the experience and emotions, suffused into the world at large that Forché calls onto stage at just the right moment that is her strength.

2 - Lost Rivers: The Documentary

3 - Ten Rupees: Portraits from India