The Generals of South America
Why is it that when I look at the dictators of South America
I see my grandfather, “El Turco” as they called him,
brown paper-bag skin, teeth and mouth ready to smile.
I see these generals of Chile or Argentina or Cuba, and in Fidel
I see my father, an old world Jew, black bearded, thin-faced,
ready for prayers, for oaths, for Sunday lunch with wine.
These are pictures of men I know. On CNN they tell me
about their dirty wars, their missions of disappearing
thousands, using electricity and hoods and dark vans
in the middle of the night, the tentacles of power covering
a whole nation in the darkness of what happens after a coup.
I have read about mangled bodies, blood and vomit on metal
slabs, priests giving benedictions for death squads, for infants
wrestled out of mothers’ bodies, stolen and given to señoras
with manicured lawns, pressed pastel suits, and rose gardens.
But I look at these pictures of the generals of South America
and see men I know and love and miss in death. And I wonder
about the daughters, the ones who sit in courtrooms now, and
listen to their fathers’ lives of torture and midnight shootings
and electricity in the soft blue places of the body, and I wonder
if they see their fathers still in those faces.
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