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Themes

Who's the macho man? Even before the first line of "The Colonel," you know you're dealing with not just a colonel, but the colonel, a man of power. Alongside the speaker, you enter the lair of a military ruler who has position, money, and rank, and who is not afraid to use them. He's got a gun on a pillow, a wall that can shred a man's kneecaps, and a maid he calls with a gold bell. The colonel's used to giving orders, and having people obey.

Questions About Power

  1. What do you make of the statement, "There was some talk about how difficult it had become to govern"? What might that mean? How does it fit with the rest of the poem? 
  2. Is the colonel's power in question or threatened in any way? How do you know?
  3. What's the rank in terms of power (think of all the different kinds) of all the people mentioned in this poem from lowest to highest? What reasons might you have to rank the way you do?
  4. In what ways might poetry be an antidote to power?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

It may sound funny to some, but the ears of this poem are the final heroes.

Sure, the colonel is a creep now, but power corrupts even those who might start out with good intentions.

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