by Rita Dove
The recurrence, in the second part of the piece, of Trujillo's dead mother is one of the stranger and more unexpected images in the poem. Clearly, the dictator hasn't quite gotten over his mother's death. And we can't fault him for that, but the way in which he chooses to deal with it showcases both his psychopathic personality and the power of family and love. All at the same time. Also, it brings in a whole familial history – one that maybe Dove made up, but we'll go with it – that gives Trujillo a human past, and complicates him as a character. The ways in which he relates to his mother, and remembers her, tell us as much about him as the genocide he orders, in a lot of ways.
- Lines 23-24: In the beginning of the second part of the poem, Trujillo's mother gets introduced as a character. We learn that she died during the autumn (probably the autumn before the poem takes place), and that Trujillo buried her walking cane with her.
- Lines 37-38: Now we get a little more detail about his mother's death. The imagery is poignant here – she collapses in the kitchen while making skull-shaped candies for the Day of the Dead. Not a coincidence, we don't think. (Not that the candies caused her death, but that all this death goes together in the poem.)
- Lines 52-53: This is a rather creepy image. The poem uses one of the lines from the first part and repeats it, thus comparing his mother's smile to the "teeth gnawed to arrowheads" of the Haitian children in the cane fields. It's rumored that Trujillo's mother was half-Haitian. Significant? We think so.
- Lines 58-59: Perhaps disavowing his mother's heritage, Trujillo reiterates that his mom was "like a queen," and spoke perfectly.
- Line 65: This isn't the mother, exactly, so much as it's a voice that's just like the mother's. It causes Trujillo to shed a tear, which probably only makes him angrier (evil men do not like to be vulnerable in this way, we don't think).