2014 Reading Selection
About Here, Bullet
by Brian Turner (2005, Poetry)
A harrowing, beautiful first-person account of the Iraq War by a soldier-poet. Adding his voice to the current debate about the US occupation of Iraq, in poems written in the tradition of such poets as Wilfred Owen, Yusef Komunyakaa (Dien Cai Dau), Bruce Weigl (Song of Napalm), and Doug Anderson (The Moon Reflected Fire).
Iraq war veteran Brian Turner writes powerfully affecting poetry of witness, exceptional for its beauty, honesty, and skill.
Based upon Turner's year-long tour in Iraq as an infantry team leader, the poems offer gracefully-rendered, unflinching description but, remarkably, leave the reader to draw conclusions or moral lessons.
Here, Bullet is a must-read for anyone who cares about the war, regardless of political affiliation.
Praise for Here, Bullet
- "[I]n sharp, straightforward, yet lyrical language, Turner exposes the many costs of war."
- "The day of the first moonwalk, my father's college literature professor told his class, 'Someday they'll send a poet, and we'll find out what it's really like.' Turner has sent back a dispatch from a place arguably more incomprehensible than the moon—the war in Iraq—and deserves our thanks…"
—New York Times Book Review
- "[Turner] is a writer who is less warrior than observer, someone whose curiosity, knowledge and tenderness allow insight into landscapes and people that terrify the rest of us…Turner shows us soldiers who are invincible and wounded, a nation noble and culpable, and a war by turns necessary and abominable."
—The Washington Post
Poems from Here, Bullet
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you've started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel's cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue's explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time
—from Here, Bullet
The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulful call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.
—from Here, Bullet