I haven’t had a lot of time for reading these days, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to take part in the National Poetry Month Blog Tour, especially since Serena does so much to encourage people to try poetry. I’m glad I chose one of the books I borrowed from her for the War Through the Generations challenge, and while I finished it in one sitting, I definitely could see myself returning to this book to dig deeper into the poems.
Here, Bullet is a slim collection of poems by Iraq war veteran Brian Turner. I haven’t read much about the wars in Iraq, but as Turner indicates in the poem “Gilgamesh, in a Fossil Relief,” history tends to repeat itself when it comes to war. This makes one contemplate the continued relevance of old war stories and question why history is constantly allowed to repeat itself.
History is a cloudy mirror made of dirt
and bone and ruin. And love? Loss?
These are the questions we must answer
by war and famine and pestilence, and again
by touch and kiss, because each age must learn
This is the path of the sun’s journey by night. (page 53)
Turner’s poems focus on the brutality of war and the beauty of it as well, from his use of color to create beauty out of a horrific, fatal wound in “AB Negative (The Surgeon’s Poem)” to the painful imagery of knives and teeth in “The Hurt Locker.” The poems touch upon the chaos and confusion of war, how it turns things upside down for people, of course, but even for animals, as shown in “The Baghdad Zoo.” There are recurring themes of dreams and light within these pages, and even more sensual poems, like “Where the Telemetries End,” that focus on love as an escape from the war raging in the background.
I found myself taking note of numerous lines throughout the book, but I was most struck with the vivid imagery in “2000 lbs,” which describes the moments before and after a bomb explodes in a market in Mosul. Turner shows how everything is normal one minute, then utter chaos in the next, from the points of view of soldiers, civilians, the suicide bomber, and even the dead. It’s almost as if you can hear and feel everything going on in the market, which is difficult to pull off in a poem.
…he still loves her,
remembers her standing at the canebreak
where the buffalo cooled shoulder-deep in the water,
pleased with the orange cups of flowers he brought her,
and he regrets how so much can go wrong in a life,
how easily the years slip by, light as grain, bright
as the street’s concussion of metal, shrapnel
traveling at the speed of sound to open him up
in blood and shock, a man whose last thoughts
are of love and wreckage, with no one there
to whisper him gone. (page 42)
Here, Bullet is a collection of narrative poems that bring to life the different experiences of wartime, from the shock of bombs exploding in crowded markets to the challenge of navigating war in a strange land. With images that both enlighten and haunt, Here, Bullet ensures readers will know and remember what happened.
Disclosure: I borrowed Here, Bullet from a friend.
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