Brian Turner reads his Iraq War poems



here bullet if a body is what you want then here is bone and gristle and flesh here is the clavicle snapped wish the orders open valves the leap thought makes that the synaptic gap here is the adrenaline rush you crave at an exabyte 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's what I moan the barrels cold esophagus triggering my tongues explosives for the rifling I have inside of me each twist of the round spun deeper because here bullet here's where the world ends everytime aljalja he rewrote I see a horizon lit with blood and many a starless night a generation comes and another goes and the fire keeps burning highway 1 it begins with the highway of death with an untold number of ghosts wandering the road at night searching for the way home to Najaf Kirkuk Mosul and Connie al-assad it begins here with a shuffling of feet on the long road north this is the spice road of old the caravan trail of camel dust and heat where Egyptian limes and so tiny lemon suede and crates strapped down by leather where merchants traded privet flowers and musk aloes honey combs and silk brought from the Orient past Marsh Arabs in the afraid ease wheel pests wild camels and waving children a marvel at the painted guns the convoy pushes on past the ruins of Babylon and Sumer through the land of Gilgamesh where the minarets sound the museum's prayer resonant and deep cranes roost atop power lines and enormous bowl shaped nests of sticks and twigs and when a sergeant shoots one from the highway it pauses as if amazed the death is founded here at 7:00 a.m. on such a beautiful morning before pitching over the side and falling and a slow unraveling of feathers and wings eulogy it happens on a Monday at 11:20 a.m. as tower regards eat sandwiches and seagulls drift by on the Tigris River prisoners tilt their heads to the west though burlap sacks and duct tape and blind them the sound reverberates down concertina coils the way piano wire thrums when given slack and it happens like this on a blue day of Sun when private Miller pulls the trigger to take brass and fire into his mouth sound lifts the birds up off the water a mongoose pauses under the orange trees and nothing can stop it now no matter what blur of motion surrounds him no matter what voices crackle over the radio and static confusion because if only for this moment the earth is stilled and private Miller is found what lo hush there is down and eucalyptus shade there by the water this poem was written not too long after there was an explosion that took place near a police head like headquarters in Missoula northern part of Iraq I ended up my squad we ran through the rubble of this event and set up security on the far side it's called 16 Iraqi policemen the explosion left a hole in the road bed large enough to fit a mid-sized car it shattered concrete twisted metal busted storefront windows and sheets and lifted a BMW chassis up onto a rooftop the shocking blood of the men forms an obscene art a mustache alone on a sidewalk a blistered hands gold ring still shining while a medic Doc Lopez pauses to catch his breath to blow it out hard so he might cup the left side of a girl's face in one hand gently before bandaging the half gone missing Allah must wander in the crowd as I do dazed by the pure concussion of the blast among sirens voices of the injured the boots of running soldiers not knowing whom to touch first for the dead policeman cannot be found here a moment before then vanished okay the inventory from a year lives sleeping with bullets rifle oil check smoke grenades check desert boots check plates of body armor check the list ongoing combat patrols added five paragraph hop orders mission briefs night spent staring for heat signatures to the white-hot lens lasers bore sighted to the barrels they guide the conceptual and physical given parallel structure a dead infant a night crushed car a farmer slumped of a Toyota steering wheel near an army checkpoint a distraught relative staring beyond pieces of brain on the dashboard the refusal to render aid the fresh dark soil over the bodies the boredom minutes the hours days weeks months the moments unbound by times Dominion the years after torture fragments a man pissing on the Koran a man at a rifle range firing a bullet a bullet carrying the middle of vowel of the word inshallah a combat load of ammunition third squad 1st platoon Black Horse company the faces ones I hated and the ones I loved even those I don't remember and all who don't remember me contact three o'clock 50 meters talk the guns and Seattle at night rain drizzling down first weekend home from war sergeant Gould sucking a woman's nipple in the cuddle room at the rave party glowsticks and their mouths language I don't recognize a man in an energizer bunny suit on rollerskates bass pounding the camouflage of tireless eternal Easter followed by a brunette and black leather bustier thigh-high wet leather PVC boots her eyes the dark carbon from the barrels chamber as she pulls a leashed man by the throat these people my people put it all in the rucksack throw the rucksack on your back and call it your house do a combo check with anyone out there in the bush listening do a comic back home get your shit on straight stay alert and stay alive drink water and conduct your PC eyes we've reached the line of departure so lock and load man from here on out we're on radio silence at Lowe's Home Improvement Center standing in aisle 16 the hammer and Anchor I'll bust a 50 pound box of double-headed nails open by accident they're oily bright shanks and diamond points like firing pins from m4s and m16s in a steady stream they pour under the tile floor constant as shells falling south of Baghdad last night where Bosh kneeled into the chain guns of helicopters stationed above their tracer fire a synaptic geometry of light at dawn when the shelling finally stops hundreds of bandages will not be enough Bosh is walking down aisle 16 now in full combat gear improbable worn out from fatigue a rifle slung at his side his left hand guiding the ten-year-old boy who has seen what war is and will never rid it from his head here boss says take care of him I'm going back in for more sheets of plywood drop with the airy breath in the moment the mortars crack open and shrapnel mower blades are just mower blades and the troy bilt self-propelled mower doesn't resemble a black hawk or an Apache in fact no one seems to notice the casualty collection center Daka is marking out and ceiling fans aisle 15 wounded Iraqis with IVs sit propped against boxes as 92 sample Paradiso fans hover in a slow revolution of blades the forklift driver / adjusts swinging the tines and uh they slice open gallons and gallons of paint Sienna dust and lemon sorbet and ships Harbor blue pulling in the Isle where sergeant ramp Lee walks through carrying someone's blown off arm cradled like an infant handing it to me saying hold this Turner we might find who it belongs to cash registers open and slide shut with the sound of machine guns being charged dead soldiers are laid out at the registers on the black conveyer belts and people in mine still reach for their wallets should I stand at the magazine rack reading landscaping with stone or the complete home-improvement repair book what difference does it make if I choose tumbled travertine tile vada Chino marble or black absolute granite outside palm trees line the asphalt boulevards restaurant school their patrons who will enjoy fireworks exploding over Bass Lake in July but inside aisle number seven is a corridor of lights each dead Iraqi walks amazed by Tiffany posts and bavarian poll lights motion activated incandescent switch on as they pass by reverent sentinels of light welcoming them to Lowe's Home Improvement Center aisle number 7 where I stand in new choc someone's arm cradled in my own the Iraqi boy beside me reaches down to slide his fingertip in retro colonial blue an interior latex before riding t4 tourniquet on my forehead you

3 Comments

  • holly

    April 15, 2019

    I had the pleasure of hearing him read at University of Houston-Downtown 7 years ago.

    Reply
  • herr direktor

    April 15, 2019

    poetry of the opressors

    Reply
  • 87swoosh

    April 15, 2019

    wow that last one gave me CHILLS!

    Reply

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