“Here, Bullet” by Brian Turner

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Here, Bullet is

a poignant poem about war and its deadly consequences.  Here, Bullet is the signature poem that also serves as the title of Brian Turner’s book of poems.  

The book is based on Turner’s first-person account of his experiences in war-torn Iraq where he serves as an infantry team leader.  Turner provides a vivid poetry of witness on the realities of living and more particularly, fighting in Iraq.

As one reads the poems, one gets the feeling that the poet is expressing neither pain nor anger.  Rather, there is a growing awareness that the words are meant to tug at one’s heartstrings. That beyond the gruesome realities of war in Iraq, the loss, confusion and  emptiness it causes are the far more difficult battle to deal with.

Turner provides a face to what is otherwise mere statistics and impersonal, distant and cleverly-manipulated accounts of the Iraq war.  With Turner’s poems, we come to see soldiers as real people capable of feelings.  We empathize with the soldier’s plight. We also come to realize that we are neither different nor better than those in Iraq – be it soldiers or locals.

Brian Turner’s poems reflect his experiences and express them with the eloquence and sensitivity of a man deeply affected by what he witnessed.  He deplores violence and acknowledges the grief war causes.  In the poem Eulogy, Turner attempts to remember a soldier in his platoon who committed suicide.  This drastic measure is one of the unfortunate consequences of the war.

The damage the war brought to the human body is a recurring theme in Turner’s poems.  This is evident in “AB Negative (The Surgeon’s Poem),” where a surgeon fights back the tears as he realizes that he is unable to save the life of a young woman from Mississippi. The poem “2,000 lbs,” the collection’s longest poem, paints a vivid picture on the immediate aftermath of a car bomb in Ashur Square, Mosul.

“Night in Blue” poses an interesting question to readers ‘did Iraq provide him an understanding of hardship and loss?’ When asked, Turner himself is unsure of how to react.  It prompts him to explain further, “I never had to deal with pain like the woman who had to bury a child, never had a spouse taken away in the middle of the night, never lost hands or legs. I didn’t come back to America damaged. I didn’t feel as damaged as other people in Iraq.”

Here, Bullet is poetry of witness that presents harsh realities in war and its undesirable impact. Turner’s honesty and skill in depicting his battle experiences brings us up close and personal with the Iraqi war. Due to that, Turner’s poems deserve a special place in literature for its bravery and uniqueness.  This makes Here, Bullet a must-read for anyone who cares about the damages and consequences of war.

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