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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Soldier-Turned-Poet Returns To Baghdad

On a bridge over the Tigris a man feeds gulls at dawn as water taxis await the morning's first passengers. (Lynsey Addario/National Geographic, from the July 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands June 28.)

On a bridge over the Tigris a man feeds gulls at dawn as water taxis await the morning's first passengers. (Lynsey Addario/National Geographic, from the July 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands June 28.)

Here & Now Guest:

  • Brian Turner, poet and former soldier, author of “Here, Bullet

For Brian Turner, the war in Iraq ended seven years ago, but that experience lives on in his award-winning poetry.

Turner served with an infantry unit that protected supply convoys in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004, but he recently returned to Baghdad for a story that appears in the July issue of National Geographic.

Turner told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the experience was nerve-wracking and did not provide much closure.

“I’m starting to believe it is not really possible to come home completely,” he said. “I’m not sure other soldiers would agree, but there is a feeling we live in two countries and I have to find some way for those two to co-exist.”

He says for much of his visit, he felt on edge.

“I think I reverted back to my days of patrolling the streets,” he said. “As you are walking forward, you turn in a slow spin so you can see what’s behind you and what’s happening around you. I realized that was a bad idea, because I looked like a soldier and I tried to force myself to stop, but it’s difficult.”

Saddam Hussein may be gone now but Turner found Iraqis who wished he was still alive because as one of them said, “at least we knew what to expect.”

Turner says that there is terrible poverty and shortages of water and electricity, he also found that Baghdad is more sectarian today.

“The city is so walled off. There are so many checkpoints and life is sort of put on hold. You can’t drive down the road without stopping and stopping and  being checked and searched. It seem like Baghdad is on pause and it’s waiting regain its life.”

Photos

Article by Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock


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