90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Poet Of The Iraq War Reflects On Its End

Poet Brian Turner. (Kimberly Buchheit)

By: Alex Ashlock

Earlier this year, Brian Turner went back to Baghdad as an Army veteran who also happens to be a writer. Turner served as an infantry team leader with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat team in 2003 and 2004, an experience that informs his award-winning book of poetry “Here, Bullet.”

Iraq also features in his latest book, “Phantom Noise.” He believes  now that the war is officially over, there needs to be a new dialogue between the two countries, especially between U.S. vets and Iraqi artists.

“I was able to meet some Iraqi poets and painters, and they’re sort of waiting,” Turner told Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “They see the guns and the tanks and helicopters come, and they’re wondering where is another part of the conversation, more of a dialogue in art, that kind of constructive conversation. So if anybody is interested in that, I would encourage them to not sit by the sidelines and not get involved. They’re waiting for us.”

The War’s End

On the end of the war, Turner says that it was being forgotten even as the U.S. was still fighting there. After he came home from Iraq, he was teaching at a community college in 2005 and he said he asked the students there, “When was the last time the U.S. fought a war against the Iraqis?” And there was silence. “It makes we wonder how much attention we pay to the things we do in the world,” he said. “And that’s our job– to create a conversation, and I’m trying to do it my own form, so we preserve our memories and pass them on, so sand doesn’t wash over.”

The reference to sand washing over comes from his poem, “To Sand.”

Turner read us more of his poetry in 2009, you can read excerpts here but we wanted to re-post a poem called “Eulogy.”

Eulogy

It happens on a Monday, at 11:20 a.m.,
as tower guards eat sandwiches
and seagulls drift by on the Tigris River.
Prisoners tilt their heads to the west
though burlap sacks and duct tape 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:
the 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 in static confusion,
because if only for this moment the earth is stilled,
and Private Miller has found what low hush there is
down in the eucalyptus shade, there by the river.

PFC B. Miller
(1980 – March 22, 2003)

(From “Here, Bullet.” Copyright ©2005 by Brian Turner. Reprinted with the permission of Alice James Books.)

Guest:

  • Brian Turner, poet and veteran

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

We now have a digital bookshelf! Explore all our books coverage or browse by genre.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

January 28 14 Comments

Zillow And ‘The New Rules Of Real Estate’

The CEO and chief economist of the groundbreaking real estate website explain how the rules have changed.

January 27 113 Comments

Nun Hopes For More Gender Equality In The Church

Sister Joan Chittister describes how the Vatican's tone toward nuns has changed and shares her hopes for the Catholic church.

January 26 4 Comments

Limitations Of Winter Freeze Inspire Maine Chef

The food at Vinland in downtown Portland is 100 percent locally sourced, even in the dead of winter.

January 26 Comment

Mayors Examine Community Policing

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has new recommendations on community policing, in the wake of Ferguson.