I was super-pleased last fall to see that Bloodaxe published a UK edition of Here, Bullet, a collection of poems by Brian Turner, about his experiences in the current (*obligatory liberal grumblings*) war in Iraq. War poems are a funny one for me–it’s one of those subjects where as soon as I hear “oh, a poem about war,” I get a nebulous half-poem in my head made up of cliches from other war poems I’ve read–and, a lot of the time, that nebulous half-poem is what I get on the page. But sometimes a poet comes along and blows that out of the water–Bruce Weigl is another one of these for me, which reminds me to slap him up here sometime–and Turner’s another one. Here, Bullet is a collection I like in short spurts rather than a longhaul reading, because the subject is so focused I think it’s easier to lose perspective; if I read several in a row I start comparing them to each other, rather than thinking “fuck, that’s a good poem,” which is clearly what I should be doing. Observe:
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, 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 is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.
I mean, fuck, that’s a good poem.
Also! If you were a diligent reader and went to Turner’s Wikipage, you will notice he’s from Fresno, that fair boil on the face of California that I know, and love, and returned from about two weeks ago. I have a morbid fascination with poets from Fresno, mostly because I’m in awe of anyone who manages to be arty in the place and not get shot. (I am, mostly, kidding.) I suppose the fact that Turner brings his own firepower probably bought him a bit of protection, but that’s an inappropriate joke for another time.