Alice James Books, 2005. 80 pages.
As that of a soldier in Iraq, much of Turner’s poetry carries a surrealism, perhaps best captured in his own words:
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 policemen cannot be found, here a moment before, then vanished.
(from 16 Iraqi Policemen, p. 30)
Writing from the heart of war he does not often convey the frenetic urgency of conflict but rather muses on brutality and tragedy with an almost disturbing calmness.
Aside from reasons of style, the tone is largely set by Turner’s choice of subjects. He does not linger on direct combat, as in a gun battle. Rather he focuses on the breaking of peace by a marketplace bombing, the aftermath of violence in the casket of a soldier. He watches birds over the Tigris and a woman on a rooftop, and eulogizes a young soldier who took his own life. He meditates on Islam, practical Arabic and the Iraq of ages past. Fire rips through places of beauty and in stillness the roads are lined with body bags.
Not all of Turner’s poems are good, qua poetry. But as a soldier’s voice striving to in some way convey a sense of life in a different world altogether, his work is necessary for people like me, who will likely never see war as he has.
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 finished 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.