The Witch’s Bookshelf: Phantom Noise by Brian Turner
Standing in aisle 16, the hammer and anchor aisle,
I bust a 50 pound box of double-headed nails
open by accident, their oily bright shanks
and diamond points like firing pins
from M-4s and M-16s.
In a steady stream
they pour onto the tile floor, constant as shells
falling south of Baghdad last night, where Bosch
kneeled under the chain guns of helicopters
stationed above, their tracer-fire a synaptic geometry
At dawn, when the shelling stops,
hundreds of bandages will not be enough.
–“At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center”(excerpt), From Phantom Noise by Brian Turner
Phantom noise is Brian Turner’s second book of poetry. You can read my review of his first book (titled ‘Here, Bullet‘) here.
If ‘Here, Bullet’ was a portrait of a soldier enwrapt in war, ‘Phantom Noise’ is one of the battle to disentangle ones self from war. In another words, it is a completely different book, something I always view as a bonus (no one wants to read the same thing over, and over again). At the same time it manages to retain his unique voice.
That being said, I found it a little difficult at first to adjust to the change, maybe it was because the center of the first poem throws you abruptly into his love life, something very distant and undealt with. Or perhaps it is because his first book was so stunningly beautiful that it made this one feel a little cold. The feeling didn’t last, as this book quickly gave me reasons to admire it in its own right. In fact the cold distance communicated the atmosphere change well.
There is a great deal of new ground covered in this book really, with some poems that are intensely political (‘Sleeping in Dick Cheney’s Bed’), and others that read as almost memoir/childhood summations (‘Homemade Napalm’, ‘Lucky Money’). The majority though stand as a monument to the ghosts that soldiers bring back from war, the scars that never really heal over.
I honestly hope you’ll check out this book, buy it if you like it, it’s worth every cent, just like the first one. At this point I might as well sign up for the life time fan club right?
Have you read any good books of poetry written by soldiers? Feel free to give me suggestions below!