Thinking inside the box For a soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, one of the most harrowing places in America may well be a chain hardware store. As poet and Iraq War Veteran Brian Turner writes in “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center,” the clangor of the building-goods store becomes a trigger for reliving war traumas, mingling box-store commerce with battlefield bloodshed. 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.
Turner has become a crack chronicler of shell shock, using poetry to map every misfiring synapse and PTSD-related mood swing that might cause a returned soldier to hear the crack of artillery somewhere between the self-propelled mowers and the ceiling fans in aisle 15. His two books of poetry, 2005’s Here, Bullet and 2010’s Phantom Noise, have won accolades from The New York Times and The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award and the 2006 PEN Center USA “Best of the West” award. The poet served seven years in the U.S. Army, where he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and also served one year as an infantry team leader of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Iraq.
Turner comes to Santa Fe for a stint as poet in residence at the Institute for American Indian Arts. On Thursday, Feb. 24, he gives a reading at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Lifelong Learning Center at IAIA (83 Avan Nu Po Road). The reading is free and open to the public. For information, call 424-2365.