Frank chose to read Here, Bullet at the Beanrunner. Here was death, again, but not in the slow wasting of illness but in the adrenaline rush of the battlefield. The powerful, graphic poem drove us beyond the feeling of nervous into fear.
When I first heard the title I immediately thought of Bullet, The Wonder Dog who starred with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on the 1950’s TV show. The words “Here, Bullet,” could have been used then to offer the dog a treat for doing a hand-shake trick or uttered with hoarse urgency to lead him to his badly injured master pinned beneath a fallen tree. So, for me ” Here, Bullet,” was a trip back to my childhood sitting in front of the TV watching a thrilling plot unfold. I was too young then to realize that words mean different things as different times. Like for my childhood friend, Gregory. He lived next door and we often watched “The Roy Rogers Show” as well as “Lassie,” and “Fury,” together. All shows that included peril and rescue. A teenager, Gregory enlisted and went to Vietnam. It was a matter of family honor: his grandfather had manned a trench in WWI France and his father saw action during WWII as a sailor in the South Pacific. Gregory came home and told me he couldn’t get over what he had seen. The look in his eyes was a look I had never seen before. He committed suicide soon after. For Gregory the words “bullet,” and “Help me,” had taken on new meaning, new horror beyond anything we could have imagined as we watched TV shows that had happy endings. Gregory will always live in my memory. When Frank read this poem, my friend’s horror became, for a moment, my own.
This poem shocked us and took us on a scary trip of terror. And its writer, Brian Turner experienced what he writes about: after earning an MFA he served in the US Army for seven years, including a year (1999-2000) in Bosnia-Herzegovina defending Muslims from Serb atrocities. Turner is the real thing when it comes to war.
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh,
Here is he clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
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.