Returning Home

I tend to have a really difficult time with poetry. I’ve never been much of a fan; the (seemingly) random line breaks, punctuation, capitalization, etc. usually just confuse me so often I don’t know what to do with poetry when I’m made to read it. The poems in Phantom Noise are not all that different for me.

One poem, Wading Out, did manage to stand out for me.

…the months turning

into years gone by and still I’m down there slogging

shoulder-deep into the shit, my old platoon

with another year of bullets and mortars and missions

dragging them further in, my lieutenant so far down

I can’t reach him anymore, my squad leader hunting

for souls that would mark him and drag him under

completely, better than any bottle of whiskey.

And I keep telling myself that if I walk far enough

or long enough someday I’ll come out the other side.


But  will Jax and Bosch and my lieutenant make it, too?

If one day we find ourselves poolside in California,

the day as bright as this one, how will we hose ourselves off

to remove the stench, standing around a barbeque

talking football-how? (Turner 47-48).


As I was reading the above quote, I was reminded of an article a friend of mine posted on his facebook a while back. Sadly, I couldn’t find the article again, but it was about soldiers returning from war having wanted nothing but to see their loved ones again finding that returning to civilian life is a complete let down. They come home and they are expected to be the same person they were before they left. Life becomes dull and things that were once important (and continue to be important to their loved ones) don’t matter the way they used to. These soldiers then spend their days wishing they were back at war longing for home because that longing is full of more hope than the real thing.

This article from 2009 discusses the importance of caring for our troops when they come home, especially in relation to PTSD. Frankly, I think we expect too much of our troops. The number of times they have been deployed and length of deployment should be limited and mental health should play a huge role in those decisions. Whether they are burning the Qur’an or urinating on the dead, our troops are not behaving in a way consistent with (the currently espoused) American beliefs. I believe such behaviors are a result of the constantly reinforced attitudes of American exceptionalism as well as the stresses of being in a wartime environment with improper mental health care. Phantom Noise addresses the lack of mental health care by bringing a soldier’s feelings and experiences to light.

Works Cited

Bowley, Graham. “Video Inflames a Delicate Moment for U.S. in Afghanistan.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Jan 2012. Web. 17 Mar 2012.

Leigh, Karen. “For soldiers, stress after war may be the biggest enemy.” Medill Reports. Medill Reports, Northwestern University, 02 Jun 2009. Web. 17 Mar 2012.

Turner, Brian. Phantom Noise. Farmington: Alice James Poetry Cooperative, Inc., 2010. Print.

“US troops could face disciplinary action over Qur’an burning in Afghanistan.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 03 Mar 2012. Web. 17 Mar 2012.


2 thoughts on “Returning Home

  1. I love your point. I’ve understood the struggles for returning soldiers for as long as I can remember. These poems are helping me get so much more into my brother and ex’s (both having been sent to Iraq) minds than I could ever hope to on my own. I cannot possibly remember my brother’s behavior after his return home, but when my ex was coming over on leave, he was horribly nervous about everyone thinking him weird or crazy if he would duck at a loud noise or be nervous in a big crowd of people. I’m not too sure if this would be an everybody thing or just a him-thing, but he did not get the fact that we (at least, my family and I) would understand and not think any less of him. I mean, he just came from a war zone!

    I’m surprised to think about people not expecting any change in returning soldiers. As I said, I always knew they would never be the same after trauma like that. How does it make sense that they -wouldn’t- be different? Just because you weren’t there? Just because it was two years instead of ten?

    Honestly, I think we just need to stop. We have no reason to be over here or over there. Those countries are no longer our business. Now, all we’re doing is teaching hate, and I think that is what is being exposed with these disrespectful behaviors. Even our soldiers fighting for “peace” and “our freedom” are harboring a hate they cannot even begin to explain.

  2. I totally agree. I have many friends in the military. Some of whom I have trained. It breaks my heart when the very government that deploys soldiers does not take care of soldiers. In many cases it does, but in many other cases, it fails, and many soldiers become homeless, and lose families becuase of financial woes, and also with having to live with the nightmares of actions and places that they should have never had to experience. From spiders that can eat cats, and take flack jackets to pummel to death becuase rounds fired would cuase too much trouble, to having to pull trigger on a child who might have a gun. Coming home to scorn, and having to deal with the untested lions of the urban jungle within the U.S. proves to be too much for some soldiers, and is definately uncalled for. While I don’t really see how soldiers are ‘defending our freedom’ by occupying another country, but I still love all of our soldiers becuase they are our soliders! They are citizens too (well actually they are property of the government who actually give up many of thier rights to be in the military, but they were citizens before the military, and citizens after they are out). I also love them becuase they are people. Good post.

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