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.
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.