“Phantom” Disorder

The one element of Brian Turner’s poetry that struck me the most when reading Phantom Noise was the issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In several of his poems the reader sees the integration of the everyday world that the soldier has returned to and the remnants of war experience that haunt him. Specifically, “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center” which depicts an actual experience of PTSD. It begins in the mundane environment of a store and begins shifting immediately. The boundaries of the store and the war become completely blurred and we see how the objects and sounds of daily life torture the returned soldier, bringing back to life, in an almost tangible way, the memories of his experience in the war.

“Bosch walks down aisle 16 now, in full combat gear…no one seems to notice / the casualty collection center Doc High marks out / in ceiling fans , aisle 15. Wounded Iraqis with IVs…gallons and gallons of paint, / …and Ship’s Harbor Blue / pooling in the aisle where Sgt. Rampley walks through…cash registers open and slide shut / with a sound of machine guns being charged” (Turner 5 and 6).

Turner breaks the lines in this poem so that the store elements are the thought carried over into the the next line which are elements of the war. This creates a seamless transition from one reality to the other; a very well crafted depiction of PTSD. The impossibility of the returned soldier to leave the war behind or separate them self/his or her life from that experience is what Turner is expressing with the fluidity of the transitions in his poem.

PTSD is something that many soldiers suffer from but is not focused on by society much. Turner expresses in his book of poetry how much of the war soldiers carry with them long after returning home and how it influences them on a daily basis. As the cartoon above depicts a soldier as a hand grenade, ready to explode at any moment, we see how serious and dangerous PTSD really is. Soldiers not only sacrifice their time and energy while at war, but also their peace and normality of life afterward.

Combs. PTSD-scratch. Digital image. Uclareproductivehealth.wordpress.com. 27 July 2007. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <www.https://uclareproductivehealth.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/war-and-pstd/&gt;.

Turner, Brian. Phantom Noise. Farmington, Me.: Alice James, 2010. Print.


One thought on ““Phantom” Disorder

  1. I agree that we don’t focus enough of returning soldiers. For a long time PTSD wasn’t even classified as an illness, I believe. When my grandfather was dying he would have episodes (which likely could have been dementia, but after reading Turner I imagine the experiences to be somewhat similar) in which he would start shouting about how we need to leave because of the explosions.
    The military still seems to cling to this sort of archaic view of manhood. They train our troops to be war machines and offer little support when they return home, basically telling them to “man up” and deal with it. Sadly, it isn’t just the soldiers that become victims in that situation. Families, significant others, friends, etc. then have to deal with the repercussions, many times dealing with abuse or excessive drug and alcohol use. I believe all citizens should have proper medical care, but it seems especially important that we take care of the men and women that are fighting for us.

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