Nothing but hurt left here.
Nothing but bullets and pain
and the bled-out slumping
and all the fucks and goddamns
and Jesus Christs of the wounded.
Nothing left here but the hurt.
Believe it when you see it.
Believe it when a twelve-year-old
rolls a grenade into the room.
Or when a sniper punches a hole
deep into someone’s skull.
Believe it when four men
step from a taxicab in Mosul
to shower the street in brass
and fire. Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth. Open the hurt locker and learn
how rough men come hunting for souls.
* * * * *
(NB: The phrase "the hurt locker" is a military colloquialism for being injured or in trouble.)
Poet Brian Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the U.S. Army. Beginning in 2003, he was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
His debut collection, in which the above poem appears, is Here, Bullet, which won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award. His 2010 collection Phantom Noise was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize. He is currently director of the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College at Lake Tahoe.