Friday, August 20, 2010

Poetry Friday: At Lowe's Home Improvement Center

I have a poem to share on this Poetry Friday that could lead me in numerous directions. What I'll choose to focus on is that this week the last American combat brigade withdrew from Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom has, apparently, come to a close.

War is something foreign to me, and I hope it will always remain so. I have to be honest, I never supported the War in Iraq in any fashion--I consider myself to be a pretty staunch pacifist, particularly when it comes to military operations in Iraq. But let me be clear, I have nothing but respect and reverence for the men and women who serve in our country's armed forces. I admire their courage and dedication and I honor their service and sacrifices. As the child, grandchild, and great-grandchild of veterans, anything less is unconscionable for me.

So this week I want to share a poem I came across via my RSS feed from Poetry Daily, "At Lowe's Home Improvement Center." It's one of the few poems I've read about the Iraq War, and I think for people like myself, who've never experienced combat or anything like it, it captures the unending impact that warfare has on the lives of those who serve. It made me think of a short story I read in college, "A Soldier's Home," by Ernest Hemingway, which made me realize that for those who survive combat, life is never, ever the same.

In honor of those who have served and given their lives to the pursuit of freedom, and in celebration of what I hope is the end combat operations in Iraq and the eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan, I share "At Lowe's Home Improvement Center," by Brian Turner:
At Lowe's Home Improvement Center
Standing in aisle 16, the hammer and anchor aisle,
I bust a 50 pound box of double-headed nails
open by accident, their oily bright shanks
and diamond points like firing pins
from M-4s and M-16s.
                                   In a steady stream
they pour onto the tile floor, constant as shells
falling south of Baghdad last night, where Bosch
kneeled under the chain guns of helicopters
stationed above, their tracer-fire a synaptic geometry
of light.
            At dawn, when the shelling stops,
hundreds of bandages will not be enough.
                                  . . .
Bosch walks down aisle 16 now, in full combat gear,
improbable, worn out from fatigue, a rifle
slung at his side, his left hand guiding
a ten-year-old boy who sees what war is
and will never clear it from his head.
Here, Bosch says, Take care of him.
I'm going back in for more.
Please read the rest of the poem here. It is definitely worth your time, and definitely worth sharing if you are a teacher of social studies, current events, or literature. If you know of any more poems about the wars in the Middle East, please share them. War Poetry is certainly a sub-genre that may be explored in a future Poetry Mix Tape. Now that I mention it, if you haven't checked out this week's Mix Tape, please do so and feel free to contribute.

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted by Teach Poetry K-12, one of my favorite blogs. Be sure to check it out.


  1. Ben,

    Thanks for your kind comment on my site at Teach Poetry K-12. This is a stunning poem. Free of sentimentality, yet it catches the slippery world of PTSD and pins it down on paper.

    Laura Evans

  2. We take so much for granted, don't we?

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