So many poets, so many poems. It was hard to decide, like having to pick your favorite child. I finally chose this poem by poet-soldier Brian Turner because in 16 lines he speaks of a reality that occurred repeatedly in a decade of inexcusable tragedy, because like Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman, “Attention must be paid,” and because this is what poetry can do at its unflinching best: take you where you never want to go.
Poet, Retired Teacher
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valve, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.