What Every Soldier Should Know

By Brian Turner Brian Turner

To yield force to is an act of necessity, not of will;                          
                         it is at best an act of prudence.
                            
                                 —Jean-Jacques Rousseau


If you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon,
it could be for a wedding, or it could be for you.
 
Always enter a home with your right foot;
the left is for cemeteries and unclean places.
 
O-guf! Tera armeek is rarely useful.
It means Stop! Or I’ll shoot.

Sabah el khair is effective.
It means Good morning.
 
Inshallah means Allah be willing.
Listen well when it is spoken.
 
You will hear the RPG coming for you.
Not so the roadside bomb.
 
There are bombs under the overpasses,
in trashpiles, in bricks, in cars.
 
There are shopping carts with clothes soaked
in foogas, a sticky gel of homemade napalm.
 
Parachute bombs and artillery shells
sewn into the carcasses of dead farm animals.
 
Graffiti sprayed onto the overpasses:
I will kell you, American.
 
Men wearing vests rigged with explosives
walk up, raise their arms and say Inshallah.
 
There are men who earn eighty dollars
to attack you, five thousand to kill.
 
Small children who will play with you,
old men with their talk, women who offer chai—
 
and any one of them
may dance over your body tomorrow.

Brian Turner, “What Every Soldier Should Know” from Here, Bullet. Copyright © 2005 by Brian Turner. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books.

Source: Here Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Brian Turner

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

 Brian  Turner

Biography

Brian Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and lived abroad in South Korea for a year before serving for seven years in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. Then in November 2003 he was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. His first book, Here, Bullet, chronicles his time in Iraq.

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Brian Turner

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.