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Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting

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I tell her I love her like not killing   
or ten minutes of sleep   
beneath the low rooftop wall   
on which my rifle rests.   

I tell her in a letter that will stink,   
when she opens it,   
of bolt oil and burned powder   
and the things it says.   

I tell her how Pvt. Bartle says, offhand,   
that war is just us   
making little pieces of metal   
pass through each other.

Source: Poetry (February 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting

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  • Poet and novelist Kevin C. Powers was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He served with the US Army in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, where he saw combat as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. Following his honorable discharge, he earned a BA at Virginia Commonwealth University and an MFA from the Michener Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
     
    “Poetry has helped me order the world,” Powers said. The Michener Center for Writers requires students to write in more than one genre, and there Powers completed his first novel. The Yellow Birds (2012) is an elegiac and impressionistic portrayal of young combat soldiers during the Iraq War. Roundly lauded by critics—Michiko Kakutani called it “brilliantly observed and deeply affecting”—The Yellow Birds was a finalist for the National Book Award, won the Guardian First Book Award, and was listed by the editors of the...

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