cover image Kill Class

Kill Class

Nomi Stone. Tupelo, $17.95 (108p) ISBN 978-1-946482-19-8

This second collection from Stone (Stranger’s Notebook) is set in Pineland, a U.S. military base in North Carolina where soldiers take part in training exercises within simulated Middle Eastern villages populated by Middle Eastern actors. The poems weave recorded language from actors and soldiers with descriptions of the “games” collected over Stone’s two-year anthropological study at Pineland. Stone’s striking interpretation of this bizarre simulacrum highlights the tension between fiction and reality, and the surreal dichotomy between the violence of the military exercises and the surrounding banality: the “Kill Yard” where the exercises take place at one extreme, the Arby’s where the actors congregate at the other. In some poems, Stone’s lines read like stage directions: “The war scenario has: [vegetable stalls], [roaming animals], and [people] in it.... Some of the people over there are good/ others evil.... The game says figure out which are which.” Against a backdrop of violence, the actors play dominoes during breaks or cut each other’s hair. Even the landscape becomes threatening, the sun “knifing each next day open/ across fruit stalls or asphalt,” and “Light makes little lances through the leaves.” Stone is a reporter from this strange world and an astute interpreter of its mores. Pineland’s setting allows the poet to explore the morality of war from a perspective that is analytical and viscerally haunting. (Feb.)