Monday, May 25, 2015

"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell

B-17 in heavy flak over Germany. US Air Force Photo.


From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.



Randall Jarrell served in the Army Air Forces in World War II.
This poem was written in in 1945. He provided this explanatory note:
"A ball turret was a plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 bomber, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose."

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