Favorite Poem: “The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner”

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An exceptional poem leaves an imprint on the reader. My college professor read this poem to the class, and after many years, I still remember it—vividly.

When I started teaching, I had language arts/history blocks. I used poetry to supplement the American history text, loving how we could learn about the past through a poet’s perspective.

 

“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”

by Randall Jarrell

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.

 

Jarrell wrote, “A ball turret was a plexiglass 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 the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the foetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with canon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.”

 

Daily Response: Is there a poem from school that you still remember vividly? If so, please share it in your comments.

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One response »

  1. Hello Randall, your vivid and visual poem reminds me of the movie “Memphis Bell”, a fine movie without the reality of your special and poignant poem.

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