Randall Jarrell

(May 6, 1914 – October 14, 1965 / Nashville)

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner


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.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell )

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  • Jim Arnett (6/26/2013 8:04:00 PM)

    I doubt very much that, while fighting in World War II, Randall Jarrell referenced abortion one bit. Your opinion, of course.

    And, by the way, a dilation and curettage vacuums out the uterus. Not washes. (Report) Reply

    Jeremy White (7/31/2014 10:31:00 AM)

    That's annoying - it dropped my quotation marks. Before the capital 'A' in the second sentence to the end of the comment is the quote.

    Jeremy White (7/31/2014 10:30:00 AM)

    It's possible he was thinking that way nonetheless. The poet's own explanation of the poem was, A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, 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.

  • James Dittes (12/12/2011 1:28:00 PM)

    Does anyone else notice the references to abortion in this poem? A fetus, hunched it its mothers belly, only to be destroyed and washed out with a hose. (Report) Reply

    David Lutyens (7/30/2014 8:43:00 AM)

    Following your lead in twisting things to suit a misguided, arrogant, small-minded and self-important agenda, can I just say Does anyone else notice the failed attempts to prop up his delusions of adequacy in James Dittes' comment?

Read all 2 comments »

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