(Poem #707) 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.
[Jarrell's note to the poem] 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 foetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose. [My own commentary] A rather 'obvious' poem, but one that's no less powerful for that: the image of 'the nightmare fighters'  attacking the cold, miserable gunner as he crouches upside-down in his lonely turret awakens a very primal response in the reader. The extended foetal metaphor  adds to the visceral effect... thomas.  brilliant phrase, that - I can picture swastikaed BF-109s and FW-190s screaming in to attack the lumbering Fortresses and Liberators... scary.  "my mother's sleep", "wet fur", "dream of life"... need I say more? [Minstrels Links] War Poems: Poem #132, "Dulce Et Decorum Est", Wilfred Owen Poem #232, "Insensibility", Wilfred Owen Poem #288, "Futility", Wilfred Owen Poem #321, "Strange Meeting", Wilfred Owen Poem #385, "Base Details", Siegfried Sassoon Poem #535, "The Working Party", Siegfried Sassoon Poem #28, "To Whom It May Concern", Adrian Mitchell (Actually, 'anti-war poems' is probably a better description of most of the above) Sort of War Poems: Poem #43, "Tommy", Rudyard Kipling Poem #276, "High Flight", John Gillespie Magee Poem #32, "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death", William Butler Yeats Poem #395, "Naming of Parts", Henry Reed [Random Association] Poem #707, Boeing 707, Boeing B-17... nah, I guess I'm just sleepy.