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Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

Randall Jarrell (1945)


From the sequence of events in this poem, the life-span of the ball turret gunner appears to be a matter of minutes. When his mother bore him, he 'fell' out of one sleep and entered another. The second sleep, named 'the State' resembles the prenatal condition where he is not truly 'awake', is like an animal with 'wet fur', and is enclosed, as he is within the ball turret.

Suddenly, six miles up in the air, he 'comes to' and for the first time, is awake in a sky that is full of death. This condition remains, presumably, until the flak gets him. The impact of the last line of the poem resembles that of a direct hit. The only rhyme in the poem is in the fifth line, a quiet rhyme that goes back four lines.
    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.


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