Death Poems - Poems For Death - The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner

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The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner - Poem 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.


Comments about The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell

  • Rookie - 0 Points Joseph Turiano (10/19/2017 12:11:00 AM)

    Obviously, this poem is the description of the gunner of a bomber in combat, but there are things that many people miss or don't realize about it. I believe that the State refers not to the faceless entity that send soldiers off to war, but a State of being. This poem is about the existential experience of aerial combat, as expressed in a kind of birth in reverse. The ball turret, which hung down below the body of WWII bombers, was like kind of belly. This is why the poet calls the plane his mother. The giant metal mother sleeps on the tarmac, before takeoff, and the gunner enters his mother's womb and returns to an experience something like he did when he was in his human mother's womb before birth. But unlike the warm, safe womb that a baby lives in until birth, this womb is freezing cold, nightmarish, and deadly. Interestingly, as the gunner ascends into the nightmare, he feel that he is somehow loosed from the dream, of ordinary, waking life. Soldiers in combat often talk about the experience making them feel alive in a way that nothing else can. Being so close to death makes every moment of living somehow more real. Again, a fascinating comparison to being in the womb before birth, where the infant experiences nothing but the warmth and safety of being inside his mother's body, sheltered from sensing everything harmful, dangerous, and frightening. Finally, instead of being born, he suffers a gory, violent death when he is blown apart by flak. The reason that they wash him out of the turret with a steam hose is that his body has been literally blown to bits, which freeze to the inner surface of the icy turret. Not a pleasant image, but an unflinching vision and description of a reality that is something beyond the dream of life and its ordinary, pleasant, safe thoughts and images. This is truly one of the greatest and most evocative poems of all time. To tell a story like this one in five lines is a true stroke of genius. (Report) Reply

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  • Rookie - 14 Points Patrick Musone (3/19/2017 4:44:00 PM)

    Poetry, like all other true arts, must be met halfway by the reader's own intelligence and experience. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner became my greatest tool in trying to impart the essence of modern American poetry to my high school students: powerful images; multi-level interpretations; and economy. Jarrell paints with just five lines not only the dream-like insanity and horror of war, but the dilemma of self sacrifice and the
    loss of human identity. And that's just the beginning. Add to it the unmistakable references: the womb as a safe, warm birth; sudden separation and ejection into the cold; vulnerability and fear in the face of a hostile environment and horrific threats; final biological/human degradation; and the resignation of mortal man devoured, finally, by the state. The interpretations and meanings are virtually limitless, given both the unique and universal sensibilities of humankind. The work is, at one time, a controversial poem that beckons us, and
    a blueprint that describes the very essence of poetry. Yet, the most frightening insight that looms above all others, is the sobering reflection of what must have raged within and tortured the author to even be able to conceive of such a work. Pity Randall Jarrell, honor Randall Jarrell, love and remember Randall Jarrell.
    Just five lines, fifty-two words. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points R Brownfield (7/12/2016 7:49:00 PM)

    Interesting how people see things that are important to them in virtually every poem. This poem is pretty straight forward though. War sucks. (Report) Reply

Read all 5 comments »

Poems About Death

  1. 1. Let Me Die A Youngman's Death , Roger McGough
  2. 2. And Death Shall Have No Dominion , Dylan Thomas
  3. 3. Death Be Not Proud , John Donne
  4. 4. Death Is Nothing At All , Henry Scott Holland
  5. 5. Because I Could Not Stop For Death , Emily Dickinson
  6. 6. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O.. , Dylan Thomas
  7. 7. Nothing But Death , Pablo Neruda
  8. 8. Father Death Blues , Allen Ginsberg
  9. 9. A Poet's Death Is His Life Iv , Khalil Gibran
  10. 10. A Dream Of Death , William Butler Yeats
  11. 11. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner , Randall Jarrell
  12. 12. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death , William Butler Yeats
  13. 13. The Beauty Of Death Xiv , Khalil Gibran
  14. 14. A Death Blow Is A Life Blow To Some , Emily Dickinson
  15. 15. Death Wants More Death , Charles Bukowski
  16. 16. A City's Death By Fire , Derek Walcott
  17. 17. After Death , Sara Teasdale
  18. 18. Death Xxvii , Khalil Gibran
  19. 19. Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  20. 20. I Have A Rendezvous With Death , Alan Seeger
  21. 21. First Death In Nova Scotia , Elizabeth Bishop
  22. 22. A Funeral Poem On The Death Of C. E. An .. , Phillis Wheatley
  23. 23. Death Leaves Us Homesick, Who Behind , Emily Dickinson
  24. 24. The Death Of Joy Gardner , Benjamin Zephaniah
  25. 25. On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Yea.. , Phillis Wheatley
  26. 26. Gacela Of The Dark Death , Federico García Lorca
  27. 27. A Ballad Of Death , Algernon Charles Swinburne
  28. 28. For The Anniversary Of My Death , William Stanley Merwin
  29. 29. Go Down, Death , James Weldon Johnson
  30. 30. A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed , Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  31. 31. On The Death Of That Most Excellent Lady, , Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
  32. 32. On Death , Anne Killigrew
  33. 33. On The Death Of Anne Brontë , Charlotte Brontë
  34. 34. The Death Of The Hired Man , Robert Frost
  35. 35. Death &Amp; Fame , Allen Ginsberg
  36. 36. Death Fugue , Paul Celan
  37. 37. Love &Amp; Fame &Amp; Death , Charles Bukowski
  38. 38. If Death Is Kind , Sara Teasdale
  39. 39. Holy Sonnet X: Death Be Not Proud , John Donne
  40. 40. Death , William Butler Yeats
  41. 41. Death , Heinrich Heine
  42. 42. On Hearing Of A Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  43. 43. As At Thy Portals Also Death , Walt Whitman
  44. 44. A Satirical Elegy On The Death Of A Late.. , Jonathan Swift
  45. 45. All But Death, Can Be Adjusted , Emily Dickinson
  46. 46. Fugue Of Death , Paul Celan
  47. 47. Ode On The Death Of A Favourite Cat Drow.. , Thomas Gray
  48. 48. Don'T Fear Death , Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok
  49. 49. On The Death Of Friends In Childhood , Donald Justice
  50. 50. The Dance Of Death , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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