Death Poems: The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner - Poem by Randall Jarrell

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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 Nick Gurr (4/20/2020 5:33:00 AM)

    shut the up faggots (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Rookie Joseph Cornwall (1/22/2020 1:55:00 PM)

    **** this it's a ******* disgrace Already Reported Reply

    1 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Rookie Joseph Cornwall (11/9/2018 5:58:00 AM)

    **** this it’s a ******* disgrace Already Reported Reply

    Rookie Ben Dover (1/22/2020 2:02:00 PM)

    Joseph ur a ************************* disgrace ************** kill ur self

    | Delete this reply
    Rookie Joseph Cornwall (1/22/2020 1:58:00 PM)

    ur mom gey

    | Delete this reply
    Rookie Joseph Cornwall (1/22/2020 1:58:00 PM)

    u r a ******** disgrace

    | Delete this reply
    4 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • 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

    13 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • 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

    11 person liked.
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  • 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

    9 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • Rookie 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

    Rookie 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.

    Rookie 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.

    24 person liked.
    13 person did not like.
  • Rookie 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

    Rookie 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?

    36 person liked.
    54 person did not like.
Read all 11 comments »
Death Poems
  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. Nothing But Death
    Pablo Neruda
  7. 7. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O..
    Dylan Thomas
  8. 8. A Dream Of Death
    William Butler Yeats
  9. 9. A Poet's Death Is His Life Iv
    Khalil Gibran
  10. 10. Father Death Blues
    Allen Ginsberg
  11. 11. Death Wants More Death
    Charles Bukowski
  12. 12. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
    William Butler Yeats
  13. 13. Death
    Rainer Maria Rilke
  14. 14. A Death Blow Is A Life Blow To Some
    Emily Dickinson
  15. 15. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner
    Randall Jarrell
  16. 16. The Beauty Of Death Xiv
    Khalil Gibran
  17. 17. A City's Death By Fire
    Derek Walcott
  18. 18. Death Xxvii
    Khalil Gibran
  19. 19. A Funeral Poem On The Death Of C. E. An ..
    Phillis Wheatley
  20. 20. First Death In Nova Scotia
    Elizabeth Bishop
  21. 21. After Death
    Sara Teasdale
  22. 22. Death Leaves Us Homesick, Who Behind
    Emily Dickinson
  23. 23. Gacela Of The Dark Death
    Federico García Lorca
  24. 24. A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  25. 25. The Death Of Joy Gardner
    Benjamin Zephaniah
  26. 26. A Ballad Of Death
    Algernon Charles Swinburne
  27. 27. On The Death Of That Most Excellent Lady,
    Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
  28. 28. The Death Of The Hired Man
    Robert Frost
  29. 29. On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Yea..
    Phillis Wheatley
  30. 30. Death &Amp; Fame
    Allen Ginsberg
  31. 31. Holy Sonnet X: Death Be Not Proud
    John Donne
  32. 32. Go Down, Death
    James Weldon Johnson
  33. 33. I Have A Rendezvous With Death
    Alan Seeger
  34. 34. Death Fugue
    Paul Celan
  35. 35. Love &Amp; Fame &Amp; Death
    Charles Bukowski
  36. 36. On The Death Of Anne Brontë
    Charlotte Brontë
  37. 37. For The Anniversary Of My Death
    William Stanley Merwin
  38. 38. Fugue Of Death
    Paul Celan
  39. 39. If Death Is Kind
    Sara Teasdale
  40. 40. On Death
    Anne Killigrew
  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. Death Stands Above Me, Whispering Low
    Walter Savage Landor
  45. 45. An Elegy On The Death Of Kenneth Patchen
    Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  46. 46. The Death Of The Flowers
    William Cullen Bryant
  47. 47. A Death-Bed
    Rudyard Kipling
  48. 48. A Satirical Elegy On The Death Of A Late..
    Jonathan Swift
  49. 49. Absence Disembodies—so Does Death
    Emily Dickinson
  50. 50. All But Death, Can Be Adjusted
    Emily Dickinson

Death Poems

  1. Death Be Not Proud

    Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe, For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee. From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well, And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then? One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

  2. Let Me Die A Youngman's Death

    Let me die a youngman's death not a clean and inbetween the sheets holywater death not a famous-last-words peaceful out of breath death When I'm 73 and in constant good tumour may I be mown down at dawn by a bright red sports car on my way home from an allnight party Or when I'm 91 with silver hair and sitting in a barber's chair may rival gangsters with hamfisted tommyguns burst in and give me a short back and insides Or when I'm 104 and banned from the Cavern may my mistress catching me in bed with her daughter and fearing for her son cut me up into little pieces and throw away every piece but one Let me die a youngman's death not a free from sin tiptoe in candle wax and waning death not a curtains drawn by angels borne 'what a nice way to go' death

  3. And Death Shall Have No Dominion

    And death shall have no dominion. Dead man naked they shall be one With the man in the wind and the west moon; When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone, They shall have stars at elbow and foot; Though they go mad they shall be sane, Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion. And death shall have no dominion. Under the windings of the sea They lying long shall not die windily; Twisting on racks when sinews give way, Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break; Faith in their hands shall snap in two, And the unicorn evils run them through; Split all ends up they shan't crack; And death shall have no dominion. And death shall have no dominion. No more may gulls cry at their ears Or waves break loud on the seashores; Where blew a flower may a flower no more Lift its head to the blows of the rain; Though they be mad and dead as nails, Heads of the characters hammer through daisies; Break in the sun till the sun breaks down, And death shall have no dominion.

  4. Because I Could Not Stop For Death

    Because I could not stop for Death- He kindly stopped for me- The Carriage held but just Ourselves- And Immortality. We slowly drove- He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility- We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess- in the Ring- We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain- We passed the Setting Sun- Or rather- He passed us- The Dews drew quivering and chill- For only Gossamer, my Gown- My Tippet- only Tulle- We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground- The Roof was scarcely visible- The Cornice- in the Ground- Since then- 'tis Centuries- and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity-

  5. Death Is Nothing At All

    Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away to the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, That, we still are. Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you. For an interval. Somewhere. Very near. Just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ.

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