Death Poems - Poems For Death - The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner - Poem by Randall Jarrell | Poem Hunter

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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

    5 person liked.
    2 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

  • 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. Death Is Nothing At All , Henry Scott Holland
  2. 2. And Death Shall Have No Dominion , Dylan Thomas
  3. 3. Because I Could Not Stop For Death , Emily Dickinson
  4. 4. Death Be Not Proud , John Donne
  5. 5. Let Me Die A Youngman's Death , Roger McGough
  6. 6. Nothing But Death , Pablo Neruda
  7. 7. A Dream Of Death , William Butler Yeats
  8. 8. A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, O.. , Dylan Thomas
  9. 9. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner , Randall Jarrell
  10. 10. Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  11. 11. Father Death Blues , Allen Ginsberg
  12. 12. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death , William Butler Yeats
  13. 13. First Death In Nova Scotia , Elizabeth Bishop
  14. 14. Death &Amp; Fame , Allen Ginsberg
  15. 15. Death Wants More Death , Charles Bukowski
  16. 16. Easter- The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ.. , Dr. A.Celestine Raj Manohar ..
  17. 17. Go Down, Death , James Weldon Johnson
  18. 18. A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed , Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  19. 19. The Beauty Of Death Xiv , Khalil Gibran
  20. 20. A City's Death By Fire , Derek Walcott
  21. 21. A Death Blow Is A Life Blow To Some , Emily Dickinson
  22. 22. Gacela Of The Dark Death , Federico García Lorca
  23. 23. After Death , Sara Teasdale
  24. 24. The Death Of The Hired Man , Robert Frost
  25. 25. The Dance Of Death , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  26. 26. Death Xxvii , Khalil Gibran
  27. 27. On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Yea.. , Phillis Wheatley
  28. 28. Death Fugue , Paul Celan
  29. 29. Death Leaves Us Homesick, Who Behind , Emily Dickinson
  30. 30. Death Is Here And Death Is There , Percy Bysshe Shelley
  31. 31. A Funeral Poem On The Death Of C. E. An .. , Phillis Wheatley
  32. 32. On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield , Phillis Wheatley
  33. 33. Ode On The Death Of A Favourite Cat Drow.. , Thomas Gray
  34. 34. On The Death Of Anne Brontë , Charlotte Brontë
  35. 35. A Poet's Death Is His Life Iv , Khalil Gibran
  36. 36. The Death Of Autumn , Edna St. Vincent Millay
  37. 37. On Death , Percy Bysshe Shelley
  38. 38. Death , William Butler Yeats
  39. 39. A Satirical Elegy On The Death Of A Late.. , Jonathan Swift
  40. 40. Death Is A Dialogue Between , Emily Dickinson
  41. 41. The Death Of The Flowers , William Cullen Bryant
  42. 42. All But Death, Can Be Adjusted , Emily Dickinson
  43. 43. Love &Amp; Fame &Amp; Death , Charles Bukowski
  44. 44. The Death Of Joy Gardner , Benjamin Zephaniah
  45. 45. An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog , Oliver Goldsmith
  46. 46. If Death Is Kind , Sara Teasdale
  47. 47. As At Thy Portals Also Death , Walt Whitman
  48. 48. On Hearing Of A Death , Rainer Maria Rilke
  49. 49. A Ballad Of Death , Algernon Charles Swinburne
  50. 50. Death And His Brother Sleep (‘morphine’) , Heinrich Heine
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