The poem, “The Death of Ball Turret Gunner,” was written by Randall Jarrell. According to Jarrell’s own notes “a ball turret was a plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 bomber 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 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 canon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose."
“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 the 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.
1. How is the whole of one man’s life summed up in this poem?
2. What is the similarity of being in the ball turret to being in a womb?
3. How does the “waking” in the poem refer to death? How might this death by unnatural?
4. Why is this poem so memorable?