When we died they said, "Our casualties were low."
They said, "Here are the maps"; we burned the cities.
It was not dying—no, not ever dying;
But the night I died I dreamed that I was dead,
And the cities said to me: "Why are you dying?
We are satisfied, if you are; but why did I die?"
It was not dying: we had died before
In the routine crashes—and our fields
Called up the papers, wrote home to our folks,
And the rates rose, all because of us.
We died on the wrong page of the almanac,
Scattered on mountains fifty miles away;
Diving on haystacks, fighting with a friend,
We blazed up on the lines we never saw.
We died like aunts or pets or foreigners.
(When we left high school nothing else had died
For us to figure we had died like.)
In our new planes, with our new crews,
The ranges by the desert or the shore,
Fired at towed targets, waited for our score—
And turned into replacements and woke up
One morning, over England, operational.
It wasn't different: but if we died
It was not an accident but a mistake
(But an easy one for anyone to make.)
We read our mail and counted up our missions—
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school—
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
Questions for Reflection: “Losses”
- How does Jarrell use the voices of different soldiers in this poem?
- What are the different points of views expressed by the pilots?
- How did the soldiers die in “Losses?”
- What does it mean to have “died on the wrong page of the almanac?”
- How did men die because of mistakes?
- How does Jarrell use metaphor in his poem?
- Comment on “we lasted long enough they gave us medals.”
- What is the significance of the two lines: “Our casualties were low” and “Here are the maps?”
- What is the importance of the last question asked in the poem?
- What would you answer if asked “what is the meaning of this poem?”