I first read the poem posted below when I was in high school. It made and continues to make indelible impressions on me. Of course, the poem possesses many interpretations; however, I cling to only one: the terrible sacrifices veterans, living and dead, make and have made for our country, my family…for me.
Jarrell, the poet, wrote, “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 foetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.”
The poem holds additional significance for because my father’s ( a veteran whom I’ll write about tomorrow) cousin Douglas Laurence served during Word War II in a B-17. Here’s a photo of cousin Douglas and his fellows. Doug is pictured bottom right.
To all veterans, dead and living, to all soldiers serving now, and to the families of both, thank you. You all are heroes.
THE DEATH OF THE BALL TURRET GUNNER
by Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
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.