Poetry that Changed This Writer: #1 The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

Poetry was a huge part of my childhood. I would lie in bed at night and read my mother’s old doorstop-sized poetry texts from college until my eyes couldn’t make out the words. My poetry reading slowed in adulthood, but I see the art wherever it exists. Even in songs. So I thought I’d begin sharing some of the poems that affected me, and helped create and encourage my never ending love of words.

First up: The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell

I first read this in a literature class in college. My professor, a brilliant polish lady who opened my eyes to the deeper meaning in poetry, sat on the desk in front of me and made me read the poem aloud. I will NEVER forget the shine in her eyes and the seriousness on her face. She had tears. And at first I couldn’t understand why. Then she and I broke the poem down word for word, her probing me with each instance to think deeper, to expand on the face value of the words. Then she had me read it again. And this time, I had tears, too.

For further explanation and a break down of the poem, click here. Though I’d be thrilled to discuss in comments 🙂

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.

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