Randall Jarrell, 1914-1965

Randall Jarrell, 1914-1965.
Randall Jarrell profile

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell, 1945

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.     5

Randall Jarrell’s note:

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 fetus (I hate that word; it dehumanizes the child) in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.

The 1990, star-filled cast of Memphis Belle is about a B-17 bomber with a ball turret gunner. Here’s a little background on the Memphis Belle.  Here are a few pics of a ball turret with gunner inside.  Prior to the ball turret, gunners used to stand inside the fuselage with the 50 caliber gun pointing out a window.  See here and here.

Here is the Poetry Speaks series where poets read their own works.  Might be worth having if you’re going to create some YouTube poetry videos.