Friday, June 16, 2006

Buzzed and Friday Poetry Blogging

So far, the trip is way beyond even my wildest dreams. It's been great reconnecting with friends, and the driving's been beautiful and relatively easy, except that North Dakota goes on forever.

There's a scenic view just off I-90 (and not, as some people would have it, THE I-90, but that's for another day) before it passes over the Columbia River not far from Ellensburg, Washington, so being me, I got out to look. It was windy, and cool, and stunning. And as I turned to walk back to my car, I heard a roar, overwhelmingly loud, like death itself. I turned to look, and there was a fighter plane of some sort, practically close enough to reach up and touch, buzzing the scenic view parking area. Naturally, coward that I am, I crouched (like that's going to help).

And I couldn't help thinking, my tax dollars at work. And yours, if you're lucky enough to pay taxes in the US, I suppose. (Take that as you will.)

The buzzing reminded me of one of my favorite poems, another light and cheerful one. /nod

Here it is: Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)

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 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.

*What's a Ball-Turret Gunner, you ask? Click here to see! Yet another job I'm happy I don't have!


  1. I read that poem in early high school and found it pretty stark, especially the hose part.

    For this reason I took flight into the more sublime realms of post-post modern poetry.

    - Percy Bysshe Silly

  2. Ack! It annoys the beejeezus out of me when people say "the I-90." *growl*

    Like the poem, though it gave me flashbacks to the time I tried to teach this poem to a room full of teenagers who had recently celebrated with an alarmingly arrogant and public brio the removal of Saddam Hussein's statue. "War is so much more real on fair and balanced networks than in poetry, Ms Laustic."

  3. That's quite a progression, from the Columbia Gorge to 'Ball-Turret Gunner'.

    Taxes in the US are not that bad, really. Much higher where I come from. Switzerland is not that bad, but still more than the US for all but the very wealthy.


  4. My dad was the radio operator in WWII bombing missions, a position as isolated as the turret gunner, but not as scary, at first glance. (I found it interesting, btw, that the web pages you linked both said the turret gunner was actually the *safest* member of the crew. Counter intuitive, isn't it?) I can't remember if it was his tail gunner or his turret gunner, but one of them drank himself to death in between missions. My dad and some of the other crew found him dead in his bunk. I think perhaps that tells you something about war, too, as does this poem.

    The hose part really is striking. I think it works because the poet begins with abstractions and distancing metaphors and imagery (wet fur? what is this thing with fur, you might ask) and then makes that move to something so concrete, and mundane, and, ultimately, graphic. And the whole thing makes him seem nothing more than a squashed squirrel on the road. Chilling.

    I have a friend who focuses on war poetry in her gen ed poetry classes -- I'll ask her if she knows this one.

  5. PS -- Yes, it's THE 405, but I-40 (or whatever), not both THE and I. It's one of the other. Or none at all in some places (like around here).