Yale University

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose"

This line is from the poem "the death of the ball turret gunner. Note ideas that are conveyed through the expression of this event in this manner.

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This focuses on the end of the event. While we are not sure who the "they" is, we assume it is those people who, in the middle of a war, have to prepare the ball turret for the next occupant. They have no time to worry about the death or to even grieve the death. There is a war to be fought and the ball turret gunner needs to be out of there so they can get back to the business of war.

The poem is really inventive because the speaker is already dead. That sets the tone of the imagery through the poem. There is a constant fear of death, even within the birth imagery of the poem. The idea that birth and death are connected within the context of war is important. The “wet fur” represents the inside of the gunner’s jacket but also represents the lining of his mother's womb. He nestles in a mechanical womb and, "never awoke to life." After the “black flak and the nightmare fighters", the speaker dies: he is still born and must be aborted with a hose.