A SICK CHILD
THE DEATH OF THE BALL TURRET GUNNER
The postman comes when I am still in bed.
"Postman, what do you have for me today?"
I say to him. (But really I'm in bed.)
Then he says--what shall I have him say?
"This letter says that you are president
Of--this word here; it's a republic."
Tell them I can't answer right away.
"It's your duty." No, I'd rather just be sick.
Then he tells me there are letters saying everything
That I can think of that I want for them to say.
I say, "Well, thank you very much. Good-bye."
He is ashamed, and turns and walks away.
If I can think of it, it isn't what I want.
I want...I want a ship from some near star
To land in the yard, and beings to come out
And think to me: "So this is where you are!
Come." Except that they won't do,
I thought of them....And yet somewhere there must be
Something that's different from everything.
All that I've never thought of--think of me!
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.°
* “my wet fur froze” The sweating of pre-flight anxiety wet the airman’s fur-lined
jacket and then the sweat froze at high altitude. The reference is to the wet fur
of a new-born animal.
°Author's Note: "A ball turret was a plexiglass 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 the
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."