"A ball turret was a plexiglass sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 bomber 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 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 canon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose." (Jarrell's notes)
NotesThere's a lot in about the contrast, and this is in both of these poems, between the family and the state, especially the mother and the state. Of course, the mother's goal is to always have a happy, healthy, well adjusted child. The state's goal, of course, is to win the war. There is the conflict there between what the mother wants and what the state wants. "From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze." So, from being in his mother's womb, he goes into the state's womb. And where is that womb that he's talking about? It's the turret. Now where is the turret? That's that ball part, made out of glass. It's probably made out of plexi glass now, but made out of glass back then, and of course you are in the most exposed position on the plane right? There's nothing between you and the outside, except that little window there. It's not the quite safe womb that he had with Mom. The wet fur makes him sound like an animal, but they did wear these flak jackets that had fur around them to keep you warm, because it's cold up there. "Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters." So the flak is, as the note points out, the anti-aircraft fire that they shoot up at you. There's the shrapnel, and, of course, if some of his hits you it can pretty much eliminate you right there on the spot. "When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose." There's not enough to even bury, you're just splattered all over the inside of the turret. They just get a steam cleaner and wash it down.