Poem ‘Rear Gunner’

I come here most days
after school. Dad says it’s ok, so I
head straight away to my

friends, the chickens; I help them
dig for worms. Sometimes
a school friend drops by too

and we race up the stacked bags
of guano; they’re almost warehouse high, our
voices muffled like we’re in a cave. Later,

when it’s time to go, I sit and wait
for Dad, stare at old pictures
on the wall. A bomber

plane in camouflage, the rows of cheerful
men before it with little to smile
about, Dad said. I can

point to his friend, the rear
gunner who never gets out. I’m stuck in
there, spinning round

and round in the noise, the ground’s
approach quickening— then nothing—
until this awareness

and I am his son

© copyright David F. Barker 2012

*Notes: When I was seven or eight years old, my Dad used to work in a warehouse and I did play with the chickens, climb the bags of guano. There was an office, with a picture of an old British Blenheim bomber, with rows of RAF men lined up in front…

25 thoughts on “Poem ‘Rear Gunner’

  1. oy i would def not want to be a tail gunner….pretty intense emotionally there in the end as well…the spinning and feeling like you are not going to make it out…pretty cool opening as well feeling a bit of coming of age…


  2. oh i can really see the scene and also smell it…guano..my mom uses it in the garden…peaceful scene and then war comes it….so sorry for your dad’s friend..


  3. Wow…just a complete immersion into that seat, the spinning, the pulsing fear, then…the awakening…and still, life goes on…to know that your Dad lived through that, to be there for you, to know his friend did not…quite a write…


  4. Dad told me the story of when he was in the army and there was a friend of his, who was a belly gunner, and someone forgot to lock the latch on the plastic bubble and it opened when the plane was flying. His friend had no choice but to hold on for dear life until they realized what had happened.


  5. You do haunting really well. But I’ve got to tell you, I don’t much appreciate the youtube adverts at the end of your post. My opinion, but you’re better than that.


  6. It must have been very interesting to a young boy studying the faces in the old war-era photos. I can easily picture you placing yourself in the story of your own concoction! Lovely and nostalgic, and at the same time timeless. Young boys will always be curious about the stories of their father’s lives, I think. Debra


  7. Hi. I like the narrative in the poem. I have been thinking a lot about line breaks lately and I think you have them very well done in this poem. Each idea is made more thought-provoking by the breaks… an example is the ‘racing up the stacked bags’… and the discovery that they are of ‘guano’…. Jane


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