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…



  1. ordinarylifelessordinary · September 22, 2012

    A lovely piece of nostalgia that builds to an unexpected end, great job.


  2. brian miller · September 22, 2012

    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…


  3. claudia · September 22, 2012

    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..


  4. dfb · September 22, 2012

    Thanks so much Claudia!


  5. ManicDdaily · September 22, 2012

    Wonderful poem – this kind of awakening is very powerful. k.


  6. The Course of Our Seasons · September 22, 2012

    Always a wonderful story – especially love the ending with the boys ( your) imagination. K


  7. Daydreamertoo · September 22, 2012

    I could ‘see’ this in my mind’s eye.


  8. John (@bookdreamer) · September 22, 2012

    Nicely observed and clever merger of real and story in the actions of the child


  9. nephiriel · September 22, 2012

    breathtaking. had to swallow my tears… thank you for sharing.


  10. tashtoo · September 22, 2012

    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…


  11. lscotthoughts · September 22, 2012

    Wonderful story telling and imagery, David, but, yes, sorry for the sad memories, too~


  12. Wendell A. Brown · September 23, 2012

    I really liked your poem my brother…thanks for sharing!


  13. Polly Robinson · September 23, 2012

    memento mori ~ I think that’s the term ~ love this, so evocative


  14. Sabio Lantz · September 23, 2012

    This sounds like you think you are the reincarnated dead gunner — born to his surviving comrade. I had a bizarre dream of reincarnation from the war. But maybe that is not what you meant.

    Though I am not sure what you mean, I really enjoyed the reminiscence.


  15. kindredspirit23 · September 23, 2012

    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.


  16. Mama Zen · September 23, 2012

    Beautifully done piece!


  17. dfb · September 23, 2012

    Thank you!!! Of course, I don’t really think I am his reincarnation but it make for interesting reading – perhaps.


  18. dfb · September 23, 2012

    Thank you so much!


  19. Anna Montgomery · September 23, 2012

    Evocative and your adoption of the POV of the rear gunner at the end empathetic and transformative, it worked very well for me. Beautifully done.


  20. Soma Mukherjee · September 25, 2012

    David that was heart wrenching…reading those lines of rear gunner…
    beautiful powerful poem


  21. rangewriter · September 25, 2012

    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.


  22. Three Well Beings · September 28, 2012

    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


  23. dfb · September 28, 2012

    Yes! Thank you so much, Debra.


  24. jane tims · September 29, 2012

    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


  25. Jamie Dedes · October 2, 2012

    Beatifully written memory and alive with that little boy


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