primaflora asked in Arts & HumanitiesPoetry · 1 decade ago

a pilot from the carrier poem by randall jarrell?

may someone please help me understand this poem. all i know is that it is about war

Strapped at the center of the blazing wheel,

His flesh ice-white against the shattered mask,

He tears at the easy clasp, his sobbing breaths

Misting the fresh blood lightening to a flame,

Darkening to smoke; trapped there in pain

And fire and breathlessness, he struggles free

Into the sunlight of the upper sky --

And falls, a quiet bundle in the sky,

The miles to warmth, to air, to waking:

To the great flowering of his life, the hemisphere

That holds his dangling years. In its long, slow sway

The world steadies and is almost still....

He is alone; and hangs in knowledge

Slight, separate, estranged: a lonely eye

Reading a child's first scrawl, the carrier's wake --

The travelling milk-like circle of a miss

Beside the plant-like genius of the smoke

That shades, on the little deck, the little blaze

Toy-like as the glitter of the wing-guns,

Shining as the fragile sun-marked plane

That grows to him, rubbed silver tipped with flame.

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  • 1 decade ago
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    Jarrell was a military pilot and flight instructor during World War II. He wrote a number of war poems dealing specifically with the experience of pilots.

    The "Carrier" in the title of this poem is an aircraft carrier, a large ship that carries a fleet of airplanes that use its deck as a take-off and landing site before and after their missions. The poem describes a wounded pilot who has to bail out of a plane that has been damaged (most likely by enemy anti-aircraft fire) high in the sky above the ocean. The pilot frees himself from his safety restraints, jumps from the plane, and falls through the air until his parachute opens -- "the great flowering of his life, the hemisphere/That holds his dangling years." Then he drifts slowly downward, observing the scene beneath him.

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