– a poem from My Name Is William Tell
A Wind from a Wing
Something outside my window in the dark
whispers a message. Maybe it is
a prayer sent by one of those friends
forgiving me the years when I sat out their war.
It flared, you know, generating
its own reasons for being, its heroes
anyone killed by an enemy. They looked up
and met fame on a bullet awarded so fast
their souls remained stuck in their bodies,
and then their names, caught on flypaper
citation, couldn’t escape. Their families eat that
carrion, and like it. That is their punishment.
In a sky as distant and clear as Pascal’s
nightmare, and immediate as our sweat
when God shakes us from sleep, my fate
shudders me awake. Little squeals
of the unborn fly past in the wind. It is midnight
and a motel, and nobody but me remembers
my mother, my father, and that hidden key
they left by our door when I was out late.
The poem’s stark commentary on the notion of war is so appealing to me. The call … to wake up. Met fame on a bullet tells me everything I would ever want to know about war’s hard reality. Note that the imagery of the second stanza begins with a sky that is distant ... immediate as sweat.
And it is very like Stafford to make so much of a such a brief moment: the fluttering of a bird outside a window. The poem’s ending is a powerful statement – the small, yet important things ... that hidden key ... that define us … that make us who we are.