dark whispers...

William Stafford

            – 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.


C. E. Chaffin said...

Stafford is starkness, isn't he? What I love about his verse is that he writes in sentences and includes all the little words that the current style of over-compression leaves out, so that read out loud, there is no need for a supplement. He tells it like it is, and he tells it well. He may not be the most lyrical of poets, but his incarnation of common intelligence is to be admired.

Congrats on the new issue of Blue 5th, soon to be online!


sam of the ten thousand things said...

I agree with you absolutely, CE. Stafford does tell it well.

I've been waiting to hear from all the contributors about the proofs. The fall issue will be up this weekend.

Thanks for the visit.

Pris said...

Sam...whew. Powerful poem. Thanks for posting it.

M. C. Allan said...

I think the line that killed me in this was "Their families eat that/ carrion, and like it." So harsh, but really hits home. Makes me think of how many people right now don't want to contemplate the possibility that their kids may have died in a needless war. So sad.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

It is a powerful piece. Thanks for the visit and the read, Pris & MC.