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At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands, 
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed — or were killed — on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

—William E. Stafford

From The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Graywolf Press

Copyright 1975, 1998 Estate of William Stafford
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. Copyright 1975, 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. For further permissions information, contact Graywolf Press, 2402 University Ave., Suite 203, St. Paul, MN 55114,

Poetry 180

About the Poet

William E. Stafford (1914–1993) served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1970 to 1971, and has published more than 65 volumes of poetry. Stafford was born in Hutchison, Kansas, received a bachelor’s and a master’s from the University of Kansas at Lawrence and, in 1954, a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

Learn more about William E. Stafford at The Poetry Foundation.