“At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border”
William Stafford’s poem celebrates what could be referred to as a “nonevent”; more or less, it is about the fact that something did not happen. Stafford calls our attention to a barren field, and then tells us, “No battle happened here.” He looks around and adds that there were no casualties, especially no one whose body went unidentified. He remarks that the grass “joined hands,” and that there is no monument here. There was no battle; the only thing here is the field and the deep blue sky.
He continues on to say that birds fly here, in this open space, but that they do so silently. They flap their wings as they soar across the open landscape. There were no fatalities in this place. This is a site where the fact that it is deserted and lonely is what makes it special. In fact, the inexplicable, strange “non-history” of this place is venerated in a most unique way. Places that have stories to tell are remembered and celebrated—this field is commemorated solely by silence. No one remembers what this place is called, for nothing is what has happened here.