Keith Graham’s excellent reflection on the military draft and a broader concept of mandated service is a comfortable context for a wonderfully ironic little poem by the late William Stafford, a conscientious objector who served the WWII years in government work camps.
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.
From Stories That Could Be True. William Stafford. Harper & Row. 1977
Also: The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, Graywolf Press. 1998