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Thanks to Stanislav Petrov for Fairytales about Birds

by Elizabeth R. McClellan

“In his own country, Death can be kind.”
DEATHLESS, Catherynne M. Valente

Stanislav Petrov,
our fathers flew planes
our mothers were caretakers
we both had nervous breakdowns.

You froze to your chair,
considered possibilities,
ran probabilities, idled
until the clock ran out

proving you were right all along.

If we had been obedient thinkers
I would never have lived
to love Marya Morevna.


Did you learn about the birds
who came to marry sisters
growing up in Vladivostok?
In the asylum did you read Pushkin?


Stanislav Petrov, they suppressed
your great mercy, you savior of all life;
you were dead before I knew your name
and you did not know mine when


you spared every child on earth
by thinking and not reacting,
your sacred heart beating in
your chest like a fairytale bird.


They praised you and then punished you
for doing the right thing, for using
your brain. You had no regrets;
you died the world’s unremarked hero;


once a year now we speak your name
when it should be a holiday for the globe:
because of you we have life,
and birds, and fairy tales, and poems,


for now. You, tovarisch, Stanislav Petrov, rest
in the not quite poisoned earth, rest
in the breathing world that lives by your
atheistic grace, and might yet be saved again.



Elizabeth R. McClellan is a domestic and
sexual violence attorney by day and a poet
in the margins. Their work has appeared
in Chrome Baby, Dreams and Nightmares,
Star*Line, Goblin Fruit, Apex Magazine and
many others. They can be found @popelizbet
in most places with @s.

Poetry by Elizabeth R. McClellan:

"Thanks to Stanislav Petrov for Fairytales about Birds" February 2021

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