William Wantling

William Wantling was born in Illinois. At the age of 17, he joined the Marines and applied for combat duty. He was wounded and suffered from severe burns. In order to endure the pain Wantling was given morphine to which he became addicted. He was dishonorably discharged in 1955. Wantling’s life following the war was one of mishaps, addiction and incarceration. However, he remains one of the most respected poets of the literary underground. He died of an overdose at the age of 41.



Can you be a
after you’ve killed
     too many

and if one is too many
    where do I stand
    with my score


Questions for Reflection: “Sure”

  1. Who might be the person that Wantling is referring to in his poem?
  2. How might this individual have become a pacifist?
  3. What do you think Wantling is saying when he uses “score” at the end of the poem? 
  4. How does the title of Wantling’s poem figure into the poem’s meaning?