William Tell Has Bad Aim

On November 18, 1307, legend says that William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head. The fable is wrapped up in Switzerland’s Independence, framing Tell as a heroic and principled fighter for the cause while borrowing elements of the myth from neighboring cultures.

Today I am sharing my first and only attempt at historical fiction and I think one of my only poems that makes a play at humor. Its reception has generally been determined by how familiar my reader is with William Tell. Told from the son’s perspective the day before the infamous shot, the poem imagines them both in a cell awaiting their fate while Tell practices, presumably with a dummy arrow and an outline of his son on the cell wall.


Apple Snow


William Tell Has Bad Aim:

November 17, 1307

Kylie Louise McCormick

He paces the cell… restless.

my lazy eyes follow

I can think of nothing but sounds

the scraping of his feet

the whisper of his wringing hands

the shake in his voice

“it’s nerves,”


“it’s just nerves.”

my head hits the stone wall

with an echo through my skull

another practice

SWOOSH ————–thung!

“it’s just nerves.”




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