Traveling through the Dark

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car   
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;   
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,   
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;   
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;   
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,   
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

William Stafford, “Traveling Through the Dark” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems (St. Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 1998). Copyright © 1998 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of William Stafford.

Source: The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998)

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Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Activities, Animals, Death, Living, Nature, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

 William E. Stafford

Biography

"If you have been wondering where the articulate, readable poems have gone in the last third of the 20th century, you might start with [William] Stafford," declares Victor Howes of the Christian Science Monitor. A pacifist and one of "the quiet of the land," as he often describes himself, Stafford is known for his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice, and his independence from social and literary expectations. As

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SUBJECT Activities, Animals, Death, Living, Nature, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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