William Stafford

Traveling through the Dark (1962)



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.