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:

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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.

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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.

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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;

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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.