The Way It IsNew & Selected Poems
Graywolf PressCopyright © 1998 the Estate of William Stafford
All right reserved.ISBN: 1-55597-284-5
TRAVELING THROUGH THE DARK
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.
YOU READING THIS, BE READY Starting here, what do you want to remember? How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from outside fills the air? Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts? When you turn around, starting here, lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day. This interval you spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life- What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
"ARE YOU MR. WILLIAM STAFFORD?" "Are you Mr. William Stafford?" "Yes, but...." Well, it was yesterday. Sunlight used to follow my hand. And that's when the strange siren-like sound flooded over the horizon and rushed through the streets of our town. That's when sunlight came from behind a rock and began to follow my hand. "It's for the best," my mother said-"Nothing can ever be wrong for anyone truly good." So later the sun settled back and the sound faded and was gone. All along the streets every house waited, white, blue, gray; trees were still trying to arch as far as they could. You can't tell when strange things with meaning will happen. I'm [still] here writing it down just the way it was. "You don't have to prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready for what God sends." I listened and put my hand out in the sun again. It was all easy. Well, it was yesterday. And the sun came, Why It came. (William Stafford's last poem, 28 August 1993)