“My Only Swerving”

As I recently reread William Stafford’s poem “Traveling Through The Dark”, I made the connection between one line and a song title by an electronic group I really like called El Ten Eleven. The title of perhaps the group’s most famous song is a nod to the main guitarist’s favorite poet, William Stafford. Below is the poem and you can hear the song here: 01 My Only Swerving.

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.

“Traveling through the Dark” was originally published in 1967 by Weatherlight Press as the title poem in the collection of that same name.  Copyright belongs to Stafford’s son, the poet Kim Stafford, a fine writer worth looking up.

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2 Responses to “My Only Swerving”

  1. Lauren Starnes says:

    I definitely see the relationship between the song and Stafford’s poem. I really enjoyed studying “Traveling Through the Dark” as a class. Great post Zoe!

  2. C. P. O'Brien says:

    El Ten Eleven are considered “electronic??” I disagree. Though Kristian and Tim use pedals and even drumheads(Tim), they are not “Electronic.” More appropriate descriptions would be Rock, then Indie, Experimental Rock, maybe even Ambient.
    If you listen here, at the start of a live version of “My Only Swerving,” Kristian confirms your finding that the song is based on Stafford’s wonderful poem. As you can see in the video, they are not “electronic.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1SMAihtAEA
    Good ear/eye linking the two together. You are a champ.

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