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  • Philosophy and Story, Stevens and Frost: Rewriting and Rereading
  • Jennifer Michael Hecht

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening


Promises to keep was a lie, he had nothing. Through the woods. Over the river and into the pain. It is an addict’s talk of quitting as she’s smacking at a vein. He was always going into the woods. It was he who wrote, The best way

out is always through. You’d think a shrink, but no, a poet. He saw the woods and knew. The forest is the one that holds promises. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, they fill with a quiet snow. Miles are traveled as we sleep. He steers

his horse off the road. Among the trees now, the blizzard is a dusting. Holes in the canopy make columns of snowstorm, lit from above. His little horse thinks it is queer. They go deeper, sky gets darker. It’s the darkest night of the year.


He had no promises to keep, nothing pending. Had no bed to head to, measurably away in miles. He was a freak like me, monster of the dawn. Whose woods these are I think I know, his house is in the village though. In the middle of life he found himself lost in a dark woods. I discovered myself

in a somber forest. In between my breasts and breaths I got lost. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I’ve got promises to keep, smiles to go before I leap. I’m going into the woods. [End Page 126]

They’re lovely dark, and deep, which is what I want, deep lovely darkness. No one has asked, let alone taken, a promise of me, no one will notice if I choose bed or rug, couch or forest deep. It doesn’t matter where I sleep. It doesn’t matter where I sleep.

Thirteen Ways a Black Bird Looks at Us

1. From the trees and wires, crows know us by our hair or hats. On the ground they can’t tell me from you.

2. It’s the onset of summer on a tree-lined city street, new green above, leafy dapple on the asphalt.

3. In a wide sky black birds have one shape, but down here I can spot an errant feather, and name her, as can they, on us, from far above.

4. I thought I saw two crows, having seen one twice. On the ground they lose us as two separate animals, too. The two of us identical in their eyes. A reality contrived of a woman, her human love, and a black bird.

5. At night, Crow wonders, “Do the lights shut the people or the people shut the lights?” At night, Crow goes, “I don’t know what I love more, the lights going out, or just after.”

6. They fly their shadows across our matte pollen dusted window and wonder how our nest got so secure. “It’s bright out here,” thinks Crow, “but is it that bright? Are they aware of the air out here, that its wind currents have surges? That the trees from up here are hills in thirteen shades of green? In rain bright green studded with white reflected light.” [End Page 127]

7. O thin women of Carroll Gardens, giving away their excess golden birds and books on the stoop, to earn more storage. At our own stoop, under green canopy, a half eggshell falls, landing beside my daughter’s sandal. Meanwhile the men and women quick walk past us to their offices again, and back again.

8. The genus corvus includes species known as crows, ravens, rooks, and jackdaws; there is no consistent distinction between birds called crow and birds called raven. The bird knows half the world as a squirming carpet of upright apes, mostly skulls and shoulders. Though I know a lot of dates, weights, and sonnets, I also know the birds are involved in what I know.

9. The ground is a slew of heads swarming, the sky is a pair of crows, circling, the circle rippling to the circle of the horizon and circles beyond...


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pp. 126-135
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