Jennifer Michael Hecht

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
July 11, 2013 Hecht Jennifer Michael

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 only way


around is 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.


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.


Jennifer Michael Hecht is working on a new prose book on poetry, The Wonder Paradox, with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her third poetry book, Who Said, came out with Copper Canyon in 2013. She is also a cultural historian and the author of Doubt: A History (Harper), and Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It (Yale).