Night Poetry: Stopping by Woods and Promises

Night poetry can be the poetry of promise. In the darkness, we can focus on what is most pressing, we can dream, we can make promises to ourselves or others. Robert Frost felt the compelling movement of a promise, that urged him to keep traveling through the dark and cold.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

—Robert Frost

Poetry Prompt

Write a night poem that makes a promise, to yourself or to someone else. Give us images that will bring the promise alive: a red velvet ribbon, a white cup, a pickup truck. (Let this be no abstract promise!)

Thanks to our participants in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a recent poem we enjoyed from Maureen…

Clearing Fog

We manage in the fog,
each looking
for the other’s heart.

But out there,
somewhere between us,
the old dark words

still hang. Please
don’t wait till sunrise,
Love, to rub a circle

clear, to let in
your once-bright light
through my window.

—Maureen Doallas

Photo by Phil Roeder, Creative Commons, via Flickr.


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  1. says

    Letting in the Ghosts

    The house at midnight hums with consonants.
    Particularly the air-handler’s lay
    soothes me as seasons pass the windows―
    summer slowly and winter’s frozen tracks―
    I bless the steadiness of ems and ars.

    Falls are less incessant, they tic and tock
    on gables, like some anachronistic clock,
    a brisk knocking in counterpoint, as oaks
    forgo their acorns in erratic raucous drops,
    while blown leaves brush against the windowpanes.

    When in April comes the hour between the days,
    a lull with lilacs from the dead ground grows
    and through the open windows lets the ghosts in,
    a redolence in all the rooms, almost seen
    in moonlight―hyacinth, peony and rose.

  2. says

    A famous lady once said –

    A person cannot do a thing in heels.

    I don Insulated coveralls, lined leather gloves,
    and a grungy stocking
    cap. To feed the dog, split
    wood, and shovel

    Horse manure is not easily seen
    in mere shadows of the night.

    I tug and twist at
    sequined, dainty straps;
    yank wool socks
    off mucky, frozen feet.

    I dangle
    (and give an unladylike verbal salute)
    before I toss –
    the ruby
    red heels
    into the fire
    and boil potatoes
    in my bare feet.

    I agree.

    A person cannot do a thing in heels.

  3. Marcy Terwilliger says

    SimplyDarlene I loved your red heels and yes, I understand horse manure. Enjoyed!

    Cold, clear, evening,
    Wintertime comes again.
    You step into stillness,
    Watch your breath,
    You breathe out and in.
    Tall dark evergreens,
    Home for the bright red birds.
    Wiggle, shuffle, my feet,
    Feeling the winter’s chill.
    Bright beaming clusters,
    Stars against velvet sky.
    Out here in the country,
    There are no city lights.
    You think of a song,
    Start to sing along.
    Don McLean.
    “Starry, starry night
    Paint your palette blue
    and gray
    Look out on a summer’s day.”
    It puts a smile upon my face,
    Though my singing is a disgrace.
    Who can hear me anyway?

  4. Marcy Terwilliger says

    Richard, if your ever in Tallahassee tell my sweet oldest daughter hello.

    SimplyDarlene, I love to watch the Bobcats jump into the air about dust. Like most cats I can’t see what they are jumping for.

  5. says


    I promise I will get your truck back
    the red one we sold
    after I accidentally drowned

    it. That water was deeper than it looked.
    I know who bought it—the guy.
    He said he could fix it up.
    I know where he lives. Not far.

    you need to come home. I’m not
    driving that far by myself in the middle of winter.
    Just send word. Somehow I’ll get you those keys.

  6. says

    Blissful the dark,
    Blissful the light,
    “But I don’t want it to get dark, Daddy”
    My little one says to me.

    But the dark is our friend,
    I whisper to him…
    The night is a blanket that covers us all,
    So rest, sweet rest can come again.

    There are no monsters, I say to him.
    There’s only angels?, his questioning grin… Only angels, son, I say to him,
    As he tucks himself up under my arms.

    The night watchmen, the dark’s plot foils,
    A GodsMan standing at the foot of our beds. The daylight watchman, the day’s calling toils,
    A GoodMan with sword and shield of faith raised.

    And God is our happy end – our friend,
    Like the night is to the long day’s end.
    And I watch him drift into the deep,
    Of the nightfall’s watch that angels keep.

    And I run my hand through his soft hair,
    And over him whisper a father’s prayer:

    “Lord, send your angels to watch over ours…”

    And the look upon,
    Your face my son,
    Is blissful…
    Ever so blissful.

  7. says

    There is light between the trees,
    but it is not of sun or moon.

    It falls amid the darkness like
    weary stars that quit their post.

    I scramble through the brush,
    prying limbs that claw and rake

    across my moonlit skin, bared
    beneath the diving lights.

    Feet are numb from cold,
    pressing hollows in the snow,

    that trail behind me, a dotted
    line that points toward home.

    I trudge on, a mask of reflected
    brilliance blooming on my face.

    Frozen fingers pierce the tree line,
    as they are steeped in jeweled tones;

    I am bathed in the embryonic light.
    I do not feel the cold any longer,

    nor do I know of pain or grief
    from years past; there is only light

    and transcendence, igniting the
    silent, stalking shadows.

  8. says

    Morning’s dew is ice,

    the trees, mute,
    and foot-deep snow

    Ungloved hands
    cave the line
    dividing space

    between us.
    A ghost sky gathers
    into knots

    the skeletal clouds,
    failing to make a game
    of sun’s own promise.

  9. Veronika Dash says


    Something about the freshly fallen snow,
    that makes you feel warm inside
    like the first rich sip of a Brandy Alexander.
    Thumbprints on my coffee mug
    make me think about-
    your smile
    Catching flurries beneath the velvet sky
    Just the mountains
    and Us.
    How you taught me to shoot a bow and arrow
    How I fell out of the tree, so ungracefully
    How I make a lousy hunter because the leaves rustle
    so loudly beneath me
    Time, captured like a tiny morsel of your favorite cake,
    Savoring it before it
    As you have,
    fading into the last years bitter winter
    melting like the cold snow I catch
    on my tongue.

  10. says

    I would search to cure
    your shrinking bones,
    your forgetfulness, your poor
    balance on stairs
    and in the garden-
    any knotty pain

    but not your hands, paper
    thin. Skin with pale blue
    veins and mottled liver spots.
    Hands, beautiful but bruised
    from every day battles
    against corners, door knobs.

    A beauty I am without
    during church service. My hands
    holding your hands holding
    your daughter’s hands.
    Three generations touch
    in the time of one hymn:
    Come Thou Fount, but not of youth.

    Each evening I see my future
    predicted in swelling knuckles,
    feel it in folds of crepe skin
    as I undress you for bed:

    Never get old, never get old
    you keep telling me,
    and I keep listening
    making you a promise
    we pretend I can keep.

    You, with eight decades
    of work misshapen fingers
    and cold-cracked palms.
    Me thinking of my future,
    hands hugging my cup late
    into night for consolation.

  11. says

    The Knighted Night

    Too much sun can kill the skin,
    The Benevolent whispered to me,
    The daylight’s hard due diligence done,
    Grants no shade from toil for free…

    But yield instead to my calm implore,
    Let loose the day’s long listed sins,
    Walk into me to find the cure,
    For all day’s debts I have forgiven.

    So Benevolent marked in winter’s woods,
    a place where I alone would find,
    that kinder, gentler, steadfast light,
    Where’s It’s man, the moon did shine.

    And Benevolent breathed upon my skin,
    and bathed me in moon’s light,
    To rejuvenate the child within…
    With dark, restore my sight.

    And with new eyes I turned to see,
    Who my Benevolent could truly be,
    When in-beamed moonlight cascading down,
    To dress Benevolent in his crown…

    And all I thought was mine to bear,
    I wept for now – it all made right,
    And my smile beamed forth, as if a sword,
    For Benevolent was the Night…

    And with my beaming, smiling sword,
    I Knighted Him the Night…

  12. Marcy Terwilliger says

    Oh Ken, I’m sitting here waiting for my Sir Lancelet to come and take me away for hot tea. That poem was regal, I see a dark tall horse, upon him sits the Knight as the moon cast light upon his handsome face. Those words, the story in them, if only we lived during those time, beautiful as I see it unfold before me.

    • says

      Thanks so very much – I am glad it conjured up something special and lasting for you – it was very strange, but in reading another poet’s contribution, the title came to me – and then the image of the night being an all embracing, noble sphere that would forgive the day’s troubles and replace them with gentle and welcomed rest. Thank you again for the kind words. I loved your posting as well.


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