Poet Robert Frost died 50 years ago yesterday, and Poets & Writers magazine offered the challenge of writing a poem using Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” as a model.

Robert Frost

Frost was born in 1874, some time after Robert Anderson (a suspected relation to this author) invented a crude electric carriage in Scotland, and some 39 years after Thomas Davenport of Brandon, Vermont, built his own small-scale electric car. Davenport also invented the first American-built DC electric motor.

Robert Anderson’s Electric Carriage, circa 1832

Perhaps because I was working on some electric vehicle materials in my day-job yesterday, I couldn’t resist penning this over lunch, with apologies to the poet: 
“Stopping by the Roadside on a Snowy Evening” 
Whose car this is I think I know; 

No keys I need to make it go. 

You may not hear me driving by 

‘Cause electric cars are soft as snow. 
My finger on the button here 

Will make the engine start and gear 

And waken not the woods and lake 

–the quietest engine of the year. 
I give the foot-pedal a tiny tap 

And feel the seat belt on my lap. 

The only other sound’s the hush 

Of lofty wind and goosewing flap. 
The road is lively, quick, and steep. 

But I have batteries to keep, 

And miles to drive before I sleep, 

And miles to drive before I sleep. 
–Scott Edward Anderson 

Davenport’s Electric Car, 1835

Last week the delightful Scottish poet Elspeth Murray posted some photographs of a trail intersection on Twitter. She referred to it as “a Robert Frost type dilemma.”

She reminded me of my poem “Reckoning,” which describes another Frostian dilemma. Written almost twenty years ago, “Reckoning” is a poem about the difficulties that visit a young couple when one of them is having doubts about their path forward.

Sometimes the choice we make is the wrong one. Sometimes, even when our choice extends the journey beyond what we anticipated, it turns out the right one.

(I should say here that the couple depicted in the poem recently celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary.)

Here is my poem, “Reckoning”:

Camel’s Hump, Vermont, 4083′


Your abacus of worries,
me, counting my own pace, afraid
of the one real thing
I’ve known in years–
Negotiating our vertiginous October,
up through birch, maple, oak, cedar, white pine;
granite rising like barnacles on a humpback.
How do you stay calm?
Conceit hangs from my pack
like an extra water bottle.
I have trouble listening:
Do you want to push me over the summit,
or knock me out with a chunk of granite?
The mountain is not mine, I fool myself
when I play the king.


We get turned around, tricked by language:
The ring of civilization in “Forest City,”
or the sylvan slur of “Forestry.”
The wrong trail is the one I’ve chosen–
And through the muddle, darkness comes,
and fourteen miles is the double of seven.
We switchback over the mountain’s bulge
and bushwhack round its base,
hours multiplied by circumference.


At last back at camp,
we learn to count on each other.
From the stone house meadow:
Our prankster’s rising hump.
We curse and praise its witchery.
On that rock-ribbed blackberry hill
of Vermont’s quiet reckoning, we
calculate the chalk silhouette
in a moonlit night’s
heavy charcoal horizon.

–Scott Edward Anderson

(This poem appeared in Earth’s Daughters journal in 1997.)