Friday, April 30, 2010

The Surprise of a Poem

For reasons probably better left unspoken, I was feeling in a little bit of a funk a few weeks ago. It's been an interesting month with my transition from my (now old) job to a new one and one evening, these lines from one of of my favorite poems were echoing in my head.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye, you learn.

So I did what any socially-connected person with a random thought would do: I posted the above lines as my Facebook status. 

And was amazed at the comments. 

You see, I thought everyone knew that poem, which is called "After a While."  I first read it shortly after my father died when someone sent it to my mom in a sympathy card and she shared it with me.  A calligraphied version of it has resided everywhere from my college dorm to the guest room in our current house. The lines are so familiar, so defining of my life, that I guess I assumed it was the case with everyone. 

Not quite. 

Because several of those commenting on it had clearly never heard this before, even those with similar life experiences as mine. I copied and pasted the whole thing and sent it to several people, all the while thinking that poetry is really an amazing gift, isn't it? It's a gift when someone shares a favorite poem with us, a surprise that these words, arranged just so, have been there all along, waiting for us to discover them.

Today marks the last day of National Poetry Month, so in the spirit of such, I'm not going to assume you know this one. If you do know it, enjoy it one more time ... and pass it on to someone who might need it. 

After A While, by Virginia Shoffstall
After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning.
And company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of a women, not the grief of a child,
And learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for future plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in midflight,
And after a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye, you learn.

5 comments:

Niksmom said...

How on earth did I miss that fb post!? This is one of my (many) favorites. :-)

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

I'm sure I've missed a couple of your FB posts along the way, too, Niksmom ... don't feel bad! And I had a feeling it would be one of your favorites, too.

Florinda said...

I've seen all or parts of that poem before - usually in forwarded e-mails, and never properly attributed. Thank you!

Dina said...

I've always seen it attributed to "anonymous." Glad you found its author!

Grete said...

Melissa -

“And you learn and learn...”

A day without learning, is a missed opportunity. And today this new (to me) poem and its wisdom makes my day! Thanks!

Grete