Wisdom In Poetry

On the night before I began my senior year of high school, my heart was broken by a blue-eyed redhead.  Upon learning of my depleted emotional state, my great aunt sent me a copy of Desiderata.  She also suggested that I make like a dog: retreat to the shadows and lick my wounds, then come out stronger and ready to face the world.  She’s a wise one, my great aunt.  To this day, that copy of Desiderata remains framed in my bedroom.

Fast forward several years… I was in my great aunt’s house, reading the various tidbits magnetized to her fridge.  One of those tidbits was (is, as far as I know) the following poem…

After A While

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 always 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 ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.
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
you really are strong
you really do have worth.
And you learn
And you learn
With every goodbye, you learn…

-Veronica A. Shoffstall


She’s a wise one, my great aunt…

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  1. I’ve never been married, so I can’t say I know the difficulties and pain firsthand; come to think of it, though, my parents did get divorced when I was in my teens, and I always thought they did the right thing. RT

    p.s. the poem *is* wise…

  2. Once again … convergence. I thought of this poem yesterday after not having thought of it in years. It was first given to me by a friend when I was in 9th grade, on the heels of my own broken heart (well, as much of a broken heart as you can have at 14). I pseudo-laminated it with strips of Scotch tape, and carried it around in my wallet for years. Took it to college with me and pinned it to the desk in my dorm room. Moved it across more states (and countries) than I can count. I lost track of it sometime during my marriage, because I didn’t think I needed it anymore. It popped into my head yesterday and I was tempted to go through boxes of old memorabilia to locate it, because I’m certain it’s still around somewhere. Thanks for saving me the trouble. And thanks for the attribution … my copy says “Author Unknown.”

  3. Beautiful and wise poem. And so true. I wish I would have read this poem and taken the words to heart back in my younger days, before I got married. Ah, woulda coulda shouldas…

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