Sunday, September 20, 2015

One of my favorites revisited: "After A While" by Veronica A. Shoffstall.



So I first read the poem below as a teenager, and thought I understood it. I kept a copy cut from the newspaper until it was ragged and referred to it's "life advice" countless times until one day it fell apart in soft fragments of paper.For a long time I kept myself out of relationships ("kisses aren't contracts") and lived a solitary life. But at some point I opened up and began to fall in love. My first boyfriend in NY was an actor/dancer and just so beautiful and graceful. He was not the brightest but so very sweet. We shared a lot of laughs and he introduced me to the NY City that I grew to love and hate for so many reasons.  Thanks to him I had that first romantic kiss in the snow, walks in a beautiful New England woods on an Autumn day, leaves crunching beneath our feet, mitten clad hands interlocked and arms entwined. He was my first boy with the Northern eyes that I wrote about in many poems.  And eventually we both realized it was time to let go and move on.  From him I learned that I needed someone who could challenge me intellectually and that a pretty package was nice but boring.During my time in NY I waited a lot for someone to bring me flowers, to give me presents and to love me... I wanted Romance (capital R thank you!) and thought I had found it several times. And eventually I met someone and married him. And 25 years later divorced him. Now those 25 years were quite a journey instilled with love and laughter and romance with that capital "R" but eventually madness and sorrow  outweighed the good times. I did not like who I had become. And I could not save him but I could save myself. So it ended. Reading the poem now resonates in a lower, deeper place in my heart. So much rings true: "company doesn't mean security", "futures have a way of falling down" and "so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers."  But most importantly : "And you learn that you really can endure, you really are strong, you really do have worth." I am beginning to like myself, actually there are days I love me. Somewhere along the way, I had lost "me". I had tried to be someone I wasn't. I let anger and disappointment warp my soul. I didn't take the words of the poem to heart. Tonight out of nowhere it appeared again. I read it anew and realized what a gift my life has been. To have poetry at its core, that reappears as needed is a holy gift. Words. Words are so important to me. They have such power. They have such a long lasting effect. They can hurt and sear but they can also heal...

"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…"
  ~ 1971, Veronica A. Shoffstall.