POEM: “After Awhile” by Veronica Shoffstall

I just finished reading a wonderful book titled “Ice Bound” by Dr. Jerri Nielsen. The book details Dr Nielsen’s everyday experiences while wintering-over at an American research station at the South Pole. Dr.Nielsen has been hired as the resident doctor. She describes how a group of 41 people develop a special bond in the impossibly cold and totally isolated environment. It has been a warm and joyous experience until she realises she has symptoms of what may be a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. At one point, an oncologist, whom she has consulted on the Internet and who becomes a close friend,  forwards the words to a beautiful and inspiring poem titled “After A While.”

After awhile 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 defeats

with your head up and your eyes ahead

with the grace of a 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 awhile 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

and you really do have worth

and you learn

and you learn

with every goodbye, you learn…


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