Poetry Is Just The Evidence Of Life. If Your Life Is Burning Well, Poetry Is Just The Ash.*

March 5, 2011

The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse. The one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars. • Aristotle, On Poetics

In The Sole Survivor, Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1983) said that “[a] poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.” Although music was her passion, my mother’s poetry was, she believed, her gift from a God she spoke with often, providing her with what she called pure moments of truth that she was always looking for, but seldom found.

Her poems represented this voice of God in her life, evidence of her strong faith, their words at the heart of her mission on earth. They provided her with transcendent purpose. The poetry in her head came, she told me, at times when she needed epiphany, bringing her grace and sustenance for life’s difficult times. She wrote “Home at Last,” the poem we read at her funeral, more than forty years ago, standing at the stove, my youngest brother a toddler pulling at her skirt. The poem “appeared all at once, a voice talking to me as clear as can be, as clearly as you are talking to me now.” It was this way with all her poetry.

Home at Last

by Eunice Wilkins Stukan; professional name, Carol Daye

If I should die, don’t weep for me!

For I’ll be where you’d like to be;

Away from all the pain and strife

That ever haunts us in this life.

I’d like no mourning at my shroud;

A sign to say – – – “No tears allowed

For she has gone to Heaven’s Gate,

And though you tarry she will wait.”

Time flies so fast, the years go soon,

Some lives are short, from morn till noon,

While others their full course do run,

And tarry yet when day is done.

This life is good – – – though oft’ too late

We learn this lesson, for we wait,

For things of greatness to impart – –

And pass an understanding heart,

Without a pause, and ne’er a glance;

The piper plays and off we dance.

We passed a tree – – – no time to look,

Or maybe ‘twas a babbling brook;

Perhaps a child with word and smile

We thought a nuisance all the while.

Yes, shed no tears for I have passed

To claim a perfect life at last.

You knew my faults, at least in part,

You knew my independent heart.

No, shed no tears, for there I’ll be

With friends who’ve gone ahead of me.

And when they ask of you, I’ll say,

“They’ll be along another day.”

No, don’t feel sad, I’m home at last!

My tears and trials are in the past.

Help finish what I’ve left undone,

It seems – – – so much – – – I’d just begun.

So, bow your head, in prayer rejoice,

In hymns of praise life up your voice

And thank the Lord for wondrous grace,

That gave me entrance to this place.

Yes, I’ll be waiting at the gate – – –

No, don’t be sad – – – you come, I’ll wait.

In the decades after mom wrote this poem, she shared it with thousands of people. I’ve been given copies by people who had no idea that my mother had written it. In the letters she left behind are many from people comforted by the words she gave them along with pots of spaghetti, boxes of homemade fudge, and, finally, when she was too tired to cook, half-pound boxes of Mrs. See’s Candies.

There are people to whom others gravitate and open their hearts, knowing that they have found a safe harbor. My mother was one of them.

What is the poetry—and purpose—of your life?

Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer. • Terri Guillemets

I don’t create poetry. I create myself. For me, my poems are a way to me. • Edith Sodergran

* Thanks to Leonard Cohen for the title wisdom.



  1. This year has been an incredible journey for me. I have walked upon two roads simultaneously. With one foot I was walking the path of a student. With the other though, I was walking the path of a teacher. Student teaching has been incredible. This has been a year I will never forget. Though many colleges of mine seemed to find it stressful and hard, I really enjoyed it and was able to live through the year stress free. Of course having a great family and being able to pray to the Lord helped me immensely, but also the fact that I decided in my mind to have fun with everything that came my way.
    No one would believe me if I said the year was easy, and of course it did present challenges along the way. What set me apart from the people that were stressed was that I had predetermined to see every challenge as a hurdle I could jump over now instead of later. With that in mind, I was able to take every challenge captive and actually enjoy them. I have seen so many struggling students turn around and become successful academically, but even more importantly, as individuals.
    September experience was a great taste of what could be expected for the year. It lit a spark in me that couldn’t wait to take over and teach the classes. By winter, though a bit nervous to teach the high school students as a 21 year old myself, I couldn’t wait to be the teacher. That experience was extremely enjoyable, growing, and taught me to be more confident despite my age. By the spring session of full day student teaching, I felt like I was more than able to teach the students. Of course new challenges arose: dealing with trouble making students, teenage dilemmas, and other random situations. I found myself laughing, empathizing, and stepping up as an authoritative figure, all while trying to show the students I really do love being with them.
    Now that it is winding down to a close, I’m fighting the tears because as students ask to be my student aide next year, or ask how to request me for their health or PE teacher, I have to tell them I won’t be back. Truly I will miss these students. Though I’m planning on going to sports events next year, I really hope subbing opportunities will arise. Invested is the word I would use to describe my feelings at this point. Though I will miss them, I have many years of meeting more students in the future.

  2. Love your attitude–it will serve you well as a teacher. As you can imagine, it would be easy for any teacher to stress over little things, but I’ve found it much easier to determine NOT to do so. It isn’t that I don’t care, but that I also know I need to care about myself and it’s part of my low-stress strategies. W-OZ

  3. This page about famous poetry is isnanely insightful.. I adore poetry. This other site i check out a bucket load is called Poetry-of the-day.com .

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