Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
The poem, an elegy, is sometimes called
"I Am" due to its repetition of the biblical phrase. Was
the poem inspired? The Hebrew name for God,
YHWH, means "I am" or "I am that I am." And there does seem to be
something magical about the poem, as it was written by a woman who, to our
knowledge, had never written a poem before. Mary Elizabeth Frye was an orphan with no
formal education. In 1932 she and her husband hosted a young Jewish woman,
Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was fleeing the Holocaust. When she received news that
her mother had died in Germany, the heartbroken houseguest
told Frye in despair that she had never had the chance to "stand by my
mother's grave and shed a tear." Frye found herself composing the poem above on
a ripped-off section of a brown paper shopping bag. She said the words "just
came to her."
Here is a prayer-poem that I wrote in a similar burst of compassion during a very dark
time in my life:
I Pray Tonight
I pray tonight
the starry light
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.
I pray ere the morrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.
by Michael R. Burch