What is and is Not

This Poem is Not a Poem
                                 BY JUDI BACHRACH
This poem outside my window
is the shad tree that is not a shad tree 
exuberant in white lace for spring 
an unidentified shrub
reminding me of the tree that bloomed 
for twenty-five years
outside my old bedroom window


This poem is the husband
who is the not the living husband
holding me
my empty bed
remembering
our love of almost fifty years
now a vast horizon
where the sun stunningly
dips down behind the ocean


This poem is a deadly pandemic
freezing in place
chaotic days and nights
that are not our days and nights
sheltering nostalgia for what was
compelling history
searching for
the right use
of our time
our actions
our hearts

This poem unmasks
a world of sighs and sorrows
a fierce skin-to-skin embrace
of love and beauty
in every hope and fear
a shimmering possibility
sweet breath by breath
creating what is
and what will be

Never Alone

Diary 4/29/20

This poem arose in me during our last Quaker meeting.

The more

I hold myself together

The more

I forget I am already held

Let the pieces fall where they may

Here

I am

The following song was written and performed by my dear friend Jason and is offered as a gift of gratitude for those who struggle on our behalf. Please listen and help it reach those who need to hear and know that we are never alone.

Earth Day

Diary 4/22/20

As the writer Arundhati Roy observed in a beautiful essay (click on beautiful essay to read it) in The Financial Times last week, “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”

“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Diary 4/21/20

Headlines for The Fiftieth Earth Day

                                    Judi Bachrach

Canals Clearing in Venice!

Smog Lifting in Cities Around the World!

Seismic Activity on the Earth’s Upper Crust Quiet as Christmas Day!

If it were not a pause due

to tragically manhandling nature

we would be cheering at last

Help me to believe

fifty years from now

my grandson will congratulate

the successful generation before him

handing off the healing baton

to those coming up behind

Sustainable life on earth overcoming short term politics and financial gains!

All life thrives on our beloved planet!

Adrift

Diary 4/13/20

A dear friend’s birthday today. I sent her an ecard– poor substitute for last year’s flight to New York and in person hugs and kisses and chatting with her friends and family– but so it is in these times. Love is boundless as we know, as is time, though that last bit is harder to believe. What we know on an everyday stage is that time flows from the past through the present into the future. Mostly, we spend a great deal of time going backwards or projecting forwards from where we are right now. To stay in the right now takes practice, and even after fifty years of meditation, I find it challenging to stay still in silence.

I am profoundly grateful  that sometimes Silence blissfully rises up as an almost impenetrable barrier to accessing the non- stop flow of brain processing. But every sit is a different one and sitting with open expectation is forever spacious and non-specific. Now I go to zoom my Buddhist meditation group. Today I just hit the potential of deep quiet when the hour was up.  So it goes. I heard the rain splattered against my window in this windy weather. So my thoughts splattered against that momentary ceiling of quiet. Passing and gone.

Thoughts “good” or “bad” slide on by. One thought I had was that all living things share the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of their bodies. Whether it is in the air, within and on the land, or in the sea, this is true for ALL living things. The simple act of paying attention to every breath is our binding connection to life on earth. Breath itself is neutral, and the movement of that bodily exchange is going on sleeping or waking, for as long as we live. The last gasp is literally the end of our sojourn on the planet. Inside that thought I felt that I was being breathed, which is a familiar sensation/realization and always comforting to experience. To know that in this moment all I need to do is pay attention to each breath becomes such a refuge. I will make that phone call, read that article, connect with this or that person, eat my lunch- but not now. Now I am only focusing on that inbreath, that exhale, and the next and the next. Simple difficult work but with such rich rewards.

I wrote to another friend that anchoring in Love is what I work at every day. I am anchoring in my heart so that I am not drowned in statistics but can stay open to acknowledge the loss of the thousands of humans who have departed en masse from our world due to this virus. I felt seen and so moved by a poem sent to me by another friend doing the same work we all are while we safely find our groceries, cook, clean, use our computers, stay physically fit, and keep breathing every day.

spring in the courtyard garden three days ago

Adrift 

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.

This is how the heart makes a duet of 

wonder and grief. The light spraying 

through the lace of the fern is as delicate 

as the fibers of memory forming their web 

around the knot in my throat. The breeze 

makes the birds move from branch to branch 

as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost 

in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh 

of the next stranger. In the very center, under 

it all, what we have that no one can take 

away and all that we’ve lost face each other. 

It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured 

by a holiness that exists inside everything. 

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

—Mark Nepo

Last Night

Diary 4/9/20

Snowy rain fell all morning, melting within minutes of contact on grass or road. A chilly dreary spring day after brilliant sunshine yesterday. Then I gazed at a thousand bees in the flowering tree. Today streaks of sunshine are embodied by goldfinches at my bird feeder. Sweet greedy little creatures fussing at the larger sparrows and the other males for their grip on a perch. I am awaiting to tune into the Buddhist meditation group by zoom, my new daily ritual during the week. I am so glad to share this hour with others in silence.

The above image is waves on a Kendal pond by my friend, Rebecca Cardozo

The following poem came about as I noticed how closely all three religions of Abraham’s descendants were celebrating their holy days of Passover, Easter, and Ramadan. It moved me to include the very Buddhist metta invocations beginning with “May all beings…” as well. Each verse includes specific references to the individual holy day.s

Last Night

                        Judi Bachrach

We were glad the Angel of Death

did not come to our door

we came together asking why?

we remembered ancient oppression and freedom

Are we still oppressed?

Are we free?

May all beings be free.

This Sunday

we will awake at sunrise

Light resurrected

once more from dark

the manifold paths of

Love and Compassion

embrace mortality

May all beings awaken.

In thirteen days

we will maintain our fast

remembering the Source

remembering those less fortunate

small sacrifices of gratitude

we share with those we love

May all beings be nourished in body and soul.

Ancestors of Abraham’s children

knew death and renewal

of every season

rituals, sacrifices, celebrations

cracking open the egg

May all beings inhabit fully the Mystery of Life.

What we are Doing

time for a little smiling:

Diary 4/7/20

I send two photos- one of me visiting with a Kendal resident (from the larger community beyond the Care Center) who took the photo from outside my window standing six feet away. The other is what a proud Daddy sheltering at home helped his 4 month-old son, my grandson Max, to do, what with having time on their hands….