Clouds and Memories

I drop under the azure sky,

fall onto the grass, fresh in spring,

sniff as if for the first time.

The little cat comes to join me,

picking up each paw to navigate the way.

She drops into the shade traced by my arm.

Then, she crawls away

to her better advantage.

Once I sat under this sky

on a green hill

with a boy.

We laughed at the slow parade of cumulus clouds,

watching the white birds drifting,

an angel,

a circus clown,

a theater of our own.

Mary Elyn Bahlert, 04/2020

Paschal Moon

I step into the dark from the kitchen door
without a sound,
waiting for her to show herself.

There she is – hiding in the branches,
The redwood laughing at her pranks.
I stand, silent, waiting for her to peek through the leaves of the hard maple.
She loves to shine at just the right moment.
– there she is – she darts between the branches,
And again.

I wait.
The trees wait.
In a moment, the trees shimmer,
A breeze running through the silence of their lifted arms:
Praying, dancing,
we sway, shiver,
bend to worship her.

Mary Elyn Bahlert, 4/10/2020

This, this, this

Palm Sunday.

I sit in my small basement study. Rain drops cover the screen across the window. I am warm, I have a warm house. It’s cozy here in my little room, a room of my own. I am grateful.

My husband opens the door at the top of the stairs and calls my name. A few minutes later, my husband opens the door at the top of the stairs and calls my name. He is checking on me. He wants to know I’m here, I’m safe, he’s safe.

“There’s a kind of hush, all over the world…”

There is a kind of hush this morning, Sunday. Today, it’s an eerie hush. In the hush, I check my emails, and I see messages of love from family, from friends. Although I am alone here in this small space, I am not alone. I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, the ancestors, I can hear them, crying softly, allowing me to hear their grief for me as I have grief for them.

And this is a blessed time, filled with many things. Like a jar of buttons, shaped and colored, two holes, four holes, all different, this time is filled with many things. “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” Truly, there is. The time is filled with reading. I water my plants, my companions. Every day, in my mind, I awake with a song, and I hum the tune throughout the day. We eat our simple meals together. We read a few lines of the Psalms, of a poem, of someone who lived long ago who knew this time, as well. From time to time, there is anger, there is fear, and there is laughter, also.

“There is a time for every purpose under heaven.”

I can sit with that thought. I can sit. I can breath. I can be fearful. I can be joyful. I can be grateful. I can be whole.


I hear on the news, “the vulnerable population,” and they mean me. I’m one of the old folks now. I don’t feel it, in my skin, in my body, that is. I feel the same as I always did, from the time I can remember. It’s good to know – reading books – that I’m not just this little voice, telling me to stand up straight, to look people in the eye, to feel ashamed of myself because I said something out of line. It’s good to know, for sure.

But I was talking about being one of “the vulnerable population.” We’ve been told to shelter in place by white men in expensive business suits (their eyes look glassed over, they’re preoccupied), so I expect that’s what we need to do. I have restless energy inside of me, and I read and read, and check Facebook to see if there’s anything else posted that I might have missed, and then I jump up and turn the cushions over on my easy chairs and straighten a couple of vases on a shelf. I dust. I use a brillo pad to clean under the grates on the stove. I feel accomplished, even if I am one of “the vulnerable population.”

I hate being in a category, a category of any kind, but especially this one. I sit in my wingback chair in my basement office and read, and then I put the book down and I think. I’ve always been a big thinker, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in the “vulnerable population” before, so I have to think about this now. What if I die in the next few weeks, if this scary virus comes to my house? What then?

I think about my good friend, Bonnie, who died last fall. Does she even know we’re going through this now, or is her being alive still, an illusion? I expect no one knows the answer to that question, although some people say they do. Is she missing this? I can visualize her sitting in her pretty house, reading a book, stopping from time to time to fill her cup with tea and to gaze out at her Japanese Tea House. What she’s missing now!

If I die during this “outbreak” (that’s the word the white men in expensive suits use), then I guess I’ll just have to accept that this is the end. This is how it all ended, for me. I’ll have to be ok with leaving a few places in the house that are not dusted, I’ll have to die without ever having jumped out of an airplane, that I will never see Milwaukee, again, or even take a walk around the Lake here in Oakland. There won’t be any time to be ok with it, or not. I’ll just have to go through whatever it is to go through and be ok, or not. That will have to be ok.

I expect I’ll have to be ok with it when the curtain of consciousness drops, and that’s all there is.

I make a few phone calls. I make a few phone calls to other members of the “vulnerable population,” like me. I know quite a few interesting people, so they’re not bored by being ordered to be at home, either. They’re reading and doing crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles and trying to take it all in, too. Maybe they get up to dust another shelf in the house, too. I don’t know. A few of them are writing poetry, or working on a novel, or maybe a memoir. Even if they’re “vulnerable”, they’re interesting, at least to me.

Today the dog next door, a Burmese Mountain Dog, beautiful, runs into my house, sniffing, her big nose lifted into the air, and then she runs out again. Is she vulnerable, too? My neighbors, two quiet young people – they’re not “vulnerable,” at least no one has told them they are, or they don’t believe they are (I was like that once, too), stand in their front yard and talk to me for a few minutes. Are they looking at me, thinking “she’s one of the vulnerable ones?”

I expect the point of this to me is that I’ve always been vulnerable, and you have, too. It’s just that we don’t think about it. We don’t have time to think about it, for the most part, until we’re right up against it, which I don’t believe I am yet, do you?