It is often remarked that the dead outnumber the living. Actually, the difference between the dead and the living is sometimes an artificial barrier. If, as Faulkner said, the past isn’t past, the dead aren’t really dead: they are ever among us.

An ironic example of this perspective is On Borrowed Time, by Naomi Goodman. Naomi died at the age of 85, only weeks before the publication of her book, and she is by no means “departed.” She is very much on the mind of (in the presence of) family and friends, and she will long be remembered as a poet, a scholar of Judaica, and an activist pacifist. Now she will also remain in the form of On Borrowed Time, a collection of poems that bravely explore the nature of life, aging, and death.

Her poems acknowledge death, but they point out that we must live on until we join those who have never completely left us. Goodman generously and bravely shares her feelings of grief about the loss of her mother and the loss of her husband, but as she points out, grief is for survivors. The dead do not grieve.

The poems about Goodman’s relationship with her mother are especially moving. The relationship was laced with judgment during the poet’s younger years, but as the poet aged she came to recognize the similarity in the mirror. In her own old age she felt a bond with her mother, made of peace and appreciation. A similar shift in attitude is revealed in her poems of widowhood, as she remembers and honors a relationship now seen through the perspective of grief. The third section of the book concerns old age. Old age isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, but there is wisdom and peace to be thankful for, and an appreciation of what’s left.

This book of poems is a journey as well as a journal. As we age we approach a still greater journey, but we must recognize that, just as the dead have never deserted us entirely, we will still be around for those we leave behind. We leave records and tracks. And Naomi Goodman has left behind a tangible reminder: On Borrowed Time.

Naomi Goodman lived in New York City and Long Island. She was an honorary Chairperson of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Secretary and past president of the Jewish Peace Fellowship. She was co-editor of the Challenge of Shalom: the Jewish Tradition of Pace and Justice.

On Borrowed Time
Poems of Two Centuries
Naomi Goodman
ISBN 1-56474-451-5
80 pages, paperback, $12.00

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