Stone as Palimpsest













A SUITE OF STONES




I. TO THE ROCKS OUTSIDE MY FENCE

To get to here, to us, where we are.
Turn off Washington onto that street
with the name I refuse to say
for its preciousness in a modest development,
and driving slow, respecting children
and their parents, you'll see the flag
on your left and the flag underneath the flag,
another unnamed one, turn left before this one
and the stones will be on your left
in front of the white fence.
Follow the stones.

These stones, picked up, dug up, placed here,
by me. Mostly ordinary stones, long buried,
placed here, random and not random, by me.
The occasional cairn. The river run run out,
the creek bed, what dried out, and what ran
and still runs in water imagined and real.
Some stones from famous rivers, too.
All of the stones, themselves, silent,
but showing a direction, a way.
These stones are us, on the corner.
Keep following the stones.
The specimen trees surrounding the stones
will tell you without telling you,
even while making their own statement,
this is a stone garden.




















II. AFTER GATHERING RIVER STONES FOR THREE DAYS

Nobody told me about Ghost Town Turnoff
where I can see the Garnet Range.
After all these river stops. When granite magma
entered limestone, the two reacted to form
a new kind of rock. The key to gold mineralization
lies in granite magma rising molten from earth's crust
forming the slippery base for block to slide on,
cooling, crystalization separated quartz and gold
into veins. My pastor friend remembers the Finn,
Arne Siirila saying poets are nerve endings of society.
When Grandpa Charlie was dying in Dakota,
he said, Don't let them burn me. Dear God,
don't let them cauterize my nerves. We cried
each other into comas, and left for Black Elk's grave
located in St. Agnes' Catholic Cemetery in Manderson
at Pine Ridge. Pretty soon, for the dreamers,
oblivious of the star dust in their palms,
gold is in the pan. You figure that one.




















III. THE CHINESE TRANSLATOR DAVID HINTON
SECULARIZES HEAVEN TO MEAN 'NATURAL PROCESS'

Looking back through the notebook
the world does seem to fit onto a single page

You have to keep the live vein
You have to get food up there somehow
You need to give the tree a chance

Nebari, front, trunk, direction, movement,
first branch, apex

The project of forgetting commences

Mothership Zendo
Turn the quilt, go with the thread
Indian summer

Finish start and go
Baseball boats float white water
Sky openings

Leg out on black mat
Take care of it




















IV. SURPRISE OF THE STONES IN THE STAMP COLLECTOR'S
BOOK, IMPRISONED APART: THE WORLD WAR II
CORRESPONDENCE OF AN ISSEI COUPLE

--for Louis Fiset, and the "Stone Pickers"

            Dear Hanaye, Yesterday I mailed you
                two stone handicrafts I made. I made these
                myself. So won't you hold them in safekeeping?
                Compare these with the previous ones
                and see how much care I have taken...It took
                lots of work in matching the color and shape of
                each one. The ashtray is a small one for individual
                use. The flower vase is the one with the empty
                Alka Seltzer bottle. I'm completing them
                one after the other every day...Day before last
                I made a cookie jar. Sayonara, Iwao
                                October 30, 1943

Driving off Lolo Pass, Mothership loaded
with treasure from the Lochsa River,
stone  rich and tired from river walking,
the distant reality is the Fort Missoula Detention Station
and I didn't remember Louis Fiset's Imprisoned Apart,
World War II Correspondence of an Issei couple,
and he and Joan are coming the morning
I'm due home. Suiseki stones
is what I've been looking for, miniature
Japanese landscape stones, what I have
been searching for in the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.

Establishing conversation on the patio
after their arrival, Louis tells me a story
of correspondence during the time of the camps,
focusing on narratives envelopes tell,
stamps and cancelation, along with their value.
Together, they witness censorship of love.
This is how Fiset enters the story,
and at one point holds in his hands,
the custodian of an unopened love letter
between the couple
separated by ocean waters and war.
Years later the woman finds Fiset
and he delivers the letter.

We hand rub stones as Fiset talks.
The stones work too, and we are dimly
conscious of how, and the ways they remain
present to us during the weekend.
Fiset sends me his book with the letters.
The stones we rubbed for the patina
come from Missoula, the same riverbeds.
The letters to Japan narrate their importance.
Stone fever sweeps through camp as detainees
find many-colored rocks of varied shape
during spring snow melt,
polishing them on concrete floors
and government issue blankets.
Practical gifts of stone ashtrays, yes,
but not all. In one photo, suiseki stones
displayed alone, cairn in itself.

From Louis Fiset's research:
Training center during WWI. Headquarters for CCC.
North Bank of the Bitterroot River.
The fort sat on the dry bed of Lake Missoula,
a mammoth Ice Age glacial lake.
Prehistoric ice-damned body, at times a 1000 feet deep.
Filled and drained three dozen times during last Ice Age.
Geologic footprints etched on landscape.
In the Bitterroot Range to the west, 9,996-foot
granite batholith Lolo Mountain.

This ancient practice, un-named, Suiseki.

Stones we hold in our hands.
Familiar patina. Where it comes from.
Brothers and sisters of polished stones from the camp.
Fort Missoula, 1877, a recent yesterday, built
to protect settlers from the Flathead Indians.
Stones so much older than the trees
and yesterday's genocide.
Holding them under the faucet,
running water, rubbing them one last time
before placing them in the sun,
Louis and I walk through the stone garden.
I ask him again to tell me about the stamp,
and the cancelation on the envelope.
And the look on her face that day,
when she re-claimed her letter,
and it hadn't been opened,
are there words for the look on her face?

























V. END OF SEPTEMBER

Before the time of stretching
but after the morning of the dreaming
after Fall Equinox
and lawn mowers
with their Briggs and Stratton engines
and days back from the California rivers,
the first day of new music from Van,
...too late for sorrow...
I sit until I'm firm
with rivers and mountains poets.
Hsieh Ling-yun,
'a single dusk and dawn up here
shows you the way through empty and full'
on Thatch-Hut Mountain.
Even light-heartedness, David Hinton says
'Whenever I see people who ply city markets,
I realize recluse sorrows don't go very deep.'
Su Tung-p'o writes these lines
six hundred years after Hsieh.
When I sit like this the stone in my hand
reveals Beckons-Away Monastery.





















VI. TEN FOUR UNDERSTANDS
BUT WHAT DOES TEN FOUR LOOK LIKE
AS LEAVES TURN AND FALL

Painting by Shih T'ao
a poem about ruins
Eyes of October Suns

Living in mountains
with a garden of trees in town
Leave summer shade want

October dreaming
Patio stone patina
Inkwash baseball breath

Trumpet vine angels
Forget again, breathe, forget,
Finch thistle food

Lost finger koan
Stone rubs against stone
Off trail Sherpa laugh

Forget full practice
Deli dog recovery
It's all up for grabs


VII. PATINA

That loss is part
of the path light

Scratch that
into the surface
of the poem

as you burnish
wonder
with the hand rubbing


STONED PALIMPSEST

He throws the line
back into the water.
He recasts but cannot
completely erase. The note

book surfaces, imperfect
version of memory
all the way back
to the stone--its river

petroglyphs and etchings
partially disappeared
but for the memory
in thumb rubbings.



Jim Bodeen
30 July--31 October 2016






Letters to Svetlana Alexievich, and Masha Gessen


















Notebook pages while reading "The Memory Keeper"
in The New Yorker







LETTERS TO SVETLANA ALEXIEVICH (WITH A LETTER INSIDE
TO MASHA GESSEN WHO BROUGHT HER TO US IN THE NEW YORKER

ARTICLE, 'THE MEMORY KEEPER," OCTOBER 26, 2015) AFTER
ALEXIEVICH WINS THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

22 August 2016--13 October 2016

Dear Svetlana,

We have meatball stories, here, too.
And meatballs.
Perhaps you've heard.
Most likely, you've seen.
Don't bet against the meatball.
Your words. You'll lose.

Here a meatball is a man
who doesn't get it. A cartoon.
The joke itself.

There's a story you know.

Dear Svetlana,

I finished Secondhand Time early this summer,
along with your Afghan story. I'm a Viet Vet.
Medevac from a ground hospital.
I know your guys. I know Heilmann
from a talk on conscience after Paco's Story.
We sat at the same table then.
                                       Congratulations
on the Nobel. I've been meaning to write.
Can you say that to someone who listens like you?
Not because of the prize.  How easy
it is to get the  video camera here.
Years ago, in Michoacán, I meet the campesino poet
of the rancho who tells me the history of Mexico
by only talking about his rancho. La Cuestita,
little hill, and Tata, Lazaro Cardenas,
who broke up the haciendas in the 30s,
and built the first schools.
Salvador Navarro Navarro.
Twice Navarro. Returning again and again,
until even he knew he was repeating himself
without finding anything new. Now I can't
put that camera down.
           
                                                The story in New Yorker.
Memory Keeper, you talking about it with Masha Gessen.
What it is. Art doesn't always get it down. Getting the inflection
of the voice, transcribing stops and starts as they happen.
Going back in mid-sentence to recover the truer thread
before going forward. Listening to you, the listener,
Still trying to make the complex simple.
Always coming out wrong, making what's simple,
understandable to meatballs. Gessen
listening so well. I return to the interview
as I read your work. Your listening
calls up Lorca and the Duende.

These images in my notebook:
We were afraid of the phone ringing.
It was those God damn blue jeans!
Nothing but books on the store shelves.
I read detective novels. I'd finish one book and start the next one.

What about our children? They all want to study accounting.
Who are we now? We're the electorate.
My whole life I've believed we were the luckiest people on Earth.
That's how our children will remember us. Our parents sold out
A great country for jeans, Marlboros, and chewing gum.
I've read your books...You shouldn't put so much stock
in what people say, in human truth people don't write it, time does.
The mercy of my memories. I pick up every crumb.
You can wear the same suit for twenty years,
two coats are enough to last a lifetime,
but you can't live without Pushkin or the Complete Works of Gorky.

All of these voices. Pure listening. The pause, and restart.

Yesterday, unable to write you, I dig two holes,
plant two trees. Some of the meatballs here,
elect themselves. Some say they're called by God.
The trees are beautiful. One, Hinoki Cypress, has needles
soft as feathers, branches with the feel of silk scarves.
This isn't blue jeans and lingerie. Your listening saves time.
Listening to it all. Everything.
Once your speakers pull the trigger,
they flood themselves in language. Stopping,
only to return. Blake's mind-forged chains
broken by your tuned ear.
Better be quiet and watch you work.
You call up Rilke.

Banal time you say.
If I can't go deep with you, let me try small.
From the front porch in late afternoon
I have sanctuary on three sides
and a Little Cherry Twist in the garden.
I wasn't given small talk as a child,
don't know how to schmooz   e
and fear sit-down dinners.
At a family reunion in the American Heartland
we get up from the restaurant table
to adjourn to the dining room
where we are promised, No dessert.
Panicking, I ask my wife,
What will we do? She says, Talk.
Talk like this. No politics, no religion.
Religion understood.
Books, too, off the table, and fossils.
Svetlana, how do you do it?
No laughter, no tears. Nothing but compassion.
Yours is discipline requiring more than practice.
Everything here seemingly understood, one must find that place
to talk where there's no trouble.
Something like the thinnest veneer.
Talk from there. Keep it there.

I carry dumb luck where ever I go.
Ray Carver, who wrote stories and poems
from my town has one called,
What we talk about when we talk about love.
In this story, everybody's drunk.
Career people. Professional. Four of them.
Two couples having drinks before dinner.
More drinks, and Where should we go?
What we talk about when we talk about love.
Fueled by alcohol. What comes out
like that again and again. Our love in alcohol.

Walking through the day like this,
Svetlana, carrying Secondhand Time, your people.
What we talk about when we talk about love.

We are two couples walking in the city.
I'm carrying a tiny pocket book
of Thich Nhat Hanh's, How to Walk
 picked up in the airport.
It helps me walk into the room.

When the women return from the bathroom,
one of them takes it from my hand,
What is this? She's a talker,
She opens to the page where the monk says,
Walk without talking.
She looks at me, and falls apart.
Can you imagine me, Jim.
Walking and not talking?
How would you get anyplace?
Think of a song. Whistle.

Svetlana, Masha Gessen.
I didn't get it at first, how she did this story.

Dear Masha Gessen,
I wrote the following some months ago camping
off the Blackfoot River in Western Montana,
trying to get a foothold on Svetlana Alexievich
from The Memory Keeper, your article
on Svetlana Alexievich in The New Yorker
from last January.

Dear Svetlana,
The artists don't always get it.
Masha Gessen in The New Yorker.
Masha Gessen in The New York Times.
This week: Did the Soviet Union Really End?

I get it. Masha Gessen is guide, but she's also path.
Dear Masha, I didn't know your work.
Returning again and again to your time with Svetlana.
I missed your presence while stunned by your writing.
Your story surfaces in repeated return to the story.
I finished the story of your grandmothers yesterday.
Esther and Ruzya. I read it after finishing
Where the Jews Aren't, Birobidzhan,
autonomous vision between two rivers.
What I don't know all my life.
Thank you for those stories, the books.
Your work with Svetlana.
For bringing me her story of the meatball.

All local Russian museums begin with rocks.
You're writing from the museum in Birobidzhan,
Rocks do not need to be rearranged in case of regime change.
I'm just back from the Eel River in California.
Looking at stones. Looking for stones.
Miniature landscape rocks.
Suiseki, from the Japanese. Put the mountain range
in the palm of your hand. Glacial lakes the size
of your thumb. Imagine the mist. I go giddy
when I find this in Birobidzhan.
Between two rivers. The story
no one could tell me as a child.

David Bergelson, from the epigraph to the end,
I don't want to go, to feel events unfold.
The way you bring forth work of the local poets.
Emmanuil Kazakevich lives. Redeeming local poets
everywhere in every time. Teenage poet
on night walks, reading poems, guiding.
Citizen Taiga Has the Floor.
And at the end of the book,
you've tracked down Leonid Sholnik, poet,
for his surprises in growing up Soviet:
I would have wanted to pass the baton to my sons....
...like a mouse in the cellar of silence....
...everyone who did not come home in the 1930s...
carrying words, too, from the language of the times.
His book already written, not yet in a book
as I read in the mothership by the river in Montana.
The inexpensive edition, never reviewed, now with a life.
The tenacious reporting parallel, equal, alongside.
And the night of the murdered poets.

Other clues, too. Research reaching for insight
into the next question: Are Russians dying for lack of hope?
--the question surfacing with these:
Why haven't Russians experienced hope in the last quarter century?
Why are Russians incapable of hope?
We die of broken hearts in the American Empire too.
This sentence beginning early in the autonomous book:
Hope, crippled by tragedy but still alive reasserted itself in Birobidzhan...

I come home to find your grandmas, Ester and Ruzya.
Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace.
In search of a decent compromise.
...Secured her safety...sacrificed integrity.
How many ways are there to arrest a person?
When the call came...
Nobody knows literature like the censor.
All of this in the family story. Some homecoming.
All of this in your story on Svetlana, the memory keeper.
All of it, forcing itself forward, asking me to find it.
Thank you. For all of it.
Jim

This is one letter to you, Svetlana Alexievich,
You show up on every page of Secondhand Time:
On cries and whispers and exhilaration
On the mercy of memory and the lust for meaning
On a different Bible and a different kind of belief
I laugh, he doesn't
Now I have decided to publish his story in full. It belongs to history
more than it does to any one individual
On the sweetness of suffering and the trick of the Russian soul
[She stops.] Are you sick of listening to me?
The charms of emptiness
On a loneliness that resembles happiness
I didn't realize right away that I had turned on the tape recorder

And a third category, mine:

how you weave and fold
all of it into human community,
or a voice -- Voice One, empathetic, with and to--regardless.
Pancakes and love. And then what?
Salami everywhere.
Italics and ellipses.
Bela Shayevich.
Ten years without the right of correspondence.
An accomplice on the barricades.
Dangerous places.
Recording the  jokes.

For putting it all in, thank you.

Jim Bodeen
22 August 2016--Below Lolo Pass--13 October 2016,
Yakima, Wa


P.S. A kitchen conversation. Iris DeMent, American songwriter, singer,
adopted a child from Russia. Becoming her mother sent her to poems of Akhmatova.
She plays piano. Began singing the poems. They've been recorded.
Try a listen on YouTube.

P.P.S. On the morning I put this in the mail, Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan and Svetlana Alexievich.
Enough for one day.
Masha, No mistake. No mistake.









The Bonsai Poet Wires His Tongue

























POET IN THE BONSAI POT
WITH A WIRED TONGUE

My trees look
like my poems
I write knowing
how misleading
this all is, my trees

look like my poems
My poems look like my trees

The bonsai tree
collected from nature
is no longer a wild tree
The tree
in nature is wild
A tree in a pot
is a working
accepted definition

The bonsai tree
can be made by
certain ones,
certain artists not me
to look wilder
than the same tree
in the forest

This poem
is about the poem
This poem is not about the tree

My poems look like my trees
Anyone can have this tree.
I want what isn't there.

Jim Bodeen
9-11 October 2016







CHERISHED PATINA AND THE LONG MARRIAGE, ALWAYS OFF-ROAD TRAVEL



TIME AND THE CHERISHED PATINA

An earned varnish, now on the marriage.
More than 50 years of knowing.
Mothership on the road, traveling
to the farm off-grid on 101, northern California.

A rare breakfast in a restaurant, in Willets.

She reads him the directions to the farm,
20-some miles in, off Commercial Street.
Set your car's trip mileage odometer now.
Pass Noyo Theatre on right, City Park on left,
continue straight. When you are 1 1/2 miles
from Willits, you will come to a Y,
with O'Leary's Red Barn Feed Store
of to your right, veer left. You will now be on
Hearst Willits Road, County Road 306.
This road will curve again to your right.
When you are almost out of the valley,
you will come to the junction of 306
and 308 Canyon Road. Continue straight
on 308 Canyon Road. You will cross
a small single lane bridge, 3.9 miles from Willits,
and start up the canyon. Canyon Road
is paved, but gets narrow. So be careful.
About 7.4 miles from Willits
you will come to another Y in the road.
Turn left and go across a cement bridge.
The road now becomes Tomki Road
and will soon become unpaved.
Continue on Tomki Road until you come
to a T Intersection. If you were to go straight,
you would turn into someone's driveway.
If you go left you end up in Tomki Creek.
Therefore, take a sharp right hand turn
up the mountain. You are now
back on Hearst Willits Road.

Go up and down and around and about
on this road--past Foster Mountain Road
(veer left) until you reach the Eel River.
It will be on your left-hand side
with a sheep farm on its north bank.
About this time you'll also see a little cabin
and then a home on your right.
As you continue straight, you'll notice
a big silver bridge to your left--
do not go left over the bridge.
Directly in front of you the road curves left
towards the bridge; you'll see a group
of mailboxes on your right,
and an Emandal sign on a tree, stay right.
The road splits again just a short distance
after the first Y. Stay to the right.
Follow this road past the lower Vineyard,
past the Emandal Sign, past the Staff Housing,
all the way to Emandal. The road ends at the farm.

If you have questions, call,
but realize that cell phone reception ends
once you leave the Willits Valley
and our phone could remain unanswered.

Jim Bodeen
listening to Karen reading
trying to follow instructions
in the Mothership, ducking branches

15 September 2016

Mt. Shasta Rest Stop

MT. SHASTA REST STOP

has a picnic table in shade
and we stop and get out the little Weber grill,
put on four brats with apple and chicken.
Two young men in yellow vests
work the cleanup crew whooping it up
carrying plastic bags, helping each other
with what it is they're charged to do.
Not yet in their 20s we think, watching them.
Soon they smell these brats.
Hot dogs, they say, pointing to the grill.
We have two extra. Would you like them?
They run over as I get the buns ready.
Catsup? Mustard? Both. Karen says,
They've got apple and chicken inside.
One says, I can taste the apple.
The other says to his companion,
You're supposed to say, 'Please', and,' Thank you'.
Didn't you know that?
The man with the dog, smoking a cigarette,
watching us all, walks by, says,
They have just enough intelligence
for a government job.

Jim Bodeen
20 September 2016


Kawa Doja is the Classroom of the Riverbank


Field Collecting on the Eel River
Why stones are watered,
and how the turning of the stones
changes the ways we enter the river.

Jim Bodeen
25 September 2016

CHECKING IN WITH THE MUSE ON THE RIVER

FOUR DAYS ON THE EEL RIVER WITH STONES

We who know we're fastened
to the poem, know something
of our approximation.

Carrying War & Peace since midsummer
the book became as intimate as the wallet
in my back pocket. Book worn well, weathered,
scratching a surface I hadn't known.
I came here to be with these stones,
to see them in their water.
They showed themselves to me,
and for this I am grateful.
Eel River Suiseki. I came to like
the ones scratched with travel,
the ones in calligraphy, like an ancient
Chinese poem I couldn't translate.
Something like the way the paper cover
of War and Peace turned to something like leather.

Kawa Doja is the classroom of the riverbank.
It surprises me how much the riverbank speaks
in the voice of all my teachers, like I am
surrounded by Sensei from then and now.
As I become familiar, not native,
I discover that I have been given
certain permissions. I am granted invitations
to enter the river and bathe. Stones
are given to me, with instructions
that they are to become part of the gift,
that they must always move, that their patina
will surface over time, with water,
with sunshine, and with love.
And then, as if to correct me
for trying to do everything right, to be perfect,
(Imagine that, in me!), the stones come up
the trail in my pack, where I perform
a first cleaning, and they sit with me
as I finish the great story of Tolstoy.
The book has become a kind of diary,
and I find myself taking notes
in the margins, jotting fragments
of my imagination as they cross
my field of vision. And then,
all my fretting over the daiza
and my literal concern for display
came to the fore, as I sat with book and stone
before the campfire in the lawn chair.
The worn cover with the soft pages
presented themselves with the stones,
drying but still damp. Pierre, in his tears,
listening to Karataev, Natasha wiping the brow
of Andrei, still separate from each other,
and Moscow, the mother of all cities, empty.
These pages offer themselves.
Perhaps I may be excused for beginning a poem,
or a prayer, this effort at gratefulness,
by starting with War and Peace.
Unforgivable entrance! But how else
to explain how Pierre came to hear Karataev say,
Lord, lay me down like a stone, lift me up like a loaf.
Or to be called by him, Little Falcon?
As Pierre noted, he knew nothing
by heart except prayer.
Stone, book, story, all of it gathered
before me in the lawn chair by the fire.
I set the still-drying stone on the page,
a perfect tray, and the page absorbs
the water as will someday, the stone.
It will take me longer than that to understand
all that is going on, all that happens
on the riverbank, kawa doja.
This is what I carry now, breaking camp.

Jim Bodeen
18 September 2016
Camp Redwood


CHECKING IN WITH THE MUSE AFTER DINNER,
CAMP REDWOOD, 375 YARDS UP FROM THE EEL RIVER,
LOOKING AT, AND CONTEMPLATING, STONES:

And did you get your work done?
Work? My job was to get Karen to Art Week
at the farm, to help put her in a creative space,
not bouncing a gear in her sewing machine while traveling.
She's been there four days. I can hardly wait to see what's new.
What's new in her. Maybe there's some thread on cloth, too.
To see what's new. Is that fair? I'm in the shade
sitting on a lawn chair under an acorn tree
80 feet high, dropping its harvest on the mothership--
and me--with each breeze. It must have been a good year.
You're still here? For a visitation?
The mothership rests in the sacred circle
of the tree's crown. Been hit? Once.
In the shoulder. Felt it, too, but I haven't
been plunked on the head. When I'm inside
and a nut hits the roof, I jump and duck.
But is your work done? Here's the notebook,
you decide. After lunch I made one more trip
to the river. Pack, video camera, phone,
one bottle of water. With a limit of five stones.
Self-imposed limit. Trekking poles, after yesterday.
Should a man in his 70s be carrying stones
in a pack returning from the river?
I put the camera on river stones as I walked,
let the lens lead. You, with your questions
might not have seen much. Neither did I.
Is this play or work? My question.
It was hot, no shade, and I said out loud,
to nobody, This is all ritual. Formal farewell
to the Eel River. I said that arriving. Stones
were all gray as I walked and I heard sensei
ask, Is that another gray stone, Jim?
And then the camera found one hidden in sand.
I brought it home. Like I said, it was hot,
and I said to myself, Maybe I should get naked
and complete this ritual. I looked around.
No  deer, no dogs--or teenagers, for that matter.
At first I just sat on a rock, like up to my waist.
Tentative. I didn't want California Search & Rescue
coming upon a 71-year old man dead with a bone
sticking out where he was felled by an algae-covered rock.
I found my way among the stones until I could lay down
on my back and belly. Neither hot or cold, now,
with a river running through me.
I hope this is what you mean
by getting my work done.
You're getting literary.
Forgive me. Karen and I watched the movie
before we left home. We talked about the words
beneath the stones. And? Yes, the swim,
or bath, felt more cleansing than the one up river
where I took Karen. Thank you for asking.
Thank you for giving me the work, this task.
The Eel ran faster and cleaner up high,
but I didn't want to leave. This is the Eel River.
The Eel. The river of my teachers.
Carlson and Rivera. I have Rivera's book out now.
I had it at the river. And how many stones?
Ah. You would ask. Seven, or eight.
I know I said five. My tendencies with the stones
are the same as with the poems. After dressing,
I walked back to where I'd placed the stones
in the pack with my glasses and phone.
I sat with the camera and did a short triage,
looking at each stone for color, shape, texture,
and size. I found myself  drawn
to the medium-sized stones. Interesting features:
caves, waterfalls, serpentine. Not what I'd found
yesterday, shape-wise, nothing. I'm drawn to flat-shaped
buttes, images from childhood interest in the West.
If I had an epiphany, it was this: if it spoke to me,
I trusted it also had signature and authenticity.
That it's come from somewhere else,
and this is where its beauty lies. I chose it
for its miles covered on this earth. I held that
before the lens of the camera. I read from Rivera's
suiseki book, going back and forth between
practice and patina. Without having to choose,
I knew it was the hand of practice reaching for me.
I felt it steadying me. Practice showed me
the image of water and turning stones.
With practice I didn't need to worry about patina.
That was it. It would arrive on its own, or not,
through practice. That's all in the movie?
Well, I hope so. Some of it. Some of it's still coming,
still arriving. Wait and see. I didn't have
that kind of courage with you before.
I thought I must be more definitive with you.
I hope I can be that way in the poem.
And your work? My work?
Did you get it done?
You're not quite hearing my devotion?
After Karen, the poem has my soul.
I can't wait for Karen to show.
She needn't bring a thing.
And the poem, if the living is right,
work will be too, and the poem
doesn't even need to get written down.

Jim Bodeen
Camp Redwood, Eel River
17 September 2016