The Stature of Napoleon

A DAY WITHOUT IMMIGRANTS
IN MY TOWN [YAKIMA, WA]

When I got to work nobody was there,
the Packing House manager says,
in coffee line at Starbucks. 300 workers,
none of them showed. I turn to my wife

receiving a message from our daughter,
kindergarten Spanish teacher.
8 students in lass. Resistance goes
public again. School Supt opens email

when he gets to work. All undocumented,
residents, citizens, all world immigrants:
Do not attend work. Do not shop online,
Do not attend work. Do not shop online.
Do not attend class. Do not buy gas--

Do not send children to school
At the two high schools:
One down 770 students.
The other down 600 students.

The elementary school: down 267.
That's like everybody, the manager says.
My community.
A day without me.

Jim Bodeen
16 February 2017


THE 15-FOOT, 2000 POUND WEIGHT-BEARING CHAIN

   --for Joe Sanders

Big dog that I pretend to be,
One-ton Dodge off-road
4-wheel--and taking it deep in,
dodging what I don't know
under hood. When
word arrived--
hyphenated and divine--
Storypath-Cuentocamino,
excavation took place.
Chile, Peru, Mexico and Spain
cleared the way, ensuring traction,
empowering English
through dialect and Spanish,
giving me a way to work
from the other place.
Tasks in attention.
Notebook and camera.
Two years at the threshold.
A dozen years later,
eyes practicing wonder skills,
gravity settles mothership
in snow. I didn't have
the great chain to free
all that spun, but that laughing
friend knew, and knows
links necessary
for a truck to match a vision.

Jim Bodeen
15 February 2017


THE FORMER STUDENT
SENDS A POST CARD FROM PARIS

The Chicana from Yakima marries
a man from China in Hawaii.
After visiting both families,
they set off for a year of travel,

circumambulating the world.
Paris, however, is too great of a pull,
and they settle. News from this country
isn't good, and the Yakima woman

who was my student talks with her
French tutor. Trump is narcissistic,
but he's much smaller than Napoleon,
and doesn't share Napoleon's stature.

Jim Bodeen
6 January 2017


FOR MY SKIING GRANDDAUGHTER
WHO KEEPS A JOURNAL AND READS

Looking at your photo this morning, 
the two of us on skis, somewhere between
High Camp and Snow Devil, my mind
recalls your reading of Dr. King
on his birthday. You are one who lights
up the room opening books. Reading poems
before breakfast, I found these lines,
There's no idea that can lock the lightning up,
but she who's seen the light can't live without it,
by a poet named Montale. I hear you interpreting
Harry Potter, sounding like a professor
at the university. You ski like that too--
a ballerina on skis, graceful with words.

Grandpa Jim
8 February 2017


How I Got to the Shelter





















HOW I GOT TO THE SHELTER

No, I didn't want to crawl in these tents.
I didn't want to open this street door.
Afraid of what I might find in myself?
You bet. Yet here I am on the eve
of St. Valentine's day, watching Karen
hand out Valentine cupcakes
at the shelter as the men came in.
29 degrees on the car thermometer
as we drove down. I was caught
by my own poems, two poets
whose mothers are on the streets,
and several encounters with Christ
we won't go into here. Trust me,
they happened.  Some say
I don't believe in anything
except miracles. Others maintain
the empirical is all I know.
The monk's book on the hassock
in front of me has home in the title.
These men have so little
that it's easy to share.
They build community sustaining
themselves through winter.
Solidarity is only needed in Hell.
We all became homeless the day
Adam stepped out of the garden.
Two steps. Twelve steps. 120 steps.
That story in Milton, Paradise Lost.
As soon as you duck under the rope
you're on your own.
Adam stops, turns around,
looks Raphael in the eye:
One question, he says.
How do angels make love?
Not for you to know, he says,
blushing. But it's easier
than air with air.
interpenetrating desire,
no elbows, no knees.
Light inter-penetrating light.
I don't go to the shelter
for the men, I go there
for me. I know
what many people
think of the poem.
I'm down with that, OK?
Cards on Valentine's Day.
I don't put any of that on the men.
I love the way they thanked Karen
for red frosting hearts on cupcakes.
But I don't use that word homeless.
At some point, since that day
Adam ducked under the rope
it's about all of us.
How's your love life?

Jim Bodeen
15 February 2017


Highway12 West Monologues, Down from January Mountain


THREE MEDITATIONS WHILE DRIVING

















AFTER READING ED HARKNESS’ POEM,
UNION CREEK IN WINTER, LETTER TO AMERICA


I remember my old teacher
talking about In Memoriam
saying, There’s a poem
we could talk about
after we’ve lived with it
for twenty years. Then,
I think, that’s a long time
to live with a poem, even a poem
with these lines:
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee...
Forty years later, it doesn’t seem
so long at all. Now there’s
an urgency to sit with poems,
in accompaniment
through the morning
knowing they’ll bring
some of that time into the river.

I begin emerging from the dream
early, thinking about Ed’s poem
and Union Creek, before it runs
into the American River—that
elegant first stanza, and the colossal
finalé, staying inside the poem’s banks,
until my awareness of reading
right through those middle stanzas
embarrasses me. I’ll return there
before sunrise I say to myself,
and I do and they are beautiful.
How long can one stay in a poem
on Facebook? This leads me to Kora players
in Ed’s poem, between Dylan and Hummingbirds,
and now I’m with Williams and Kora in Hell,
but not now, and backing out,
I look for Toumani. He would be
the kora player in Ed’s poem,
in accompaniment
through the morning,
Our wills are ours, we know not how...
knowing they’ll bring
some of that time into the running river.

Emerging from the dream
early, thinking about Ed’s poem
and Union Creek, before it runs
into the American River.

How would Bonny proceed in Germany
with her cello? Phoebe in Seattle praying
for the elephants? Or Irene, up the street,
what does she hear? Karen dreaming,
and Jane on Sunflower Hill? Who
would travel to Toumani in West Africa
to read him Ed’s poem beginning
in Union Creek before it enters the American River?
Toumani would be the Kora player in Ed's poem.
Kora, the mandinka harp built from a calabash
cut in half and covered with cow skin
to make a resonator with a hardwood neck.
Traditionally from griot families, historians
and storytellers. Jali, bard, oral historian.
SidikiDiabaté was the father of Toumani Diabaté.
New ancient strings, a tribute to fathers.

How would Lacy Dreamwalker hear the water strings
after making the swift journey to the Pacific?
We don’t stay with poems very long anywhere.
Their loyalty to us left out of our conscious lives,
this, the grace of the sustaining poem
on its way to the ocean. the way

of Ed's poem in that water-running
way to everything we would love and keep
if we could, its rivers, its ice, its bitterroot, its winter wrens,
...
its green and orange lichens, its Dylan,
its kora players, its humming birds, you,
me, and our Muslim neighbor, Maya, alive.

Who would travel to Toumani in West Africa
to read him Ed’s poem beginning
in Union Creek before it enters the American River?
How would Lacy Dreamwalker hear the water strings
after making the swift journey to the Pacific?
We don’t stay with poems very long anywhere.
Their loyalty to us left out of our conscious lives,
this, the grace of the sustaining poem
on its way to the ocean.

Jim Bodeen
24 January 2017--7 February 2017
















DEAR LORD, IF YOU CAN'T MAKE ME FUNNY, HELP ME LAUGH

I wish I was funnier. I do. News blackout here today too. Waiting on a phone call from Mary at Lutheran world mission on accompaniment program for immigrant children. Mary's an attorney who adopted an el Salvadoran child some fifteen years ago. She took me to the living Jesuit liberation theologians and to the poorest of the surviving FMLN refugees. She took me to the repopulated communities. She was in El Salvador practicing law during peace accords. I was sitting close to Fr, Jon Sobrino when he said, Take the people down from the cross. Take the crucified people down from the cross.

I was naked in the sauna yesterday when the naked white men entered intoxicated by the times. I failed at politeness and defaulted to an automatic "fuck you" as I left. I had just read page 20 of Thich Nhat Hahn's your true home. This: it is not only your love that is organic; your hate is too. Then I re-entered the locker room, and sat naked on my stool. Who comes around the corner but my naked Jungian dream therapist, who I returned to after returning from El Salvador a few years back. We talked about the sauna I had just left, and I showed him Karen's quilt work on Terry's poems. Jane's snow covered birds on muslin. Pictures on telephones. He said he will be at the Saturday march. I still wish I was funnier. I think the funny poem, if it can be found, is closer to hate than love. What thinkest thou? Be there truly, the monk says on the back cover of his book. I am so grateful for my ability to curse the motherfuckers in total joy in the credible voice of a poor NoDak--of a Vietnam vet, and my mother's son, my mother who said to me, and still visits, saying still, Jimmy, you've gone too far this time, and remembering all this, I gave a rant at Starbucks in Safeway in Spanish yesterday buying Casi Cielo, about the Trumperos, sending the chicana baristas into laughter because they kept slipping back into English. Casi Cielo, Los perdido Trumperos! Alas, I was not arrested, and at 71 have still never been to jail. Thank G-d for continued opportunities. How did all of these Bobby Marley songs get in my head? I only wanted my grandkids to hear him sing, One Love. Rasta Man, get up, get up, get up, now. Be well sister. Help relieve me of all my seriousness.
Thinkest. Thinkest, g-d dammit. Don't correct me. What thinkest thou? I'm a naked man walking down the middle of a snow-filled street, howling Tom McGrath's poem, Start the Poetry Now, weeping William Blake tears, Sweep, sweep, sweep. I used to tell my children, If you're going to be funny, make me laugh.

Thank you, Lord, Marley sings, for what you've done for me. Thank you, so much, but my gratitude contains a petition, too. Lord, in addition to making me funnier, could you help me to see the humor? I didn't get the genetic base. Thank you, Lord, for what you're doing now. And getting back to those naked white men, how that all came down, it was right after the election and I walked into the fitness center. I'd been looking at people driving their cars. Every time I saw a white man in a car, I said to myself, I know how you voted. I walked downstairs at the fitness center and there they were, naked white men. I laughed. I said to myself, All you naked white men, you just elected Donald Trump President of the United States.

I had my notebook with me. Before I could forget it, I wrote it down. I wrote it as a poem in four lines, and then I wrote it into a longer poem, too. and it was published in Letters to America. People wrote back, Nice joke, Jim. I gave myself a pat on the back myself. Hey that's pretty good. All that happened inside of two months. And yesterday after stretching, I walked naked into that empty sauna, wash rag full of water for the hot rocks. As rocks steamed, the first man walks in, says, with a question, Meditating? I nod. He says, I pray. That sounded funny. Not funny ha-ha, but funny odd. Even then, I knew, he just told me he had a better way. Christians voted for him, too. And even the women. It wasn't completely true about the naked white man. When his friend entered the sauna there was no beating around the bush. America was great again, already, and he was feeling it. He was letting us know. He was telling it, how it was going to be, beginning tomorrow.

This attempt at humor. OK. That's what it is. It began with an email of a friend with cancer. She was urging love on this day. January 20. I wanted to respond with my heart. I wanted to say something funny. I wanted to laugh at myself. And all this did happen. Like the joke from the man in El Salvador. The man who said, The mayor says we all have running water. Show me the faucets. I get that. I wanted to make myself the butt of the joke. But I did get it. And gave it. Finding that speech in the Safeway store. Inventing the word, Trumpero. I thought that was good in the moment. I thought it could beat cancer. Maybe humor could help that mayor lay pipe. Put water in them. Curse moral humor. Jesus. Take the crucified people down from the cross. No water can put out this fire.

Historic, he said again and again. Historic. We're already back. It brought back not quite memories, but alcoholic euphoria. Post soccer-game violence. Three naked white men in the sauna, that's what it looked like. That's what he thought. He hadn't considered the possibilities of who I might be. Not stranger. Not other. Not even white. He didn't understand the world he was living in, or my reminder of what a sauna is. I tried the second time without the same good will, and when the Fuck you came out it came out like it was supposed to. Fuck you.
On my way out the door, again like that. Fuck you.

Jim Bodeen
20 January 2017

















THE MAN BEHIND THE MAN IN THE PEW
IN THE GRAY LONG-SLEEVED T-SHIRT

    --for J. and all pastors who bring a social gospel

The man in the gray t-shirt, long-sleeved.
Sleeved pulled to the elbows, leather necklace.
Arms out over the backs of both pews.
His son sitting beside him, but outside
of his arms, His eyes don't follow the pastor,
locked straight ahead, but on the cross?
I can't tell, and I don't see his face.
What does he hear? His son moves.
It's a long sermon for his son
in the blue sweatshirt. It's longer
for the man in the gray t-shirt. Sermons
are supposed to be long for children.
I like helping people, the pastor says.

The pastor, a friend, my former pastor,
half my age, younger than my son, my peer,
and deeper friend,
recently installed in a new church
on the east coast in a state that flipped red.
We cannot remain looking at each other as others,
the pastor says. My friend says. Because
he videotaped his sermon, I am sitting in the pew
with his congregation. I am sitting
in the pew two rows behind the man
with the fidgeting son in the gray shirt.
The man with his sleeves pushed up.
The one with his arms stretched out
across the back of the pew,
eyes straight ahead. This uncomfortable man.
The camera has placed me here.
If his eyes are on the cross, they are so
abstractly. The man could be
on the cross himself, but for my belief
that his body has rejected this just truth of Jesus.
His body is rejecting the Sermon on the Mount.
Don't have a discussion. Sit with them,
the pastor says. I am watching all of this
on YouTube, three thousand miles away.
I have been that man.
I'm not judging anyone.
I'm in this sermon, too.
The pastor also suffers.

Jim Bodeen
1 February 2017





PRIMARY SOURCES



"NOW LET ME LAY IN THE SNOW!"
        --Samantha

Wind, come at me, Sammie says,
kicking off her skis, tossing her helmet
to the snow, along with her gloves.
She's skied to the Mothership
at Wintercamp from Hogback
at 6,500 feet. She's back from
Snow Devil, Vertigo, Northern Sky,
after lunch at High Camp. She's
back from Couloir, Chair Four,
Waterfall and This Way. This
was Sam warming up on the Triple,
over to Cascade, Tucker, and What.
She says, Shortcut, on trails through trees.
Now, she says, Wind, come at me.

Jim Bodeen
8 February 2017



















GRAND CHILDREN CASTING AUTOMATONS

On this winter camp, grand daughters,
cousins, make movies at night before skiing.
The movie makers named the hex bugs
as characters in their  movie. Hexbug,
a brand of toy automaton, attract the kids.
Children like the touch of bugs
in familiar rubber, and the way they move
on their own. In their movie, the children
cast Hex Bugs as counselors.
Remote controlled robots
change direction through head rotation.
Both nine, one cousin says to the other,
Look at them, these counselors,
running away from our questions.

Jim Bodeen
6 January 2017
















FOR MY SKIING GRANDDAUGHTER
WHO KEEPS A JOURNAL AND READS

Looking at your photo this morning, Kate,
the two of us on skis, somewhere between
High Camp and Snow Devil, my mind
recalls you reading about Dr. King
on his birthday. You are one who lights
up the room opening books. Reading poems
before breakfast, I found these lines,
There's no idea that can lock the lightning up,
but she who's seen the light can't live without it,
by a poet named Montale. I hear you interpreting
Harry Potter, sounding like a professor
at the university. You ski like that too--
a ballerina on skis, graceful with words.

Grandpa Jim
8 February 2017



DEEP FOREST CAMP


















DEEP FOREST CAMP, WHITE PASS

Studies in accompaniment and snow.
A zendo for the boy.
Fall lines on the edge of consciousness.
“We have to live in a way that liberates the ancestors
and future generations who are inside of us.”
Winter camped, Thich Nhat Hanh says
for this day’s Mothership read,
“If we do not liberate our ancestors,
we will be in bondage all our life
and we will transmit that to our children and grandchildren.”
The boy wraps himself in a mummy bag
in the sleeping compartment over the truck.
Grandpa picks up the book the boy brought
from the library. The girl says to the boy,
You can see through the mist, you know what’s real.

Jim Bodeen
6 February 2017






HONEY-CENTRAL

















THREE MUSTARD CUPS FILLED WITH HONEY
BY MY GRANDCHILDREN AT HIGH CAMP

Two white plastic spoons, three white cups,
on the honey-blond table filled with sunlight.
One cup missing the spoon.
What's different about these cups?
Do you remember this test from your childhood?
The pressure it brought with it,
to find what's different? To find it and see it?
We're there now, boys and girls.
Remember the test booklet?
The table filled with sunlight is pine.
Morning sun draws long shadows
towards the light source.
This is not every which way.
Nothing is rushed. Honey-central.
A surrounding story of astonishing child-mind.

Jim Bodeen
3 February 2017





THE CRISIS SONNETS

NOTE BETWEEN STOPS

Now that I have gone back to writing lists,
questions for you--How's that puppy?
Has the flu bug been chased from the neighborhood?
Isn't the between place
the space where we find the poem,
cancel ourselves before the one John Keats?
If we do love, isn't it far off
to which we commit? Awake
for ever in a sweet unrest!
Memory of one young line
manhandles us. From here
we took our vows.
Fierce empathy of  love unsettled
asks for anger again. Forlorn bright star--No!

Jim Bodeen
27 January 2017


THE POEM BEING THE ONLY HIGH ROAD I KNOW

Me trying to listen from the fallen place.
Surrounded by music and stones.
Bird post cards sent by my friend
so like him, Audubon image from earlier times,
bordered in almost washed out blue and green,
adult female, adult male illustrations.
Almost tinted in their innocence.
Photographed or drawn. Charm of purity--
dynamic giving results in unknown flight.
They make a wall in a room where shields hang
constructed from balsa wood, tissue paper.
A child sits on his knees on the summer lawn.
I, too can fly. Starlings are on their way,
they'll nest behind the kitchen microwave.

Jim Bodeen
28 January 2017


SATURDAY IN JANUARY

--for Cal Kinnear

It all depends on our seeds of consciousness,
the monk says. Opening my notebook
a poem falls out, "Come, nest in my beard
with the crows and raccoons," these words
falling on the floor. I have just come
from the dentist chair, mouth-numb
and silenced beyond epiphany.
Lifting the words one at a time,
repeating ones carefully placed
inside the poem like descending steps,
giving one a place to land and rest
before proceeding. Four times,
"Come," step and command, all the while
looking for the word for harvest-breath.

Jim
28 January 2017


THE UPSHOT OF ALL CONNECTIONS,
            FOR E.
            from the 1530s, the final shot in an archery match.

Don't have to know who I write to.
I get 14 lines each time out, but don't
have to use them. Love, terror, dreams.
God and the poem. Stretch the humor.
Mix the sacred with the obscene.
Commitment. Action and non-action.
Today: Goon, Dutch apple, frohr
and other winter words. Three sets.
Write to those I love. So many.
We are so God-damn many.
Erica and Jim, same side on the other side.
W.S. Merwin, Russian-American journalists.
Find a way to quilt with Karen.
Her quiet weave, sustaining threads.

Jim Bodeen
31 January 2017


STUCK ON A PHRASE FROM GOD
            --for Pastor J

If I could be your muse, returns
in the Beatitudes. Blessed are these,
arcing into song and word at 39:
Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bonhoeffer, Che, Flannery O'Connor,
Fats Waller, Dylan Thomas. Thank God
you're still here with me. That one beloved
friend with the collar, may he survive
this lonely time. Sunday he spoke on
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
Apathy or empathy in the pew. Which is it?
We cannot remain looking at each other as others.
Don't have a discussion, he says. Sit with them.

Jim Bodeen
31 January 2016


THE TRUMP SONNETS--for M

can say any fucking DADA
thing they want to say and find its truth.
The fact, as Robert Frost said,
is the sweetest dream that labor knows.

When we say, Trump may have run
for President as a payback for a comedy
routine, that may be fact. Emily Nussbaum,
television bless her, writes, Lying

about the truth is part of the joke.
Is that a hitch in my giddy-up?
David Brooks turns his column
towards collegians, the President

suffers from Anhedonia,
inability to experience happiness.
A poet I know wrote 791 sonnets
last week breathing in and out.

Jim Bodeen
28 January 2017


FINDING ONESELF ON POST CARDS AND LINEN

--for Terry, Jane, and Karen

creates epiphanies in mail boxes
and collaboration re-turns to nobility
as an ally in resistance. Toxins
we'd never invite to coffee
sit with us as family. Eyes
remain alert to change in discourse.
Welcome to the Temple of Holy Boldness
and secret anthems. Dangers,
toils and snares as visiting companions.
Elvis sings, Who could I turn to but the poem.
Karen feeds the birds
and they shit on the deck.
Jane turns birds into clay.
We do words into lines of music.

Jim Bodeen
28 January 2017


WHEN THE GOONS WERE AVAILABLE FOR STUDY,

where was I then? What the fuck was I doing?
According to the teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh says
everything has been nirvana since the nonbeginning.
Informally, a goon is only a thug, a hired hoodlum.
Thank God for slang, for deliberately foolish.
For origins, for gooney fool, after the character
Alice the Goon, created by E.C. Segar, American
cartoonist. Sailors, not thinking of Coleridge,
called the albatross, big, clumsy, goons. There was
The Goon Show, and in the 1940s, juvenile delinquents
were called goonlets. The monk might say I'm running
away from death, from the paid ruffian:
fondled, pinched, handled--a big red-haired goon
who was our jailer. Another winter word: frohr.

Jim Bodeen
31 January 2017


SONNETS FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

    --for Lee B.

Even though our brains may be hard-wired
to help others, these days I find myself
turning to YouTube for the word of God.
I know, I know, all those pastors for friends,
suffering too much for me to tune in.
Did Jesus, or his followers, for that matter,
have a term for resistance fatigue?
What does Full Orwell sound like in Aramaic?
When my truck was stuck in snow,
tires spinning, my Grandson asks,
Grandpa, what are you doing?
Practicing uncertainty, Son, that's all.
Songwriters on the missing years.
Poets trying their hand at objective correlative.

Jim Bodeen
31 January 2017