Jean, Maura, Ita & Dorothy—Solstice Lights


We would drive over the mountain pass
into the city in the old Chevy on a Friday evening
with our young family. The radio on
and women talking in firm voices,
talking to the disc jockey about hiding families
from the government in their church basements.
Our car would be dark, and the children
fussy and sweaty from the long drive.
My wife and I had worked all day, too.
The car, too, hot and tired.
The church is a sanctuary,
the women said, calling in.
Not a place to be blasphemed
by government bullies.
Words seeded themselves in cushions
of our car seats. These people are Christians,
I said to Karen, whispering to her
in the dark car in traffic. These people
are walking with Jesus.
These are the basement parables.
It would be years before I heard
their voices again. They come to me
at odd times, still waking in the morning
with music coming into our bedroom,
echoes of their still signaling courage.

Jim Bodeen
October 22, 2005


While sweeping
fallen blossoms from the hanging fuscia
on the front porch,
Katie arrives with her Mom
who's on her way to work.
I'll take Katie to preschool,
but first we'll brush teeth
and spoon seeds from grapes
for a smoothie. Then we'll cut
roses for Mama and Grandma.
We'll cut some for Kate's teachers, too.
I show Kate how to hold the rose
above the thorns.
I hand her the pruners
and point where to cut.
We walk flowers into the house
two at a time, placing
them in water.
Katie moves the slender vases
closer, to make a family,
and now we go back
to the garden, into Bacheley Buttons
taller than grandpa
and full of bees where
we cut from the side
and out of danger.
Kate asks if she can take
Bacheley Buttons to her teacher,
and I say, Yes, Yes, Yes—
Get in the car. Kate buckles up
putting flowers in the door handle
where they'll be safe.

Jim Bodeen
8 June 2010


This quiet morning's interrupted
by my daughter's phone call:
"Dad, it's Leah. I'm on my way to Les Schwab's
to get my snow tires on. Can you meet me there

in ten minutes, and take me to work?"
Bai Hao White Tip Oolong Tea
before first light won't take me
anywhere today. December 2d,

2005. Cleaning the windshield, I scrape
the date in ice while warming the engine.
I'm cold as any considered privilege
being taken for granted, before driving

down Walnut, looking into the sun
coming up over the high school's furnaces
sending out chimney smoke warming
cold bricks for the children

just now emerging from their houses.
My daughter's a new mother,
and her mother and I are helping
with care giving as she returns to work

as a kindergarten teacher at her school.
"Antonia, agarra su chamarra," she says
to the Mexican girl walking across snow
in a t-shirt, turning to me, getting out

of the car. "She's one of mine. Thanks Dad—
I'll get a ride from someone at school
to pick up my car tonight." Common days.
I had just written the name Jean Donovan

in my notebook when the phone rang.
Now I watch my daughter take the hand
of the 5-year old with no coat,
speaking to her in her language,

set back on course, grateful for my daughter,
this moment of true witness, chastened.
"Where did you go?" Karen asks
from her newspaper as I enter the house.

Jean Donovan, Sr. Maura Clark,
Sr. Ita Ford, and Sr. Dorothy Kazel—
all four women worked with the rural poor
in Chalatenango, El Salvador—

give me the joy of this day.
My daughter gives me the gift of praise.
For seeing the poverty
one is identified as a dangerous person.

The good shepherd takes the hit
from the wolf. Take it straight.
Take it where it leads.
Take it to the absurd. These

are the people who suffered.
When you pray, you stand in your own blood.
The face of Jean Donovan
had been completely destroyed.

Today, women from all over the world
come to El Salvador to march with women
in solidarity. Four women made their ascent
into Heaven 25 years ago today.

Nobody in Iraq left me on a rooftop to die.
Karen makes it possible for me. A march
on Washington calling for ordinary citizens
to resist while the President leaves in his chopper.

I make Karen's latte by foaming
milk until it's stiff. I pour 1/4 inch of milk
into her cup mixing it with a spoonful
of sugar to thicken. Heated to 160 degrees,

the rich liquid holds the foam
as I fill the cup, before pouring
the dark expresso over the top
and dusting with vanilla and cinnamon.

Karen reads me the headlines.
I tell her about the ride in the car
with our daughter. She forgot
her breast pump at home, had

to turn around and get it. The moment
getting out of the car—the teacher
taking charge of the play ground.
The joy I felt, and the humility

before this day. "Are we going
to walk these dogs in the park?"
"Let me see if my underwear is dry—
I need at least one pair." We carry

the camera. Karen walks Sadie
the pup up ahead, and Lacy Dreamwalker—
Almost ten years old! goes with me
on a leash across traffic on 16th.

We photograph each other in snow,
like what we see. Karen catches
me running with the dogs.
We'll use thse photographs

for our Christmas Cards.
Karen has planned a lunch with friends,
and I swim at the YMCA.
We'll read and listen to poems tonight in Tri-Cities.

President Carter suspended aid
after Romero was murdered,
but what happened after the murder
of the nuns? He reinstated aid

before he left office—and Reagan
made it clear that the military would get its money.
There will be no justtice for the generals even now.
Window shades for the truth report.

Questioning the Official Version
is the only way. If you do nothing
when something bad happens,
the order turns into this:

Look the other way.
This is the atmosphere of approval.
The real order is violence.
20 years of classified documents remain.

General Cassanova. General García.
We have the names. Ambassador Corr,
the Reagan appointee. Some will want
to provide a different perspective of history.

Democracy evolves on a rough road.
Blame and honor for all.
Drawing fire from both sides.
Jon Sobrino says the primary call

comes from victims. Crucified peoples
have the power of La llamada, the call
carrying the weight of reality,
bearing it in their cries. No longer

giving what they have,
giving what they are. It is better
to have problems than bad solutions.
Be present, not just for awhile,

but while you're forever here. Verification
is crucial. The cross doesn't speak to us
anymore. People no longer nailed to crosses.
"Defenseles majorities are put to death

innocently, massively, anonymously.
A martyr is someone who lives like Jesus."
Sobrino repeats himself until he's blue in the face.
The principle of solidarity among unequals.

I bring Christmas ornaments from the basement.
Terry stands in our living room,
"I'm back from the cave," she says, extending
her arms for a hug. She's been on writer's retreat

for 31 days and nights. "22 hours in solitary
every day." "Implosion or explosion," I ask,
and she talks us down the highway into Richland.
I eat Pahd Thai with chop sticks in my left hand

recalling the testimony of the civil rights worker—
I was tied to the helicopter window.
They shot me in the left hand
for being a leftist. I meet Rita Mazur

for the first time. "Ten years ago I was going
blind and wrote this poem to help me
store up memories. A friend of mine
put it on the Poetry Pole. I didn't know

it would ever be in a book. Reading
for you tonight is a miracle." I write down
all of my favorite lines from poems
in my notebook. Reading poems

puts us in the kingdom not the empire.
"Teeth stained purple from wine."
"Lupus turned our family into an Emergency Room."
"The body performs while the mind sleeps in."

Each empty seat in this theatre
represents a person who is marching today in Salvador.
Karen tells me she'll sit in the back
and sleep on the way home.

Terry rides up front with me.
We're home by midnight.
Snow tires give us the confidence we need.
We use the light of four women to remember.

Jim Bodeen
February 11, 2005—December 2, 2005
Yakima-San Salvador-Seattle-Richland-Yakima
[Tightened for excessive abstractions. Alteration of factual details not permitted by the principles/principios of this poem. 13 June 2010. jb]


       Padre de huérfanos y defensor de viudas...
       Es Dios en su santa morada.
       — Salmo 68:5

       Father of orphans and protector of widows.

One of the crosses hanging from the reading light
beside my bed comes from the wood of houses
destroyed in the earthquake and carried by women
carrying what remained of their homes.
This cross, painted brown,
three inches by two inches, hangs from
white cotton string, clear first image
of my every morning, artless in its clarity.
The story is plain in the wood,
plain in the making, a waiting necklace,
waiting for me to place it around any word
or neck, where it does its work, waiting
but not passive. 
                          There is another cross.
Smaller, painted in bright colors.
This cross, too, from Salvador.
A rabbit with a green body sits
in the crossroads, spilling in both directions
of the cross itself. Red paws, brown body
and ears, with a white head. To the left
of the rabbit, more like a bunny,
sits a white house with red roof
in front of a yellow sky. In front 
of the house and rabbit, a small green tree
grows in the trunk of the cross.
The back side of a cross I place
around my neck opens to a painting
of a red rose and a yellow bumblebee.

Jim Bodeen

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