Who by Fire


While the Internet shows
lakes and state parks for campers
the grain elevator and water tower
emerge from the community

of trees that secures and holds
this town, larger than the one
we're driving to, and a small city
compared to the one I come from. I know

the park will be pristine,
that young people are online
all over the world. We stop here.
Karen showers while I bathe

Sadie. We walk to town
crossing tracks, stopping
at the Red Rooster where
the waitress takes our photo

sitting at the counter. Her
step son is a barber out west.
We walk back to camp crossing
the path once belonging to all.

Jim Bodeen
5 July 2010


Somewhere in the picture book
of her childhood, Karen rode
in the back seat of her uncle's car
reading signs promising
an entire country
just so many miles ahead.
Little America, the signs said,
offering hope to children
of a place unblemished by adults.
Not humor, like Burma Shave,
but oppositional—
Oasis. Cards. Souvenirs
providing real transportation,
all under the master umbrella
of respite and certainty,
for children pulled back and forth
by uncertainties, wondering.
But no memories of this place.
Not one detail. Only those two words,
Little America,
pulling and tugging.

She's back tonight a half century later.
Little America on the 4th of July.
Sunday. Clean showers. 50-cent cones.
Camped in the parking lot
off I-80. Wyoming oil country.
The mother of all truck stops.
No hookups for a riverboat like ours.
No charge, either.
We share a quesadilla.
We walk Sadie between trucks
licking our cones.

Jim Bodeen
Independence Day, 2010


     —for K

Show me the photo of Karen
in fourth grade with her hair
in curls, holding her hands
before her cheek
elbows on the bench
as the photographer instructed
the one framed in her sewing room
that makes me dizzy
trying to get her story right
a full decade before
she opens the door
and I make the only
promise that matters

That photograph
and I'll run the Mississippi River
to the Delta in old age,
wetlands, estuary, nursery—
Here I kneel before the rocking chair
grandchildren fight over

that moment
before the door of forever

Jim Bodeen
3 July 2010


The mothership is a riverboat
on oil's highway Your dreams
from last night included
everybody's greatest hits
every room in your house
full of the young
and shamans of every shape
and stripe brought their goods
Ring the bells someone said
and bells sang for all
food in frozen displays of excess
reminding us of the hunger
that cannot be cured
I hold a large spoonful of mashed potatoes
before my mouth
w.s. merwin be my guide
constant contact with karen
in other rooms
when birds testify we'll all sing
in the choir of the called

Jim Bodeen
3 July 2010


Loading the mothership,
exhausted, Karen's just about asleep
as I enter the bedroom
with one last question,

"What did you take for shoes?"
"Yes." "What?" "Lots."
I pick up a pair of sandals
and return to the ship

to put my pair away.
No room here, I say,
seeing Karen's shoes.
Impressive work.

Jim Bodeen
3 July 2010


Brings its own forgetting
erases what you want to know
you still believe
in something other
than your future
Your friend is gone
Live with your dis-ease

Jim Bodeen
3 July 2010


      —for p.l.

is who I'm talking with
No ahead or behind

all beginners

both ways count
both the same
only breath takes

Oh, the breathtaking!

Those on the way
Those I watch for

listen to

Jim Bodeen
30 June 2010

1 comment:

  1. the door of forever...wonderful way to wrap this with the photos of Karen and the grandparents, certainly the kind of thing the 4th of July should be about as opposed to these wasteful jets rattling the windows in the "freedom fest" in Tacoma. thanks for these new poems. kjm