The Knuckle We Need

--for Johnny Williams
He comes here to set his edges.
Set and release. Finding what falls
in the fall line is his work.
He falls and rises.
He finds there is no difference
between falling and rising.
The joy of this discovery
sets him apart, alone on the summit.
The current running through his body is joy.
He is a sled for all that gets broken
on the mountain. He lives on the summit
in the in-between place, a snow trail
opening snow trails.
Jim Bodeen
1 March 2008--9 February 2011


for Chris Roberts

Somehow Chris heard my name and connected--
we wouldn't have recognized each other--
but we skied here together student and teacher
more than 35 years ago--when Tom Mullen

and Nelson Bentley put together the ski program
for the Alternative school in Yakima.
Chris Roberts helps us on the lift
and stories uncover themselves in snow.

Thank those teachers. Tom, Ben & Sue.
You guys took us everywhere--
We saw the play "Equus" in Seattle
with Leonard Nimoy. I ski now

with my sons and grandson at White Pass.
I learned so much. I'm going to have Devon
with me tomorrow. I remember too.
"Equus." Nude actors. Students. Naked flesh,

nakedness as metaphor. Family life.
Before the curtain came down, I wanted
to walk, practice better parenting.
Our school. We called it The Place. Find

another way. Christ went back
to the big school, graduating with straight A's.
I watch him ski with his grandson.
I bring him cookies for remembering.

Each Friday we skied White Pass.
We had two 15 passenger vans.
Nelson rented us skis for a buck a kid.
No charge for lift tickets.

We dressed ourselves from Good Will.
Spot us anywhere on the Mountain.
Cascading new ways to be,
skis carving tracks into frozen hearts.

Chris Roberts skis the mountain
he climbed then--why I ski White Pass now.
When Chris says, Thank those teachers,
he thanks Nelson, part mountain himself.

Jim Bodeen
7 February 2011


for Carl Poisel

Big Dog reaches down, gives a word
to the child on her skis
trying to walk the almost too slippery
last steps that get her to the lift--

Come on up here, he says,
lifting her over difficulty,
skis dangling, turning her,
saying, Stand straight, steadying

the moment of awkwardness
while waiting for the cable
holding the platter that will rest
between the buttocks, holding

skiers as the lift transports them
to the top. Steadying the child
with one arm, reaching for the cable
with the other, Big Dog pulls

the platter seat down adjusting
the height to the child. He gives her
one last knuckle, the knuckle of confidence
she needs, to keep her eyes up,

to keep skis straight over snow
while the lift pulls her up.
The hardest workers, these guys,
giving the knuckle we all need,

teaching children on snow.
Lifting, encouraging,
never giving up on the child.
Watching them come down, too,

when they finally get it, their joy,
at the end of the day.
How many hundreds of children
ski because Big Dog doesn't give up!

Jim Bodeen
5 February 2011


  1. here's to the big dogs of the world--nice bit. kjm

  2. great teacher story, fair treatment and enough to get me through today at least. kjm