Poems for Holy Men


Pete Seeger’s dead at 94, blaming Springsteen
for blowing his cover. You’re in the air,
somewhere, on a 30-hour flight back to Cape Town.
Covers blown everywhere,
your words cutting a bleeding people

who give their permission.
Manna and Mercy in deed.
Bread for the people. You turn
Erlander’s book to bread, lifting it up,
food for people exiled, saving God-song

until it arrives, music for ordinary ears,
released through your own cosmic voice
hidden in its pages: I grew up in apartheid
South Africa, born in 1968. The people
who administered apartheid knew their Bible

backwards and forwards. How is that people
dropping drones across the world claim the book?
Thinking large, perhaps under the influence of Mandela,
God gave you to me for one day, saying,
Take him skiing in the Goat Rocks.

Take that young woman who made
the trans-Atlantic call and practice your metanoia on skis.
Enough for all. That’s it? The radical message
for regime change, just that? No more than that?
Drink green tea at High Camp Lodge. That’s God, too?

My friend Jody crossed into Canada
when Bush, the Younger, took us to war.
She crossed again last year, a poet
preparing us in other ways for Mandela,
sending these words in every post: Our

deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant?
Actually, who are you not to be? Your
playing small doesn’t serve the world.

That from his inaugural speech. You were there.
Your Dad, too. All of you breathing for us all.
My greatest distance from you is my greatest gift.
Your words allowing us to talk truth,
as we are able, to talk across the table.

If God is not loving, I’m not interested in God.
My still point. My immovable point.
Through the lens of Jesus, what is real.
Born in love, for love, by love.
Breaking our addictions to the status quo.

Just like that, we’re freed in the song
sung by slaves kept alive by Seeger.
Jimmy Crack Corn, and I don’t care.
Cover blown, masks down.
We know that man buried under the persimmon tree.

He died and the jury wondered why
The verdict was the blue-tail fly.
I’m with kids on a mountain making like prairie dogs.
You’re eating María’s tamales. Seeger
sings us into others, a kind of forever that’s enough.

Jim Bodeen
28 January 2014


Celebrating the Ministries of Jim & Erica Engel, in Yakima, Washington

…and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
        —Duino Elegies, The First Elegy, Rainier Maria Rilke

Reclaiming language that moves the story
seems like a small thing to get one into such big trouble.
We talk about a few books
and truth be told, God loves us very much
comes up every time, especially where terror
shows itself as path and way. The first book

I stole caused me some guilt but I got over it.
You give me words from a mad Kentucky farmer,
Practice Resurrection, at the airport in El Salvador.
The Bishop of the Poor tells you his way
at stress relief: La calle: march in the streets.
The Subversive Cross speaks prison language,

breaks locks. This cross speaks in code,
has its moments. You were thrown
from a kayak, come from the Yakima River.
My Mom and I sat up front in a church pew
when you walked in. I did not hide my suffering.
I’m sure of that much. What

I have to say comes from here. You brought
spilled blood and a broken body
to spilled blood and broken bodies.
Mom and I stopped by the side of the road.
We’d sing, Jesus loves me. Mom said,
You belong to the school that never closes.

I’m from a school of gang bangers
and Buddhists. Crazy Horse is my father.
I belong to a pack of dogs barking a gospel
before the birth of Jesus. I don’t know
Common Era from the Council of Trent.
Free the pew, free the pulpit.

Jim Bodeen
2009-2014, Yakima, Washington


                --Pastor Harald S. Sigmar Memorial. 

The man hounded me.
From my early 20s on.
He wouldn't leave me alone.
What does he want with me? I'd ask Karen.
The telephone would ring again. “Jim,” he’d say,
“Harald here. That word," he’d start…
He gave us that word Koinonia.
Then he took us to Holden Village.
He took our entire community into the mountains to Holden Village.
Copper mine turned monastery—the village we walked into.
Walking out, one never leaves.
His Icelandic roots.
Six brothers and a too-small farm.
The brothers drawing straws—one with the short straw must leave.
Sig’s grandpa to Saskatchewan. And North Dakota.
Mountain, North Dakota.
I’m in the northwest corner at the border.
We share the indigenous roots.
He didn't write sermons.
He talked about roots of words--especially Germanic words.
He got Ethel hired at the Alternative School with me.
He got himself on the schedule. Taught with no pay.
Street kids were the escape from piety.
Sig and Ethel. As babies, the two of them placed in a pram.
They would meet later and marry.
Married 70 years.
When we went to live with priests and nuns, Harald came too.
He became part of Vatican II. 
He got himself on the teaching schedule.
He taught one student, one class. Me.
Paul Tillich's Systematic Theology.
He sat with me while Stanley Marrow taught me
the genius of Rudolph Bultmann. He understood.
“Understanding is only standing under,” he said.
He loved to say it. My tradition given me by another tradition.
We stood on the opposite sides of C. S. Lewis.
Sig was trying to get away from reason.
He took the alternative kids to Holden Village.
They imploded he said. Suburban kids explode,
but these kids implode. God rushing in.
He wrote poems all his life.
His daughter, the poet Karen Mason, put them together. They're here.
He loved to out-agnostic me.
He would out-athiest me, too, on his way to Jesus.
He used my home-made wine in the Eucharist.
He never cracked a smile.
He was working on this book, Beyond Sanity.
Mark it up, Jim. Mark it up.
He wanted to get beyond reason.
He baptized our daughters.
Harvey Blomberg became part of his pastoral team.
We saw it work. We saw them make it work. 
That's how we knew it could work. Community.
In his 90s he handed me the Bonhoeffer biography.
Mark it up, Jim. Mark it up. Really mark it up.
Four decades of marking it up.
Hounded the whole time. Hounded.
Harald S. Sigmar, who received
so much pleasure and relief at blowing his nose.

Jim Bodeen

11 January—15 January 2014

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