North on the Island, Off Map in the Mothership


       —for Anton Nijhuis

This wasn’t the original trunk,
he told me. Look here.
Animal hoof, maybe

100 years ago, maybe more,
causing this change of direction.

Jim Bodeen
14 December 2014


Putting on those slipper shoes of movement
moving into coffee beans,
illusions, and the aroma of movement,

slipperiness of it all in our hands
moving like flax seeds.
High Mountain Hemlock,

the name of a tree in a book,
and one day—
a death in the family

and we couldn’t go
we had to leave those tree dreams behind
and we also died.

We were driving north, later,
lost in the Mothership, riding across
the spine of Vancouver Island,

telling ourselves we were looking for stones.
Trees disappeared but not desire,
not the stubborn commitment to justice.

Mountain Hemlock, native of  NW, Canada.
Desire itself, northern also, pursuit of the old way.
Riding high-spined bedrock

up-Island.  A telephone call
stops us at Campbell River.
Tree vision voices ask many things

in obscure song word. When the tree
presents itself, it must be taken.
High Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana,

If you’re for justice, what are you doing,
in these here trees? In 1852, John Jeffries,
Scottish explorer and botanist, sends

Western Hemlock to the East Coast,
and disappears. Tsuga is the common
Japanese name for Hemlock. mertensiana,

for Karl Heinrich Mertens. German
botanist, plant and animal collector,
mertensiana honors his father.

Great botanical 19th Century explorations,
heyday of American Slavery, the Civil War,
century of genocide, first wave of holocaust—

living time, now,  two trees given to me
by Anton Nijhuis at Campbell River on the Island.
These trees don’t get their bark

until they’re 100 years old.
Making them witnesses, I add. Yes,
for the past 150, probably 200 years.

Buried under 30 feet of snow in winter,
they’re not protected from everything.
War’s pollutants reached them decades past,

and sentient or not, changed them,
witnesses to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln,
part of the continent, separated by the border

Chief Joseph reached for that winter.
These trees, two of them, now in my care.
Man in elder age, younger than any tree.

Hope and suffering exist as one root.
Trees taken from their soil must pass through customs
giving themselves up like salmon,

a prophet’s life begins in exile.
To be blessed is to be first bloodied.
Carbon traffic crossing in moonlight.

Two mountain hemlocks, trunk the size
of a man’s fist, not reaching a man’s waist
at 200 years, new risks. A root cutting,

and Chinese pot, in exchange
for daily attention over decades.
Stones and trees collaborating.

As elders of earth’s children die off,
better counsel in elder ancestors may be found.
How is that collectors of trees

have entered my life? Anton Nijhuis
says, No I can’t take you.
It’s too dangerous. Bear, Mountain lion

for starters. It’s too wild.
Besides, I’d have to blindfold you.
You smell like the city.

Jim Bodeen
12 November—13 December 2014

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