The Eschaton and the Subtleties


It’s good to say
It’s good to hold off some, too
Hold off as long as you can

Jim Bodeen
25 May 2015


To see where my wife
has taken me. She is the navigator
using the new technology. Sitting
on the blue railing at the school

waiting for grandchildren
to come running out to meet me,
the man who moved into my old house
walks up, taking me away

from the blue line and the arrow
that says, You are here. He has taken
out the heritage roses, throwing them
with yard waste. He wants

to tell me of the community garden
he’s putting in. You must have a navigator
whether the starship is headed
for Sacramento or the Sierra Nevadas.

Your job is to follow her.
You go where she tells you to go.
I look up at the man telling me
about the lettuce and tomatoes,

smiling, affording me
this opportunity to praise his efforts.
The ones nearest the gate,
were Damasks, musky,

pungent—he might have seen
their bronzed hips, a second fruit,
really, in this rendering—Romans
covered the marriage bed

with their blossoms.
We live in different times.
It’s true, I miss the old maps
sitting between us, pulling over

at roadside, looking together.
Those maps, too, are gone.
May I follow her even against my will.
But here come the kids.

Jim Bodeen
22 May 2015


After a morning in the garden
do nothing slower

Jim Bodeen
20 May 2015


Back from the other side
with my brother, I’m in the park
where I spent all those years.
I’m writing in my notebook,
reading this book, gradually,
and somewhat against my will,
being pulled into this poem.

Waiting for Katie.
Being Katie’s grandpa.

Listening to Leonard Cohen’s
Souvenirs From the Grand Tour all morning.
Making copies for friends, trying to adjust
to being here, again—being here,
just that. Altered space, indeed.
This park. I grew up here, too,
running all those miles in circles.

Karen’s at Vonnie’s.
Chuck wakes in Overlake Hospital
and sends me a Helen Keller quote
on purpose. He gets these every morning,
sends them to me. My brother,
a spiritual guide. Almost fell asleep
at the wheel, but for the big honk
of the 18-wheeler on alert
for the likes of me. Chuck’s walking
and I’m asleep at the wheel.
Twice I fall asleep during the game.
Like it’s me waking from anesthesia.
I guess I am. I guess I am.
And now the museum.
Waiting for the bus.

After two days of rain in the desert,
the Yakima trees, yard, flowers
and bonsai look good. I feared
for that ginkgo left on the deck.
But oh the rocks, all that rain
falling on them from that great distance
had me in in serpentine river swoon.
Walking like this for eight months.
Nothing but walking. Useless
but for putting our feet,
one at a time in front of us,
except for Chuck, his one foot.
The walk is our practice.
The walking.
We don’t even need the knees,
Sonny Terry.
Sonny Terrie and Browni McGee.
You walk for me and I’ll see for you.
May Chuck get one more day away.
May we find home in all that we see
in front of our slow-moving feet.

I guess for me, moving to a basalt rock,
it has to be brought home every time.
Home. Making home. Home-making
as they used to say in school
showing us how to boil water.

This rock.
“Nothing has been apart from its existence in God,”
Belden Lane writes in Backpacking with the Saints.
“Everything in creation is hungry for relationship.”

“I saw how foolish I had been.”

Why not start everyday right here?

Reading that is dangerous.
Religious and mystical.
Earthy and prophetic.
Reading that is dangerous.

Sitting on a basalt rock.
Moved from the mountains,
placed here at the museum.
Reading the backpacking book
as the white-haired woman
walks up the steps
( I have white hair myself),
asking me if I’m waiting
for the tour, and why not
wait inside where it’s comfortable,
just as I’m reading this sentence,
“Challenging books lose their bite
when they’re read at home in comfortable chairs.
“Why don’t you come in and get warm? she adds.
I say to her, “I want to wave to the kids.”
I say to the basalt rock, ”For holding me,
for giving yourself up for our recent past,
for allowing yourself to be visible
as something other than what you are,
for being here—here’s the bus.”

For listening, Great and quiet one, for your gravitas.

Children’s underground is a bit much and we’re all
a bit outgrown from repeated visits, but yes,
“What do you have in canned goods?” I ask Kate,
adding that the grandkids would like
some of those hoarhound candy sticks.
Things pick up on the tour of historical Yakima.
Making apple boxes was an industry at each orchard.
Our guide stands between us and the famed apple box labels.
I take a picture of Kate standing beside the basque wagon,
remembering the night Karen and I slept in the one
restored by the Wyoming poet. Colors on those labels,
our guide tells us, tells of the quality of the fruit.
I didn’t know that I say, taking photos of orchardists,
our valley’s first Euro-American poets
naming the apples: Yakima Savage Brand, Pacific Chief,
Heap-Good , Eskimo Brand, Eatmor, Pom-Pom,
“Whay-me-le-poome,” and Don’t Worry Apples.
I stop, too, at the Hop Pickers Camp for my son,
reading to myself, “YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.”
My son has taught me so much about the hops.
“A good crew could produce as many as 26 bales a day.”
The early Oldsmobile gets my attention,
remembering my mother getting one
with her driver’s license at 60, and Olds 88,
with the bumper sticker about being a North Dakota driver.

The woman in red takes the kids right by the printing presses
and the First Amendment on her way to the fire engine.
They’re both in red,  and here I ask her,
“Are you going to take the kids to the printing press?”
“Would you like to?” she asks,
and knowing I’m not the featured poet,
I say I would like that very much.
The 10x15 platen press from the Yakima Herald,
mirrors the Chandler-Price I picked up
from Selah, which, after being rescued,
became Blue Begonia Press, inked
only for the poem and its cotton witness.
On time limit, I talk only
about the Bible and the poem.
Beginning with letters, and letters pressed
into paper, I use the words
impress and impression, asking the kids
to spread their fingers and pressing them
into their hearts, asking them to repeat
these words: love, amor, heart, Corazon,
aprender, learn, and then, rapidly, repeating,
Tenemos, Queremos, Podemos,
each time making impressions on our hearts.
We have to, we want to, we can.
Kids loving the Spanish.
I don’t say what it is we do all this for.

And I’m no longer what I was.

It’s lunch time and we’re all third graders
in line for cones. Three lines,
strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.
I’m saying grace in the notebook.
Make me useless in all things, Lord.
This, my daily prayer,
and I’m such a slow learner.

Make me useless, Lord.

Coming from my background,
this is hard for me.
We grew up believing
work was our only way out.

There’s the famous story people still tell
about Mr. William Stafford, the poet.
How he’d read some poems and a fellow
comes up to him afterwards, asking him
if he could see one of those poems.
Mr. Stafford handed him a poem
that he took and read, and handing it back,
said right back to him, “I could
have written that,” and Mr. Stafford
replying with that great courtesy
he was famous for, “But you didn’t.”

Being useless is kind of like that,
but not. You think it would be easier.

It leaves you saying no all the time.
Saying no to everything, even charity,
if you can believe that. Saying no
to things you’d think you’d be good for.
Things others think you’d be good for.
But no, To be useless you must be
present to it, present all the time.

Eating these ice cream cones now.
Just this. Sitting on these planter boxes
where  roses are just busting out,
roses working hard to blossom,
me licking my cone, writing in the notebook,
kids coming up to me,
asking what I’m doing.
Two truths working here.
One truer than the other.
If I give the big one,
“Doing nothing,”       
I get myself in trouble
with this poem, lose the thread.
I say instead, “Writing this poem,”
and that’s an answer
kids can live because
they saw me doing it
in the museum.

Wouldn’t they like, someday,
to hear the larger truth?

Katie and I, we spend the whole day together.
Looking at things in this museum.
We’ve been here before.
She remembered coming in the wagon
when she was two. She and her cousin
used to give me the time of it, getting them home.
I used my phone in the museum
to take pictures of us in the reflections
of the glass. It made it look like
I was paying attention, too.
Strict attention.
Bowing before different rules,
the useless ones,
waving the children back on the bus.

And then to this day.
So much of it still here.
Not even close to being over.
All this music.

Jim Bodeen
14 May 2015


I have been taken
from the room

of the known
and the recognized.

Taken, in all instances,
during moments of fierce

applause. Perhaps
it has been on account

of the eschaton
having been activated

without my knowing.
Being taken like this

from poets and Christians,
different times, circumstances,

most alarming, isolating,
left altered and disturbed.

Men talking of the Mulla Nasrudin,
and the subtleties. There

were these three men
in an airplane…This, too,

was not the worst. No
matter how bad it gets

My mother’s presence
at the end telling me so.

What have you lost, Mulla?
My keys.
                  Did you drop

them here?
                    No. At home.

Why in heaven’s name
look here? Because

there’s more light.
Belly laughs

from delighted men.
Can I borrow your clothesline?

Not now. I’m drying flour
on the line.
                   How possible
to dry flour on a line?

Not so difficult, when
you don’t want to lend it.

Taken like that
from sanctimony

and greed, along
with accompanied lust for it all.

The eschaton is fact
visible over time, beyond cover-up.

This alone sustains me.

I was a dead man.
I did not die.

Jim Bodeen
10 May 2015

The Navigator


She says, Turn here, and I say,
Which way? We’re not yet
 to streambeds.

Watching her
with her camera
and smart phone,
The merlin falcon,
built for taking birds
from the air,
hitting speeds
of 240 miles per hour—
yellow feet—
day-time birds
have feathered feet
to quiet their approach,
sacrificing a bit of speed
to cut the sound.
Cars and electricity
the great killers of birds.
This is Karen the witness.

She is winding water.
She is the stream dropping
into flat country,
swinging from side to side.
She is a twisting loop
of meanders. Not from here.
The River Menderes in Turkey.
Ancient rooted River Maiandros
to the Greeks, doubling back.
Karen the river orphan,
depositing on one side,
scouring on the other.

Here she is again,
photographing mare and foal,
barbed wire sculpture, witness
to trees: water, air, and sunshine,
needing only these, the mother-root.
Here she is still water
holding water to her breasts
for those who thirst.
I follow her
as I am able.
This is Karen turning us.
“Turn here,” she says,
and I say, “Which way?”

Jim Bodeen
9 April—23 May, 2015


       —for Karen

of the Mothership, and when
she sees the sign to the Desert Museum
outside of Bend, images
surface. We were here

with our children, remember?
Weasels, warblers, beetles,
drawn here to this riparian
wonderland—habitat connectors,

edges. And she is drawn here, too,
a wonder to watch in her curiosity.
Where plant communities meet
is where she finds herself, orphan

mother of all, conduit and direct route
to and from. Edge’s dream,
one like her, going on,
navigating ways outside of words.

Jim Bodeen
28 April-3 May 2015


Karen likes to walk in barefeet.
She didn't like the forest floor.
The two large Chinese pots hold
High Mountain Hemlocks
from Vancouver Island.
200-250 years old. They get their bark at 100 years.
Many of the rocks have spent part of their long lives
with our short ones. Tufa rocks
from Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevadas.

It was a crack house and it burned to the ground.
That I had a small role
in the burning of that house thrills
the storied soul. The last line
breaks in so many ways,
and I wanted neither
police nor theologians on my tail.

Jim Bodeen
3 May 2015


“There’s a pucker factor here,”
my son says. “But you’ll be ok—

It’s only the wind
trying to blow you

off the cliff.
Turn your skis

into what can’t be seen.”

Jim Bodeen
11 April—3 May 2015
Mammoth Mountain--Yakima


Tell how the house burned
Without invoking revenge
How to strike the match

Jim Bodeen
2 May 2015