The object is always more important, more interesting, more capable (full of rights): it has no duty whatsoever toward me, it is I who am obliged to it.
            —Francis Ponge “Banks of the Loire”

I.                   The pine tree has entered the garden.
Black pine, White, Jack Pine, Mugo—Mountain or scrub mountain.
The pine trees have arrived, come from the coast of Japan.
The pine tree is here, a result of all of my failures.
The pine tree has a foothold in my soul.

The pine tree has arrived in the brush and ink of Basho.
Basho left everything behind for the poem.
He saw those pines during his great disvestiture.
The pine forest has arrived.
Long after Basho, true.
The pine woods.
The pine woods is also here.
The pine woods is here in the form of a notebook.
The notebook being a manuscript of Francis Ponge.

The pine tree is photosynthesizing this morning.
The pine tree that is occupying my mind has taken root in the garden.
The occupation of the pine tree
along with the etymological journal has begun.
There is so little time.
There is nothing but time.
Time and the pine tree and the occupation.
Let it begin.

Pinus thunbergii. Pinus Mugo.
Pinus strobus, the white pines.

More pines coming.
They’re on their way in the language
of everyday use. They arrive
in the songs of Tony Childs.
Responding to water and song.

II.                Heat wave lessening. Water trees before dusk.
Cool them off.
Maybe heat will remain under 100 degrees.
Coming down from 106 to 101 yesterday.
Beckett’s last works, dream-conscious.
Saddened by fame, cigarettes and alcohol.
Maybe his mother’s in his head.
Merton’s last words, “And now I will disappear.”
Francis Ponge. He begins with a two-fold guarantee:
need for expression and opposition to language.

Francis Ponge in the pine woods.
A carnation. “Beacon in a buttonhole.”
Walking the woods. August, 1940, near Suchere.
After exodus, along the roads.
Just re-united with family.
The pocket notebook his only paper,
enough for the manuscript,

Objects, too, under pressure.
Witness of sentient beings.
Sentient beings everywhere.       
Unacknowledged. Seen but not heard.
Becoming like them, reclusive, yet.
Magical stones, avoiding drabness.
Objects in the everyday world.
The time of the pine wood.
III.             OCCUPY.  Reside or have one’s place
            of business in (a building).
Fill or preoccupy (the mind or thoughts).
                  transitive verb 1. to engage the attention or energies of.
 occupy (v.) mid-14c., “to take possession of,”
also “to take up space or time,
employ(someone), “irregularly borrowed from Old French
occuper “occupy (a person or place), hold, seize”  (13c.) or directly
from Latin occupare“take over, seize, take into possession,
possess, occupy” from ob “over”
(see ob-) + intensive form of capere “to grasp, seize, (see capable).
The final syllable of the English word is difficult to explain,
but it is as old as the record; perhaps from a modification
made in Anglo-French. During 16.-17c. a common euphemism for ‘
have sexual intercourse with” (sense attested from early 15c.),
which caused it to fall from polite usage.
“A captaine? Gods light these villaines wil make the word as odious
as the word occupy, which was an excellent good worde before
it was il sorted.” [Doll Tearsheet in 2 Henry IV”]

obsess, (verb) obsesses: obsessed; obsessing
1. To dominate or to occupy the thoughts, feelings,
or desires of someone:to beset, to trouble, or to haunt
persistently or abnormally:
Suspicions about his neighbor's honesty obsessed Matthew.
2. To occupy someone's thoughts constantly,
compulsively, and exclusively:
The desire for revenge about the way she was treated so badly
by her fellow workers obsesses Marge's sister.
3. Etymology: from Latin obsessus, past participle of obsidere,
"to besiege, to occupy". Literally, "to sit opposite to".
from ob. "against" + sedere "to sit".


His primary occupation was as editor.
His father’s occupation.
A way of spending time.
A game of cards is a pretty harmless occupation.
The Roman occupation of Britain.
The workers remained in occupation until October 16.
A property suitable for occupation by older people.

Inhabit, populate, settle, engage, employ, distract, entertain, divert, invade, occupy, suppress, seize, conquer, storm, annex, subjugate, subdue, besiege, agitate, blacklist, boycott, bring down, chase, defect, demonstrate, destable, dislodge, foment, march, occupy, oppose, oust, overthrow, subvert, raise hell, occur to, flash, dawn, think, strike

If a thought or idea strikes you, it enters
your mind suddenly or unexpectedly.

IV.             Pinus is an ancient Latin name.
Strobus, a spinning top.
The resin made pitch, tar, resin, and turpentine.
Sailors used pine pitch to caulk their vessels
and to keep their pigails together.
The pine family, or Pinaceae, includes
conifers, pines, firs, and spruces, easily confused.
Pinecones are the mature female reproductive organs of the tree.
Pine needles are joined in bundles
of two to five by a papery sheath at base.
American pines include the lodgepole pine,
so named by Lewis and Clark.
Ancient pines in China and Japan are much revered.

Candling Pines in the garden/Training Pine Bonsai
Buds called, or known, as candles,
are trimmed just as needles begin to separate from stem.
Pinch or trim with scissors.
Vary the amount of candle removal with indirect
proportion to candle size.
Leave the weak ones, prune the aggressive ones.
Or,candle them all, or, allow the candle to come
to its moment of perfection,
then candle. Finally, take your tree to the teacher. Ask.

V.                Pine tree tops bend snow-blue in Gary Snyder’s poem.

Ponge wondering over the ten days. 
Is this it? Is this all I’ve done?
Ten days, Sixteen pages, comprising, composing.
The limited paper. He needs to check some definitions.
Uninterrupted and relentless effort.
Tempted, he says, to call it, the time of…
And he does say, “…after an eternity of nonexpression
in the mute world, it is eager now…” the mute world,
to be expressed, that he “has given it hope.”

Saying this, surrounded as he is,
August, 1940, in the pine woods,
checking connotations and etymologies,
he can’t yet see how those trees will need his voice
75 years from now, in this time, our time.

VI.             “So let’s return as quickly as possible to the search for everything
that can be said about pine woods and only of them.”
       —Francis Ponge

My own sorry efforts.
Refusal to listen.
Don’t start with pines. Stay away from the Black Pines.
Stay at home with Junipers, American.
The Black Pine represents Japanese aristocracy.
You’re too old anyway.

Everything said was true,
and I wasn’t ready when I walked into the room,
and I drew the number of that beautiful tree,
Corkbark black pine, Pinus thunbergii.
The buds had already died.
Initiation not discussed.
I didn’t know.

Moving from teacher to teacher,
hearing the stories of Masahiko Kimura,
his trees are known wherever stories
are told of transformation,
I, too, am moved,
but I keep an arm’s length
from those doing the telling.
I can access photographs.
Tweezers in shirt pockets reveal the uniform.

Modern bonsai is evolutionary
with humble roots,
brought home by GIs after World II.

The teacher I find talks like this:

When they’re small, prune hard.
It’s very easy to fall in love with a tree
at Home Depot with no potential for bonsai.
I’ve done it. “Roots, trunk, taper.”
Branches coming down.
Small branches are our friends.
Big branches not our friends.
We want our branches
to divide and stay small.
Leave the front open.
Your tree wants to invite you in.

Oceanside cliffs and strong winds
off the Japanese coast
creates these masculine trees.

In our own small way
we will try to emulate
these conditions, cutting
candles, pruning needles
with our fingers.

Jim Bodeen
4-14 June, 2015


Constructed of pine by a woodworker and bonsai artist, a walker. Fourteen inches by fourteen inches. The depth purposely set at four inches to serve as a container, or pot for plants, in this case for bonsai trees, and their training. An alternative to the expensive ceramic pots from China. The bottom of the box made with one inch slats separated from each other with one-eighth inch gaps leaving ample room for distributive drainage. Wood screws. Beveled. Finished borders. Holes drilled in the bottom for wiring trees to the pot, in this case, a box. Design principles copying the ceramic pots, if a bit deeper. The four inch walls at a 45 degree angle. The craftsman-artist makes these boxes at cost for his fellow club members.

My first experience with the box after preparing it for the trees and mixing the soil of pumice and small red rock, was to plant three small spruce trees come in the mail as seedlings from the Arbor Society, and kept in nursery pots for two years. Two blue spruce and a Norwegian Spruce. Oh, and a cutting from a Sequoiadendron Giganteum that is doing fine! My initial impulse was for more of a grove of trees than a forest, but the trees themselves showed me other possibilities. As a boy I knew groves of trees from walking railroad tracks. A country boy in North Dakota. Piled rocks were graves from Mandan warriors and so they remain to me this morning. I place two fist-sized rocks found in the mountain river and hand-rubbed for the developing patina, in amongst the trees where two Chinese monks sit reading poems.

As my grandkids came around me in the back yard I began to think of a different kind of sandbox. The sandbox gave way to the idea of a park. From the park came more parks and different kinds of parks, wilderness areas where no gardener would be allowed to enter with the tiny scissors sharp enough to take digits of fingers as they’ve been known to do. Here there were playgrounds and sanctuaries. I began to prepare garden boxes for the children, empty but for the prepared soil. At first I would give them cut branches from the Korean Pear tree, flowering roses from the Old World Heritage rose bush, tiny animals from the toy room, and a couple of small rubber frogs from my own collection. They were given instructions and pruners. You have access to anything in Grandpa’s garden, but it must be the right size to create the park you want to play in. You can take from any of the rocks and any of the flowers and trees. They built rivers and lakes. Hiding places where adults would never find them. Bridges and hidden caves underneath the bridges. Animal sanctuaries and farm lands. They had neighborhoods and houses. Lego’s found their way in. A trail system was one of their favorites. They were showing me ideas for my own boxes. They were showing me how boring my ideas had been.

The spruce trees were growing and outgrowing their box. I resisted the cutters, and the wires, too. A woman friend reminded me of the broken feet of the Chinese women in times past. She asked me if the bonsai came from the same period. I didn’t know, but I knew it all came from the dark place, that the emperor wanted to see the size of his empire in one sitting, without having to travel. What is the price for beauty? Why could I not focus more on the principles of bonsai itself? Where was my respect for the tradition?

Wire with soft hands, the master says. Don’t damage the bark of the tree with the wire. Wire keeps the branch from breaking, and allows movement. There is nothing without movement.

Jim Bodeen
8 June 2015


“But The poet on his professional walk learns something; he takes from the blackberries food for thought. ‘This is how,’ he says to himself, ‘the patient efforts of a flower—a delicates one—succeed, and generously…”
            —Francis Ponge, Ten Poems of Francis Ponge translated by Robert Bly

And so it was at the game last night, first local game
of the season. June, with its June night summer sky
and no wind, wearing hardly any clothes myself
just in case something comes up. Fireworks after,
my granddaughter frustrated because she couldn’t
get the video going with her telephone. How could
our ancestors understand that sentence? I have been
outside with the hose, cooling down trees before
the heat of the day. Blacks, pinks and khakis
all together, they present us with the spectacle
of family members of all ages…What about
the professional walk? You lover, you amateur.
Francis Ponge loves etymology, and its counter-
part, its amateur walk. Robert Bly loved these
poems and I have just come across ten of them
tossed from library shelves. I have been one
with the blackberries. This is a mute object
of expression workshop. Blackberries—urban
ones in Seattle, apprenticed with them early,
I remained. During those years when they
were beyond my reach as the poem, I cut
 myself and was cut, cutting also the vines,
going into them, past where I could be seen.
Here I declared myself. It was in Seattle,
on a hill in Ballard, above 3d Street NW,
across from the house of my father-in-law,
overlooking the Olympic Mountains.
A half century ago. They were trying
to get rid of the blackberries, everyone,
it seemed, was trying to get rid of the blackberries.
I stood with them in solidarity before
I had the word. Cut and stained
I wrote that poem bringing home berries
from which I made jelly and syrup.

Jim Bodeen
6 June 2015


“From now on, may nothing ever cause me to go back on my resolve.”
            —Francis Ponge, Banks of the Loire

Let’s begin then, in my backyard
with a line written 74 years ago
on the banks of a river in France.
The poem came off the UPS truck two days ago
and entered my life at that time.
Just two days. Certainly it’s a prayer
and comes from the same source
as the psalms of David. The poem
seated itself immediately in my notebook
even though I had several friends in mind
with whom I immediately
wanted to share it. The poem.
I was reading the poem this morning
in the cubicle at the doctor’s
waiting for him to come in. I forgot
about him as I began transcribing
the poem into my notebook.
I was somewhat taken back
 when the door opened interrupting
my meditation. The book itself,
Mute Objects of Expression,
translated by Lee Fahnstock,
bound in lovely, folded cover sheets
for strength and durability, cut
to make a small, square book,
an object of art in itself,
created well after the fact,
cover illustration by Anne Gilman,
perhaps the trunk of a tree
with cursive writing super-imposed
over it, itself the trunk of a tree
underneath a canopy of words
serving as the title. The apex
of this book come from the trunk
bearing the name, Francis Ponge,
who wrote this poem, this proem,
in a notebook, probably not
a great deal different than the notebook
in which this writing takes place
this morning, from a doctor’s office,
a backyard garden. Ponge
writing on the banks of the Loire,
from Roanne, during the occupation.

Jim Bodeen
4-7 June 2015

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