“And Karen, does she abide?”

Yogurt with granola
on a picnic bench
and sliced (cold) watermelon
from Hermison
with Karen. This,
the third picnic bench
we’ve sat at with meals
since returning
from Costa Rica.
American River,
White River,
Pot Holes.

Walking in tall grass,
the man we were with,
our host’s voice
out of the 19th Century
in the American grain,
“And Karen, does she abide?”
We walk in silence
as I think about the word
and all who might use it
along with all who have.

“Karen, she is the Starship.”

Jim Bodeen
7 August 2015




Jim Bodeen
11 August 2015


Lawn mower at my neighbor’s.
Soft light, porch light, I can see
to read, words shadowed, visible.
Library visit today
full of surprises, titles
I went looking for, too.
How good is that.
How good the stretch of stiff legs.
Reading the hawk book.
Karen comes out and sits.
She’s looking for the neighborhood sound
and the itch cream.
She’s not carrying anything to read.
I close the book,
ask her to help me pronounce goshawk,
my notebook open on my lap.
She can’t believe
how much I don’t know.

Jim Bodeen
10 August 2015


Early afternoon.
Didn’t get an early start.
Read four of Kevin’s poems,
listening in his voice
that slowed me up
then stopped me. Somehow
the Charles Berkowsky film
on PTSD surfaced
with Jonathan Shay
and those GIs.
Do I deserve this much disability?
Shay confessing,
They really kidnapped me,
and I thank them.
It might be a good idea
to carry The Iliad
in the glove box
of your car.
Achilles doesn’t understand Patroclus
until he’s dead.

My notes on the other page
will tell you
what things were said
and how I was knocked
off balance. Discover Pass
no good here, but my Senior Pass
works. O crowded by beauty,
I am. I didn’t finish
the Whalen biography
last night or this morning.
I’ll put it in the pack
along with my black bean
chicken-beef burrito
brought from home.
Let me finish this Root Beer
and then I’ll get started.
There’s a breeze.

When I arrived
I was ready to go home.
Hot, tired, why not?
I took a look at the loop
and asked myself
what I thought I’d do
when I got home.
The pack looked pretty good,
Naches Loop looked even better.
I’ve got two cameras
and a poet’s biography.
There’s that music from Berkowitz’ film,
Gorecki’s 3d Symphony, The Lost Day,
and Unfamiliar Wind. That passage
from Paul, shouting,
Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!
¡No te hagas ningún daño!
¡Todos estamos aquí!

I do want to read that poem
of Lew Welch’s
before I put on my boots.
The Song of the Turkey Buzzard,
Beak open, neck stretched, gasping for air.
Oh how we want to live.
Keep the highway clear
and harm no being.

Jim Bodeen
29 July—11 August 2015

DOB: 8/9/45

Now at 70, I get asked
often about my birthday—
usually it’s nurses
asking for confirmation
about the man
sitting in front of them.
8. 9. 45., I say, that’s me.
And so it is to the nurses,
that folder in their hands
has my name on it,
my DOB. Increasingly,
they’re young, vulnerable
walking through doors
not knowing who’s there.

Increasingly, too, I’m interested
in that day, 8. 9. 45.
Do you know what happened?
I sometimes ask, cringing,
anticipating the rolling of the eyes.
How could anyone know?
That day. Nagasaki. Oh.

Born on the day the door
swings both ways makes a difference.
Why is the day called the sliding gate?
Called survivors eat the sweetest cookies.
This year a friend sends me the story
of a bonsai tree that survived the bombing
of Hiroshima. 390 years ago. Two miles from the blast.
Given to the bonsai National Arboretum in 2001.
A white pine already mature
when Basho started north.
Every tree’s story.
Protected by its placement next to a wall
in the Yamaki family nursery.

The friend doesn’t know about my birthday,
how  gift arrives as responsibility,
how the tree shapes my days, becoming part
of the river life. On this day
of my birth in an isolated village
in the State of North Dakota,
the celebration of remembrance begins early.
Karen and I begin on the 6th
taking the back road to see a poet in Idaho.
We stop in fenced sage outside of Hanford
on the Columbia where a sign commemorates
Reactor B. Someone has shot a hole
through the sign with a rifle.
The camera runs through it.
Life and death on the other side.
Alamogordo, compound word, place name.
Big fat poplar tree. Site in New Mexico
where the plutonium bomb first explodes.
Writing the word in my notebook
I’ve never heard the name spoken aloud.
Alamogordo. The driveway to the poet’s house
takes us from one world to another.
In this place, we say the words out loud.
Alamogordo. Big Boy. Fat Man.
We walk the land, we make a movie
of the poet reading his poems.

Henry Stimson honeymooned in Kyoto
where the Army Colonel wanted to drop the bomb.
The colonel wanted to make a point.
You can read about that. The conversation
between Stimson and Truman,
but this poem is about walking the land.
This poem is about the portals of the imagination.
It’s a refrain in a Bruce Springsteen song about a train.
Gospel song. This poem.
My friend wrote a poem about the 6th of August.
We make a movie.
We eat fresh peaches sprinkled with raw cane sugar
from Hawaii. So sweet.
We begin a 3-day celebration of the poem,
August 6th,
which brings us to this morning, my birthday.
marked man, blessed
in the wicked time of wonder.

Jim Bodeen
9 August 2015


Alone on the porch
with a burned-out coffee pot,
early, options exist
for extracting flavor
from the beans,
and I know how.
This, the easy part.
Even the hard part’s
easy, I know the practice
and how to follow the line.
The village has been wrapped.
Evacuation accomplished.
The metal roof resists heat
and throws back the flames.
The word remains urgent
and available.

Jim Bodeen
3 August 2015

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