Walking with the Man Walking


I was a boy here.
I was younger than you.
Younger than you and your friend.
I didn’t have a dirt bike.
I had a bike though, and a BB gun.
I lived in this town when I was ten.
I’m 70 now.

We picked Juneberries in Tasker’s Coulee
where we had family picnics.
I remember asking Mom:
Are there Juneberries in Tasker’s Coulee, Mama?

Grandma’s house was a safe house.
I’d go there when I was mad.
I’d go there other times, too.
Do you have a place to go?

These shrubs around the park,
they’re kept up,
but they’re old and gnarly.
They were here when Narveson boys
lived across the street from the park
and we used to cut our way
into and out of the park
with jack knives, breaking branches
and getting jabbed and stuck.

I was a boy here.
We lived across the street
from Bethlehem Lutheran Church
where I was baptized,
and after we moved away,
they rebuilt it.
All of my memories were in the old church.
Jesus was a man with a beard
walking on green flannel board
mounted on a tripod.
Even then he was a walker
and he walked around the world
following the Sunday School
teacher’s hand.

There are no memories of the pastors,
but it became clear what they said
about taking the name of God in vain.
It was the worst thing,
and we learned about words in God’s house.
Everything about Jesus made sense to me.
Jesus loves little children.
And what he said,
You are the light of the world.
If Jesus loved us,
God knew our every thought.
I was all right with that story.
It made sense that God knew.

Because everything wasn’t right
on our side of the street,
in our house, I bet what I believed
believing this to be true.

Dad was sick with this disease in the blood.
He couldn’t take the cold. North Dakota winters
froze the blood where sickness lay.
Alcohol would make it go away
until it made it all worse.
He would cry out, God damn it.
He would scream, Jesus Christ.
He would cry to our Mom, too.
Lucille, God damn it, I can’t take it.
She would heat water on the stove
and they’d sit in the kitchen.
Mom would put Dad’s feet
in water, and dad would swear to God
and Mom would cry and say,
Wayne, I don’t know what else to do.

Everything Dad said went
against what the preacher said.
I didn’t believe Dad was wrong.
I don’t think he ever took God’s name in vain.
I knew the pastor wouldn’t believe it,
but I believe Dad was talking to God.
Praying the best he knew how.
I had to keep that inside.
Who would believe a 7-year old boy?
Sometimes I couldn’t believe it myself.
That was between me and God
and it was always between me and God.
I never quit believing in that one.

That’s where I found God’s calling too.
God was never afraid of how Dad talked.
He knew Dad’s way to prayer.
How a man calls out to God
must be one of God’s wonders.

Do you know about Willow Grove?
You walk the Great Northern tracks to get there.
Cross the first gravel road.
Stay on the tracks. Trees to the east.
Those stones. Indian graves.
I’d smoke Indian Tobacco.
Sometimes we’d light small fires
and send smoke signals.
We were Lakota. My friends and I.
We were Mandan.
We sent smoke signals to God.
God sent smoke right back at us.

Jim Bodeen
17 October 2015
Bowbells, North Dakota
City Park


the navigator shows
the walker what he can’t see
walking the way

Jim Bodeen
23 October 2015


            for Karen

She shows the driver
what he cannot see
Sometimes she drives

Jim Bodeen
23 October 2015

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