Lena collected the smallest stones.
Stones she brought from the beach
could be cupped in your hand,
landscapes of the way she lived. 
She put them in a dish
on the coffee table as immaculate
as her living room where she read.

My day on the river is complete,
stones loaded in my pack
for the hike up the trail, Lena's
tiny stones in my shirt pocket.

Jim Bodeen
18 September--23 September 2016
Eel River--Yakima


We who know we're fastened
to the poem, know something
of our approximation.

Carrying War & Peace since midsummer
the book became as intimate as the wallet
in my back pocket. Book worn well, weathered,
scratching a surface I hadn't known.
I came here to be with these stones,
to see them in their water.
They showed themselves to me,
and for this I am grateful.
Eel River Suiseki. I came to like
the ones scratched with travel,
the ones in calligraphy, like an ancient
Chinese poem I couldn't translate.
Something like the way the paper cover
of War and Peace turned to something like leather.

Kawa Doja is the classroom of the riverbank.
It surprises me how much the riverbank speaks
in the voice of all my teachers, like I am
surrounded by Sensei from then and now.
As I become familiar, not native,
I discover that I have been given
certain permissions. I am granted invitations
to enter the river and bathe. Stones
are given to me, with instructions
that they are to become part of the gift,
that they must always move, that their patina
will surface over time, with water,
with sunshine, and with love.
And then, as if to correct me
for trying to do everything right, to be perfect,
(Imagine that, in me!), the stones come up
the trail in my pack, where I perform
a first cleaning, and they sit with me
as I finish the great story of Tolstoy.
The book has become a kind of diary,
and I find myself taking notes
in the margins, jotting fragments
of my imagination as they cross
my field of vision. And then,
all my fretting over the daiza
and my literal concern for display
came to the fore, as I sat with book and stone
before the campfire in the lawn chair.
The worn cover with the soft pages
presented themselves with the stones,
drying but still damp. Pierre, in his tears,
listening to Karataev, Natasha wiping the brow
of Andrei, still separate from each other,
and Moscow, the mother of all cities, empty.
These pages offer themselves.
Perhaps I may be excused for beginning a poem,
or a prayer, this effort at gratefulness,
by starting with War and Peace.
Unforgivable entrance! But how else
to explain how Pierre came to hear Karataev say,
Lord, lay me down like a stone, lift me up like a loaf.
Or to be called by him, Little Falcon?
As Pierre noted, he knew nothing
by heart except prayer.
Stone, book, story, all of it gathered
before me in the lawn chair by the fire.
I set the still-drying stone on the page,
a perfect tray, and the page absorbs
the water as will someday, the stone.
It will take me longer than that to understand
all that is going on, all that happens
on the riverbank, kawa doja.
This is what I carry now, breaking camp.

Jim Bodeen
18 September 2016
Camp Redwood 


She was looking for the river light,
quilting. She was making water out of cloth.
Thread brought everything to the surface.
Her vision fish came from the Japanese Garden
in the West Coast city. He was in the river
uncovering stones, lifting them.
As different as they were,
they were after the same thing,
meditation in the image,
dream impressions from the visible world.

Our oldest ancestor, a proton-powered rock.

What comes from watching NOVA on TV.

The last common ancestor of all life
was not a free-living cell at all,
but a porous rock riddled with bubbly
iron-sulfur membranes that catalyzed
primordial biochemical reactions.
Powered by hydrogen and proton gradients,
this natural flow reactor filled up with organic
chemicals, giving rise to proto-life
that eventually broke out as the first living cells.

It reveals itself in cloth, as fish.
It is the God-science of the poem.

Jim Bodeen
Fall Equinox, 2016


After dinner, reading in lawn chairs,
the smell of campfire behind us

Oregon State Park named after
a newspaperman, William Tugman

In a grove of trees
with Karen at dusk,
Tolstoy empties Moscow
while Napoleon thinks
magnanimous thoughts

Donald Trump approaches
the gates of Moscow
only a picture of Putin
no queen bee
bookseller with no inventory,
a book jacket in blue jeans

Light storms in waves
Color for Karen's landscape quilts
Oregon coast sand

Waking in trees
keeping us from highway winds
Mothership in deep cover

Tolstoy explores the empty hive
as Donald Trump remembers
whispered praise from Putin

Moscow is the sacred mother
wandering among wounded soldiers
Tolstoy and Whitman

Fine line markers
12 vibrant colors
Sharp tips for details

And a breakfast prayer
from Thich Nhat Hanh's
How to Love

Karen says she recorded
my breathing last night.
I look at her over my Cream of Wheat,
concerned, then ask about it--
full wonder, How beautiful
to have her listening to my breath
while sleeping. Mothership bed
brings us closer
Finishing her cereal, Karen finds
another piece of bacon
under the paper towel

Sitting in camp chair
while Karen showers
Fabric washes her body
in arcs of color

This is where the Eel River meets the sea

I walk the river walk
without accessing the water
No stones here
This Suiseki mecca river
has me counting syllables at 3 am

"Don't bet against the meatball"
Full-blossomed tartar thistle
Pink curves cut against the blade

Jim Bodeen
Mid-September, 2016


Almost bedtime now, and not.
So unusual, and strange.
To be here with Karen
and to be without her.

Sitting in lawn chair
so I won't have to crawl up
and be alone. I've been alone
in the Mothership before.
I've been alone in our 52 years.
But we've been together
for 852 miles, and she's not here.
Karen's not here.

Jim Bodeen
14 Sept 2016

Eel River Haiku

Mouth of the Eel
Kawa Dojo
Classroom of the ancients

No time for Tolstoy
Here comes Karen
moving into river country

Stop counting syllables
Enter into relationship with stone
Ancestors know you're on the way

Oh, my God
How did that happen
This color in Karen's cheek!

Daily river wonder walk
Yogurt with Karen in the Mothership
Cloth weaving river

Sunset river walk
homeless man on bicycle
Quiet time with my teacher

I had nothing to say
I was living in my head
Foolish foolish man

Let me serve you breakfast
she says smiling haiku girl
Don't get greedy with the poem

Jim Bodeen
Mouth of the Eel River
Fortuna, Ca
14 September 2016

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