Reasons You Give Food to Strangers with Phil Garrison


Phil Garrison, essayist and poet, walks the border crossings from Central Washington State to all parts Mexico.  This film accompanies Phil to Apoyo Food Bank, Ellensburg and returns to his back yard deck, as he talks and reads. These conversations take place as his book, What That Pig Said to Jesus, goes into bookstores.  Phil Garrison walks with the immigrant, source and voice. June, 2017

CHRIST-BLASTED BUSHWHACK



WHACK, WHACK, WHACK,
GO THE DRUM STICKS BEATING
ON THE BACK OF CHURCH PEWS
CELEBRATING YOUR MOTHER'S
GRADUATION GIFT TO YOU--
A PLANE TICKET TO SEE
YOUR DAD IN EL SALVADOR

            --for J. S. M.

Yesterday I made a list
of books, movies and poems
for you to read before
you travel to be with your Dad--

crossing them out immediately--
My God man, this young woman
was just accepted to study
at the University of Washington!

She wore more colors for honors
than you can find in the rainbow!
My daughter told me about you
when you were in Kindergarten,

with stories of your walk
through it all with that smile
that comes from your mother.
Big stuff. Crucible stuff.

El Salvador, birthplace of  God
liberating people, sets a high standard
for the rest of us. Let me point
to just one: a small Lutheran church

called Resurrección, composed
of ex-combatants from the guerra civil,
led by Obispo Medardo Gómez.
In the back against a side wall,

look for La Cruz Subversiva,
two boards painted white,
signed by campesinos. This
cross went to prison

for the sins of state
against the people. You're free.
You'll understand on contact.
Finish Magna Cum Laude at the U.

Jim Bodeen
17 June 2017

P.S. Love from us. See me about that list of books
before you leave. Jim

*

THE HELICOPTER FROM THE MIDNIGHT SKY
NEAR THE RIO BRAVO WITH ITS LIGHTS ON
AND SWOOPING LOW, DISPLAYS A BANNER
FOR CITIZENS OF TWO COUNTRIES

            --for F. L.

Not many get these, ciudadano.
But not many graduate from community college
during the same time they spend in high school.
How in God's name did you do this?

You didn't give many clues
backpacking to Holden Lake,
you just kept crossing off switchbacks.
OK, OK, there's more to life

than climbing mountains.
Your Mom taught you salsa dancing,
is that right? Like soccer,
this is the world's dance for good reason.

You're good with questions.
You get me talking. This past year
all those meetings with Lutherans
looking for someone wearing

God's collar for people like us
who could tell a good story.
Did we find the right one?
Not our call. That one goes

to God. We told some stories
during drives to and from,
you laughing, me cursing,
God listening in. Fuming

last night at the news,
a friend sends a poem, giving me
what this poem needs: Unless
you have a crucified God,

you don't have a big enough God.
Do you say, Amen, to that, Francisco?
That Whup, whup, whup of chopper blades?
¿La migra? No. Jesus coming to get us both.

Jim Bodeen
17 June 2017

P.S. Love from Karen and I.
Have a blast at the U.
You know your God is big enough.

*

FOR M. S. BETWEEN TIMES
FOLLOWING GRADUATION FROM ZILLAH HIGH SCHOOL,
A CONGRATULATIONS AND A THANK YOU

When I miss you during worship
you appear in that quiet way
that serves as your signature,
surprising me again, with words,

I was in the choir loft, praying.
With that kind of courage,
you pass every test any teacher
could dream up. Suppose dreams

only come from prayers rising
from empty choir lofts!
I was in the pew
surrounded by La Raza,

our people singing,
empty myself, scouring
words for enough
to carry me through lunch,

nothing more than that.
Your words, Hey Jim!
crossing out every no,
bushwhack me back to yes.

P.S. Work and pray. Have a blast.

Jim Bodeen
17 June 2017




WALKING MORNING SUNSHINE

WALKING MORNING SUNSHINE

Walk the morning
            sunshine yard
robins so fat
            they can't fly

hover in tiny
            North Park Grove
perched on roof

            Hidden
on limbs
            of Canadian Chokecherry

Inside
            Juneberry Bush itself!--

waiting
            not waiting

for berries to ripen--
            Disregarding me,
fearless, contemptuous,

even, dissing me
            hidden in leaves
except

            for their great bellies

Jim Bodeen
11 June 2017

            

WHERE THE ASPARAGUS GROWS



THE ROAD TO MABTON
WHERE THE ASPARAGUS GROWS

He has been writing about
war all morning. He closes
his notebook, done for the day.

He looks around for music.

Jim Bodeen
3 June 2017

THE STORY TIM O'BRIEN DOESN'T TELL


















FOR, BUT NOT NECESSARILY TO, THE WRITERS
OF OUR WAR IN VIET NAM AT THE POINT OF MY JUBILEE--
ANOTHER EXPLORATORY MEDITATION

First of all, thanks. It wasn't always me who found you.
So many of you were put in my hands by someone else,
so in a sense, you'd already been screened, my friends
had said, I think there's something here for my friend.

You didn't come in any order.

                                                                        Yusef,

your name just came up, and comes up first.
Barry put Facing It in my hands,
and Joan brought us together at Hugo House.
Your elegant hands hold all that will not fall.
I've followed you in poem and story and music,
I, too, find life in the blues, and follow you
into crevice and songline. In your distance
you are never far away. It is your face
I see when I greet my friends. You are the one
I find reading the ancient poets of China.
It doesn't matter what you say.
You swing in generosity.

Larry Heinemann you are the solitary survivor in us all.
You are Paco. Letters from Viet Nam
helped me find out people after the evacuation.
In Seattle on the stage of conscience, we sat, bumpershot.
Gloria Emerson, you are Jody Aliesan, loving in time of war.
Jonathan Shay you gave us Achilleus. You gave us Odysseus.
You have taken us all the way to moral injury.
This is a meditation in green.
Semper Fi, Marlantes. You give me the walk my friend made.
The friend who said, Keep your silver star. Your memoir?
I passed that on to my son-in-law who calls me Dad.
This is the sideways fuck. You didn't know about your own cancer?
This is the loss of Denis Johnson this past week. You are a voice
of the black GI. You are the voice of us all. I never tried to reach you.
You had that kind of beyond. The Monk's Insomnia,
that early poem. A mango salsa laced
with habaneros. Seconal drifts down
from the moon after Vespers. A boy sets out
thrown from the furnace of a star.

Tim O'Brien, you are the things we carried
and the things we carry. This is all warm-up to you.
The what. It is to you I turned back to.
You were there early.
I loved Cacciato, and I loved the way
he walked away. You weren't Robin Williams,
you weren't the deer hunter. Student Body President.
Because that's not supposed to happen,
that counts. I learned some geography,
too, from the world Cacciato walks.



















I put stuff in your pack O'Brien. Too much.
Here's some of it. What you gave us in the carrying,
carried the generation. Each one a veteran of Vietnam.
I don't know you said that, but I did, early,
and said it in your name. I say it again.
And this: the unlikely voice. Minnesota.
Need more? Student body president.
How unlikely is that for 11B grunt,
Quang Tri Province, 1969. A couple
of interviews that stuck. One, domesticated
PTSD. Bringing it down from shellshock.
Bringing it home. Anyone who's been divorced
knows about PTSD. Your gift to our generation.

That and time. If the Jungians opened up
Tet and 1968 for me, your work helped me carry it
for another twenty years.
                                    I was incountry
the year before you came. When it all came down.
We evacuated the guys you wrote about a year later
walking Binh Dinh Province.
                                                I wouldn't have missed
your part with the Big Read in Ellensburg this fall,
both of us in our 70s. We talked some, and stood
with other vets for photos after lunch. That was good.
Thanks. The big surprise, however, came two days
earlier in your craft lecture. Phil and I walked in
a few minutes late. Parking. Found those
single open aisle seats and I took one up front.
[Phil was one of the ones waiting for me
in January, 1969. He gave me the Iliad and Homer.
When my son was born he called him Astyanax,
son of Hector. One of the vets I'm talking about.]

The craft lecture. About writing? This is why I came?

Turns out it was. Testimony and confession.
Witness to what happens to any public voice.
Coming in late, you tell me if I miss, and where.
Here's from my notebook:

Black blazer. Beige shirt. Skinny tie.

Red baseball cap, HENDRIX in black caps.

The Killers. Hemingway. I think first about my father.
Him handing me that book.
VFW. Father drinking in the VFW. Backgammon. Selling insurance.
The turkey capital in Minnesota.

Cat in the Rain. You'll come back to that one. What can't be said.
Hemingway's ice berg....Some things to say to my father. So he would stop drinking vodka.
That one binds us more than the nam. The war right there. A reader's own joys.

Bad and mediocre stories don't leave room for readers.
This isn't much of a craft lecture--but it's crafty like Odysseus.
That's from Phil in 1970.

Subversive.

Who in the audience understands the plot of his own life.
Yesterday, for example. There isn't always an explanation.
Fiction's job--not to explain. Deepen why.
How the misfit becomes the misfit. Stink of the half-truth.
Dislexics don't make serial killers
Dad placed Hemingway in my hands as a boy.
He wrote Cat in the Rain six decades ago.
Living below the water line I re-read those 650 pages of stories.
My father had his Hemingway.
A story completed by vanishing fathers.
My voice broke in an auditorium
when the young man approached me
about the Marine Corps, Now
I'm sure I'll be going.

Poor, dumb, useless fucker.
Smoke, watch, CNN. One man's torment is another man's...

Space break. April 12, 2016, turning 70.
(A year behind me in the war, too.}
Two young sons. There was no answer. There never is.
The Killers--his sons the same age he was when his dad
gave him Hemingway. "What about Oly?" "Oly is done running."
70 years old. It shows. I'm trying to be a good father.
We played those nine holes together.
None of us uttered the words, Nine more holes.
No longer the writer. I swore off writing sentences.
Gave up writing entirely in 2002.
No longer a writer. Work at being a father.
What had once been fun for me, hardened.
The confession. Father. Sons. Hemingway.
Five hours a day, not 12. Time for soccer.
My loathing for not making sentences
remains a big problem. I have memories
of Miss Beck, my 11th grade English teacher
and her breasts. Now, once in a while,
this is how it once was, some time ago.

Hemingway, he got there and he got there right.
Mailer said, Are you that Viet Nam writer?
We all stand one another's shoulder's.
I live with the rebuke in Mailer's voice.
Annoyance bordering on violence.

We build our spanking new houses on seized ground.

I wanted to express my own helplessness.
My own inability to utter no to a word I despise.
Mailer, Vonnegut, Hemingway.
My father's medals, my own homecoming
circle back to Harold Krebs. Wonderful reasons.
Never bad ones. Where's my son? Blown in a tree.
War comes out in the little moments.
Most people lock their doors at night.

That's it. I sit with it. The man I imagined. The man in the room.

The real war story is the one you tell today.
The one about craft that didn't happen.
That one. I came for the one in the iceberg.

Jim Bodeen
The Big Read/The Notebook/Bonsai Garden
27 April 2017--3 June 2017









AFTER TET AND THE SUMMER OF LOVE

50 YEARS LATER, AFTER THE SUMMER OF LOVE,
AFTER TET, AFTER HE CAME OUT, SUMMER OF 68

He kept his head low,
and he had nothing to do
but get to Karen
working the letters--

practical dreaming isolated.
How did this uniform happen?
Why did he keep his stripes hidden
in rolled up sleeves?

What was that about?

When he came home
he found all the teachers.
Everyone of them.
That answers part of every question.
                                                                                           
Among the books and records
he found something else.
In an odd little paperback,
on a remaindered shelf.

Don't let yourself get promoted.
Dress in such a way
every time out of the house,

something's not quite fit.
Even with hair.
Stay clear of the Windsor Knot.
Now he had practiced this

for 50 years. Jubilee.
It had nothing to do with God
unless God had all everything.
It had to do with walk, with breath.

Jim Bodeen

25 May--2 June 2017

TRAVELS WITH MARTIN LUTHER

HOW MARTIN LUTHER GOT TO NORTH DAKOTA

is beyond me, and not my call.
Ones followed him, calling themselves
Lutheran, and they begat me.
I spent the morning pulling Chinese Lettuce,
a weed whose name I learned only yesterday.
I'm out west now, old, still tagged
with my beginnings, and a Catholic
imagination (as much as one can be had)
(not being there in the cradle)
for having spent much of my life
around Monks, Benedictine, Trappist,
and Chan Buddhist. That's a mouthful
for someone with prairie roots
(wild roses everywhere still hunker against wind)
and I suppose still being here
you might wonder where this is going.
It's going towards the absolutely other,
what can't be discussed in any sense
and puts me out like it or not
with no insurance, flood, fire, tornado
and plain health if such a thing exists.

I guess I've said too much already.

Jim Bodeen
23 May 2017


MEDITATION IN THE PEW

Be known to us, O Lord,
that we may be your risen
body in the world.
            Lutheran Offertory Prayer

Martin Luther did some
name changing himself.

When he went into hiding in 1521,
he was called Junker Jörg. After

posting his 95 Theses, he called himself
Martinus Eleutherius, Martin the Free.

Cloaca, the Latin word for sewer
is how Luther referred to the world.

In his native German, Luther
called the world a piece of shit.

Jim Bodeen
28 May--31 May 2017


MEMORIAL DAY MORNING

MEMORIAL DAYMORNING
IN THE GARDEN, SITTING BETWEEN
BLOOD GOOD MAPLE AND JACQUEMONTE BIRCH


Watching the Women's College World Series
on ESPN, I hear a coach (whose name I don't get),
say, The team that relaxes first will win,
and send this to my brother, who coaches
women's fast-pitch at the Community College,

and he messages back, That's right.
Memorial Day Weekend in a heat wave.
Ken Burns previews his documentary
on Vietnam, saying, In many ways,
it's our Second Civil War. Karen and I

have tickets to the Seattle opening.
Yesterday my granddaughter asks me
what I've been reading. Children's books,
re-discovering children's literature
isn't only for kids. A biography on

Maurice Sendak. The picture book
is my battle ground, where I hope
to win my wars. The mask that gives
something to hide behind makes it
unnecessary to hide. Max is in his

wolfsuit. Standing on two books
his tail rolls out lazily on the floor.
His stuffed dog hangs from a string
on a clothes hanger to tied bedsheets.
Max fixes it to the wall with a hammer,

making mischief. He's not happy.
I sit in shade of elegant trees, mature
specimens, surrounding the perimeter
of this secular monastery, protected.
A white plastic fence seals this

domestic lot in contemplation. Bonsai
trees in Chinese pots, sentinels,
instruct me to go slower yet, to sit.
Leaf tissue sends signals
traveling at a speed of one-third inch

per minute as they determine
which predators are beneficial,
which ones dangerous. I am slower
than the tree. Do they sense
toxins in humans approaching them

the way the child in mother's womb
anticipates lack of oxygen
as mom inhales smoke
from her cigarette? Dreaming
healthy trees is my work,

I haven't the skill, or will,
to manipulate branches with wire.
A small plane from the nearby airport
drones overhead. Here is Afghanistan
and requests for more munitions.

Jim Bodeen
29 May 2017


MEMORIAL DAY, 2017

            --for Phil and Ron

Where to start? Whitman's Wound-Dresser
sent by a friend? (...Whoever you are,/ follow
without noise and be strong of heart)--unable
to read until after sunset, finding again those doors,
elder poet not missing a single cot,
not one do I miss, firm with each. Start here?

Not where I came in with the day,
threading through scripture, through poems
from sacred fire ring, each stone
brought by special ones, here and gone.
Get to Joseph? Get to the pastor? Jail ministry?
Ones who left town and didn't leave. That joy--

start with the friend? Remember Joseph's
brothers throwing him in the pit, selling him
to traveling merchants? That story, mine, baby!
Hold on! That's my old pastor talking. He'll never
let me keep it, I say, hearing his voice--Joseph
story, enacted here on the cross. No

to Joseph is no to Jesus on Golgotha. I love
this man, and tell him so, hearing his musings,
compromised muse alliterated with the M
in his last name. Dear Ron, musing, I love it so,
this way. How to respond? one asks.
Favored one, racheted up. But something

else, one has to wait for. The familiar
in the confrontation. Voice of the pastor.
Voice of man become friend. Friends voices.
...bloody door slammers...reaches through.
One feels the foot, or mashed fingers.
One hears the bullet as door hits frame.

Door slamming become end of all listening,
end of language. How does one say,
This is beautiful, but Whitman removed the hinges.
I hear him, though, seeing him
with us in the small church, his slow cadence,
developing steps, building the sentence,

Christ-muse at his back or (beside),
urging language forward. Multi-cultural Joseph.
His door swinging both ways.
The impossibility of a slamming door.
The coat always many-colored for me,
nobody left behind. Slamming Joseph

and his brothers right into Jesus,
helping/making/showing something
that can't be done on one's own, showing
self connive with evil. Unable to forgive.
That re-sounds. One hears. We hear. I hear.
And the door slam turns on us, becoming

what else! The door slam turns,--
Bultmannian now, apocalyptic end.
To say anything resembling what is safe
or re-reassuring about faith, any deal-making
with the comfortable. Thanks all,
Memorial Day morning, this head wave

beauty coming at us, a scream to wake me.
Love from here, this being part of how
day carries, old man who was young
on the hospital ward in war. Joseph in the pit
is Christ at Golgotha, my No! part
of the day shout, listening too,

Whitman opening doors of time,
on, on...open hospital doors! ...tear not
the bandage away...hard the breathing rattles.
(Come sweet death! be persuaded...in mercy.)
Cancel the I, validate witness, testimony.
Christ-embraced. Suffering re-sounding abundance.

Jim Bodeen
29-30 May 2017




THE CHILDREN'S SUITE

THE CHILDREN'S SUITE

Fanny did all that work
after she missed with the prince
and later, her husband said,
Good enough, Fanny, Good enough.

What makes a dream a dream?
Doesn't the empirical world
make us also dizzy!

Sitting up, saying to myself,
You're not sleeping!
You're not looking around!
Saying to that longing other
I won't go on until we connect.

How were you rewarded for your silence?

2. Puzzle pieces of cups and saucers rattle
in my hands,
amid all the questions of sadness
influencing how we think of ourselves.
Whose voice matters more?

Tell me what you're working through
Schools are more segregated
than they were when we were growing up

Tell me about you

There we were in a truck
full of green things
The missing piece
is my favorite because
this is the book
my first child fell in love with

We were moving directly
into the path of trouble--
wind itself was picking up signals
from last syllables
coming from our mouths.

Jim Bodeen
24-26 May 2017

LA MARCHA PARA INMIGRANTES EN YAKIMA

NOTES ON THE IMMIGRATION MARCH IN YAKIMA

MAY DAY, 2017








Marcha para los inmigrantes en Yakima, Primer de mayo, 2017. Immigration March in Yakima, May Day, 2017 con mensaje de Mathew Tomaskin, del tribu Yakama. Yakama Mathew Tomaskin's speech before the march is here in its entirety. Movie by Jim Bodeen





NOTAS ANTES DE LA MARCHA
NOTAS DESPÚES DE LA MARCHA       
NOTAS EN MI CUADERNO
NOTAS CANTANDO EN MI CUARTO
NOTAS CAMINANDO CON MI PERRO
NOTAS SOBRE MI CARTA AL SEÑOR,

Notes, too, to the surrounding music
Notes to the Bishop.
I don't know too many, but I know a few.
Notes on my questions before the march.
Running water for everyone the mayor says,
and the woman walking with me laughs,
Show me the faucets.
                                     First question:
Who wrote the song, Precious Lord?
Hint, hint, it wasn't Elvis. And this one,
Can more people sing Las Casas de Cartón
than can sing, Love Me Do?

More notes on the dangers of the poetic line.
Matt Tomaskin said,
We didn't cross that line,
that line crossed us.

Scan that river.

The priest says, No tengan miedo, no tengan miedo.
la iglesia los acompaña. And I have that one on film.
You can take it to the bank. We're here, he says,
para apollar los inmigrantes.
                                                My own notes
from the church bulletin on Sunday, quote the pastor saying,
"Welcome the stranger. The Bible is clear on this." Bien chido, pastora.
My response, also in notes, ask,
If you don't welcome the stranger
how can you sit next to your wife?

El pueblo esta presente. And that's true, too.

el pueblo unido
jamas sera vencido

Empirical facts on that one, still aren't in.

The pastor talked about Jesus being a refugee as a child.
I was sitting in the pew next to a young man
who, like Jesus, had also been a refugee,
crossing, as North American Christians like to say,
as an illegal. I think pastor was talking about Baby Jesus, too.
I happen to know that my young friend,
on one of the four times he crossed, it was night,
he was in diapers, and the helicopter swooped down
with its lights on and got him and his mom.
Like I said to him after church,
if you want to know if Jesus was afraid
add those chopper blades and the big lights coming out of the sky.

No tengan miedo, no tengan miedo.
This is the line that crossed us,
the line we sing about in our song.
Escuelas internados.
These notes from the earth.
Notas desde la tierra.
Somos/as desde la tierra.

Notas en movimiento.
Notes on the move.

I don't think there are shortcuts for any of us.
Those men in ties on tv calling for us go back get back in line.
There's a line makes me laugh. No lloremos. No lloremos.
No hay atajos. No hay.
These notes from the long song walking.
Some of these be mine.
We are so many. We bring so much. We are so, so beautiful.
We're bringing the tortillas?
We're bringing the love.

Jim Bodeen
1 May 2007--16 de mayo 2017





Cheerio



CHEERIO

Maple Syrup
frozen blueberries
honey-sweetened oats

Jim Bodeen
14 May 2017


When We Came Back

AND HOW WE LIVED OUR LIVES

He was student body president
at the university, and became the voice
I followed as he trailed Cacciato
in and out of the war. When the war
opened for me twenty years later
I looked again and wrote my poems,
this time wondering if.
                                    Would we
ever cross stories?

The small college I returned to
after I came home in 1968,
was bringing him to town
for The Big Read. He had been
infantry, 11B in Quang Tri Province
in 69 and 70, had encountered
the ghosts of my time. His unit
had re-entered My Lai
before it had come out,
uncovered itself, the government
pinning guilt
on Lieutenant Calley
what was everywhere.

Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh Province,
bordering Quang Tri from the south
where two evac hospitals,
67th Evac and 85th Evac took casualties
round the clock, from January through July
when bombing stopped,
is where I was--at the 85th.

I write in Jubilee time
across 50 years, remembering
what got written on forms
for every casualty
who made it to us,
the narrative of what happened.
The narrative repeated hundreds
and hundreds of times each month,
repeating itself in numbers
that cannot be named,
named or numbered.
The revelation
in chapter and verse.
Still trying to bring it down to size.
Still trying to see it was that big.
My time. What he wrote about.  
When I was, well, earlier                                                 



DRESSED IN ORANGE BASEBALL CAP WITH BLACK LETTERS
READING HENDRIX IN ALL CAPS, BLACK BLAZER,
SLACKS, SHORT, JUST ABOUT SAME HEIGHT AS ME,
AND A SKINNY GREEN TIE WITH RED SPLOTS,
O'BRIEN HAS BEGUN WHEN I WALK IN TO TAKE MY SEAT


Vivid immediate bang, first words,
how the misfit became the misfit.

...the stink of a half-truth...
   
figure out the context
what he's trying to do, where he's going--
that'll tell you who he is
what I'm trying to do
where I'm going
who I am

What's that in the air
cottonwood

Just into his 70s arms wrapped
around Hemingway's ice berg
Explanation doesn't explain dyslexics don't become killers
Outside that hotel room, that cat in the rain
that woman, the man on the bed

Where the father comes into the story
Drinking at the VFW, drinking at the grain elevator,
Smart things to say so he'd stop drinking
Mother looking out the window
and the young wife and the cat in the rain
The craft of it, bad and mediocre telling
leave no room for the reader

Yesterday, for example,

Walking into this room
I gave my father the book and he told me
it was too much like real life
The other one had his Hemingway
Ice bergs and vanishing fathers

I gave up writing sentences

I committed myself to the sentence

What had once been fun for me hardened.
Where I tried to be me let up
Now once in a while

I walked out
just walked

this is how
it once was

it once was
how is this

this once was
this was once

This meditation in green
this sideways awful

What wants to be kept
and doesn't belong

For me it all mirrored
young black girls boarding
the city bus
with their
God bless


BONSAI SENSEI LECTURES FOR EIGHT HOURS ON WATERING TREES

After I returned from Japan, these trees
Sensei said, Wire it like this, so that the branches will follow
He looked at it and said, It's all wrong, it's all wrong, this is the worst,
and just like that I was no longer a soldier

Ultimate health
resisting everything
we're going to do to it
it needs to be healthy

Dr. Earth
with its good bacteria
equal numbers

Work around the poet
once a month
with little hills of food

The three things
trees need
water retention
oxygen
lava, pumice, akadama

Moving soil cuts roots
Every pot needs top soil
to stabilize

Jim Bodeen
25 April--12 May 2017



EARLY RAIN

MUCH LATER

Still morning
Trees so tall, reminders
in these moments
beyond their breathing

Jim Bodeen
11 May 2017

Walking the Yard

WALKING THE YARD

Before I do anything (after waking)

Before I do anything
each day

I walk the yard

Returning to the house
I sit for coffee
and write in the notebook

walking the yard

Jim Bodeen
14 April-9 May 2017

Jubilee Teacher, That One

THAT TEACHER

What's his name I
don't know his name
but when I came back
from the war
in 1968
I took his class
in the evening
a drama class
at the community college
that one
I'd been out of the country
two years
he called me into the hall
before class started
Come on, he said
I'm going to show you
how to walk
into the room

Jim Bodeen
6 May 2017

Fingers in the Topsoil


MAKING TOPSOIL FOR NEWLY PLANTED BONSAI TREES

Wet long-fibered natural moss
place strategically around trunk
of tree, holds moisture, establishes
the system for what comes next
Its relationship with pumice
and lava rock instant  Wet
fibers of the Sphagnum
lay around the tree
like tiny branches not
unlike a skeleton sweat lodge
Now the screened mosses
will fall from your fingers
into pockets beside the soil mix
This part fingers from moss
to soil cushions, sensuous, spongy

Jim Bodeen
28 April 2017

                                                                                           

BENEATH SPARKLING STAR RIVER

Clouds in western sky
drop rain as I settle, begin
freeing the Shimpaku Juniper
from black plastic root trainer,
preparing to cut roots young
before placing it in the shallow
unglazed clay pot. Securing

the tree on lava rock
with wire and chop sticks
followed with a mix of pumice,
red lava and akadama from Japan
is the horticulturist's art.
A thin layer of top soil,
1/8 inch deep, ground
from dense matted moss
on Chinook Pass, one cell thick,
and sphagnum collected from bogs
for water management.
Millions of naked spoors.
Rain drips from my hat
unexpectedly in this desert valley
in this outdoor sanctuary,
this studio refuge
where I sit between
Columnar Hornbeam
and Ed Wood Half-Moon Maple.

Jim Bodeen

26 April 2017


SCRATCHING THE SURFACE STONE

Have I sat for hours
Insight come and bees buzz gone
Incessantly still

Jim Bodeen
3-6 May 2017

DOG WITNESS AND DISTRACTIONS

I BELIEVE THAT I COULD GO ON
LIKE THIS FOREVER, THAT THIS
IS DIRECT RESPONSE, EACH LINE
EACH STANZA CORRECTLY WEIGHTED
TO THE DISTRACTION BEFORE ME

My father died and I could never
do enough before or after to make
Mom happy. So the horrible things
happened, and surprise of surprises,

I’m greeting the mountain
that happened my way. The answer
to the man’s question
is dealt with directly

in every poem I’ve ever written.
I write poems every day.
I don’t remember many
of the poems, and most of the time

I don’t think one is any
better or worse than others.
Nobody has had better friends
or more teachers, ways to use

language and look at river stones.
I had to bring my mother’s voice
under control, and wait for years
and years before I could hear

my father speak. He didn’t talk
but he showed up off to one side.
My wife didn’t leave me
and I learned across half

a century that praise
is neither here nor there—
try telling that when
worship committee wonders

what wine works fast
in the blood. Downstream,
downstream. The gardener
who captures my compost

air exhaling can be to the body
that wants to move, how
maintaining the breathing
mirrors day and night.

How much more than enough
money helped, how each allocated
month of the GI Bill
contributed as much as the war,

how the failed Windsor knot
along with my complete lack
of funny slid under ambition.
I could have been more or less

one word inserted into the title.
Before turning in, changing
the tone, the manager moves
addressing the outcome.

Why did I become the cook
I am? What law of discernment
showed me that walking away
is another fall into word. To-

wards. Where else to back?
Abyss itself. Insisting this too
is life without a net,
cataloging ghosts

who died at 39. When did
that start?  That one man
said empathy defined treasure
the woman who called it disease.

The walk. The run. The steam.
Nakedness and transparency in trees.
The arthritis and the pruners.
Listening and listening.

Jim Bodeen
2 May 2017

Welcome Back

WELCOME BACK

When calls began arriving,
men angry and women traumatized,
I found myself first engaged,
then immersed. Sometime later

I knew I had been here before.
Belief within me, the letter
triggers the poem going beyond.
Called out by God or natural forces,
undetected and undetonated
bombs hidden in my brain
exploding. When I recovered,
cleared by modern medicine,
[And the Machi in Chile reading urine],
I was left with no filters.
Some of the blindness mine.
30 years ago. 50 years ago.
The Again and again of it.
That became the journey,
walking into Safeway,
overheard comments in pews.

Arrival of the autocratic state
slides in with a sigh of relief
in the community. You can
hear people say,
from this election: Now
can we have some rest?
Can we just move on? First as question,
repeating itself as imperative,
Just move on, already!

People leaving fingerprints everywhere.
Would I still drink from the common cup?
I remember Christians returning
to the tiny cups in droves
during the height of the Aids epidemic.
Did I have anything in common
with the faithful? I know how you vote.

You've been fingerprinted by your coffee group.
Your doctor files your medical records.
Everyone in the choir knows who's giving blow jobs.
Where did you put your Constitution?

Living the unfiltered life returns.
I recognize it in the young, going active,
for the first time in their lives.
Robert Moses walking through Africa after SNCC.
Start the poetry now. Crazy Horse dressed
in clothes made in China.

            Anyway,
What a word, that. Anyway
you can. Make that way.
Make a way any way you can,

Way Maker.

Jim Bodeen
25 February 2017



















Little trees hunker down, 
make oxygen from toxins. 
Breathing naturally, 
their tiny bursts erupt 
already enlightened, 
resisting. Guerillas 
whose root system 
is the youngest part 
of their being.

Jim Bodeen
May Day, 2017

SUITE FOR ANTHONY HEILBUT

SUITE FOR ANTHONY HEILBUT


1. FOR ANGELS STANDING AT THE FOUR CORNERS

“For me, that includes the many millions of ruined gay lives…”
      --Anthony Heilbut, Harper’s Magazine, February, 2017

I’m not spread across four States
hands in Colorado and New Mexico
with feet next door in Arizona and Utah.
No angel, either. Eyes strapped
to John on Patmos. I saw this,
reading the story in Harper’s.
I saw this. The number
that no man could number.
Revelations 7:9. Black gay corpses
outnumbering four thousand lynchings.
Let me try this in Spanish: Era
tan grande que nadie podía contarla.
Suffering in the pew comes down to this.
I saw this number.



II. ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THOMAS A. DORSEY

These songs, Downward Road, Creep Along Moses,
didn't come to me through car radio,
but the counsel in the North Dakota living room
before television. Not these songs exactly,
Tennessee Ernie Ford and Sons of the Pioneers.
My friend's Mom dies at 97, and I turn to Mavis Staples.
I'm trying to cross the Red Sea myself,
As is my habit, I'm walking the other way.
Still trying to have one more word with Pharaoh.
Precious Lord enters me before memory.
Tommy Dorsey was a trombone player.
I'm halfway through my life before I know.
When I hear who he was, what he lost,
who could I turn to but his song?


III. DOORWAY INTO THE DREAMING

Completing the unfinished
circle arriving at the sound
present from the start,
can it be remembered
how the story was read
that first time, catching on
by fragments in the middle,
dozing, then waking,
magazine still in hand,
asking, How did I get here?

Finding then the many rivers
and the long pull through January
cold with more snow
more shoveling,
and the always present,
and the always present,
hidden layer of ice,

snow, like waves,
drifting beyond the yard
entering the senses
and all the songs
for grandchildren,
all that traveling on skis
into the wilderness
to preserve their imaginations,
and the music-filled meantime drives,
into the mountain drives, new sounds
herring-bone steps into snow pleasure
snow cover, not snow cover-up
out of the suburbs of America.


IV. TOWARDS THE SURFACE

It coincided.
It did. It began
as coincidence,
social work,

and the burr
burrowing under the skin
all of it coming back
looking for all intents
and purposes
like anger


V. VERIFICATION

Re-reading, finding
the verse in Revelations,
after the fact. Fact-first,
in greater number
than the hangings,
the number that cannot
be counted, not connecting,
not yet, epiphany
like a tic in someone's breathing
as terror returns,
the revelation,
number that cannot
be counted, Biblical,
Revelations 7: 9,
that no man can count,
still not hearing it,
no man,
in the title,
not seeing it.


VI. AND THEN THE WORK, AND THE READING,
THE ALL AVAILABLE ACCESSIBLE MOUNTAIN,
GOSPEL ALWAYS PROCLAIMS GOOD NEWS

Where is God? I can't tell you
the El Salvadoran priest says,
but I can tell you this,
Not in the Empire. Holy smokes,

that this should surface
at a time like this, closing
The Gospel Sound:
Good News and Bad Times,

singing behind the beat.
First asking Karen,
How do you talk about back beat?
trying to understand how one sings

behind the beat. Are they the same?
Asking without a word of warning.


VII.  LETTER TO ANTHONY HEILBUT
INTERRUPTED CALL AND RESPONSE,
BEGINNINGS IN NOTEBOOK AND BOOK MARGINS
AFTER FIFTY YEARS OF LISTENING

Wheat still lodged itself in Jean pockets
from North Dakota when we found ourselves
in Seattle during the 50s. I was ten,
strange to every boy on the block,
selling brooms made by the blind.
Last night, reading in bed,
trying to get through The Gospel Life
after spending a back-and-forth afternoon
between your book and YouTube,
time collapsing. Gospel is
the music of grownups...bad times
will come in new ways. Thanks.
And thanks to Harper's.
To your covers all around.
At the paper shack down the street
from our house, smoking,
before starting our routes, an older brother of a friend,
played us the new song, What'd I say?
He was in Demolay. Some of these guys
might have made it to Harvard.
They were never spoken of where I came from.
Now 15, without a license, downtown Seattle,
alone in Birdland, I hear Ray Charles.
I see him.
He carries me through high school,
Modern Sounds in Country Music.
a working boy. The Elvis Christmas Album
with Precious Lord, I Believe, and.......

When I'd knew your story was calling the shots
I order the Dorsey songs, Gospel Sounds,
this time a man in his 70s,
and your big book on eros, literature and Thomas Mann.
20+some years ago at Garrett Seminary
reading the Hebrew Bible, I needed that Joseph story.
In Yakima we're part of the immigrant community,
but gospel flows through the Yakima River, too.
(Oleta Adams comes from the city school where I worked.
A sophomore girl came into class early each week
and sang My Eyes Are on the Sparrow for me,
because I was her teacher. If I learned late,
I knew early I was a blessed man.)
This morning, I too, spend a weekend with the Campbells--
thanks--and finish with your story on Aretha
from five years ago. By applying her ancestors'
sensibility to the American Songbook--
You're a churchwrecker yourself, Anhony Heilbut.

50 years ago this month, Army Sergeant in Panama,
I receive orders for Viet Nam. Med Evac.                        
In the summer of love, Karen and I spend a month
listening to Van Morrison, the Brown-Eyed Girl.
85th Evac Hospital, Qui Nhon, below Da Nang
on the South China Sea. We send all those kids home.
Tet started in January and lasted until
bombing stopped in July. All that music.
Enough about me. A few more things
about song and witness.
A few things about your Thomas Mann.


VIII. AFTER COMING HOME FROM THE BONSAI MEETING
DIPPING THE BUCKET INTO THE BIG BOOK

"Gypsies, Hungarians, prostitutes, homosexuals, vagrants, and exiles--in many cultures, these appellations are coterminous: any reader of Mann knows that these men are his brothers."
            Thomas Mann, Eros & Literature, Anthony Heilbut

Now that that's out of the way.

Sunny with a breeze, Wind picks up
driving me to another part of the yard.
Back from the mountain, mountain-held,
pruners in my hand,  holster
buckled on my belt. Add children

to that list up top. And old people.
C.S. Lewis reappears arguing with Eliot.
Midnight and moonlight made for other worlds.
Sehnuscht leaves the artist exhausted, disgraced.
He can never enjoy his passions.

Nothing cryptic about erectile tissue.
Never made it through Magic Mountain.
Music in the mail. Where is the music coming from?
Back from bonsai, Japanese black pine potted.
Fingers trace literature's roots in akadama .

Flattened by numbers that can't be counted.

Decades ago Jean Burden insisting,
the poet crosses the abyss without a net.
Here you name the surface.
Surface is abyss.
Only that which exhausts us.

I didn't make it through Magic Mountain
but I read every page of Eros and Literature.


Jim Bodeen
9 February, March, 7 April 2017




Stir it Up

THE READING AFTER EATING OATMEAL WITH KAREN

            "Be worthy of your food." Thich Nhat Hanh

Cutting a banana into Quaker Oats
as it boils, I place
a handful of frozen blueberries
into each of the empty bowls
and ask Karen if she'll stir
while I excuse myself, saying,
"That's my bowl on the left,
it has a few more berries."
When I return, Karen
has added some raisons,
"Is that OK? she asks,
adding, "We're out of brown sugar."
"We'll have enriched oatmeal,"
I say, reaching in the cupboard
for maple syrup. How could I
ever be worthy of Karen?
Remembering the oats and berries,
made half-dizzy by one spoonful
of this world's sweetness.

Jim Bodeen
26 April 2017

FROM The Bob Moses Poems

FROM THE BOB MOSES POEMS

Walking the living room,
I know, I've been here before.
Walking the yard, watching
buds burst in dis-belief--
bonsai firs, collected
from the wild. But back
to Bob Moses. In 1976,
he returned to the States
after ten years in exile.
Work built around voting,
not sit-ins. Robert Parris
when his name set fires.
Jesus of the whole project.
The tree planted by water.
Your 8th grade algebra teacher.

Jim Bodeen