precious Jesus, hear my

       daily walking close

Inches from the paint, Rosie Lee Tompkins

is the medallion on canvas, central image

of the quilt from God surrounding

her, come from the hand of the painter,

Rex DeLoney. Light-filled in half-square

scarf. Yellow bandana. And if you look

closer, over-the tops of cut cloth. Look

how radiance emerges! Colors of peaches

from forehead to cheeks. Eyes

deepest blue pools filling, emptying,

Coltrane-like. Bluest brows. Full lips,

unmistakably Rosie’s, wizened-red--

but right here, on her right side--

(the viewer’s left), shadowed

cheekbone to chin, her face, dark,

breaks through squares of material

blocks of red and orange,

epiphany portrait come from

the artist-hand, illumination.

Just above this square

the cross in red and white stripes.

A printed sign at the crossroad

embellished in white jewel-like

lights, A Prayer For Magic.

This is the essence of prayer.

And now, vertical on the cross,

coming up from below, strips

of printed text, scissored, glued:

“In the still-unfolding field of African-

American quilt making, she has no

equal...granular expressions

of imagination and freedom.”

Below the words, still on the cross,

over red paint, two red buttons.

Returning one’s eyes to hers

on the painting, some from Rex,

some from Rosie, marked, unmarked,

her voice a hymn on the wall,

God permitted me to see this color.

A white thread from Rosie’s needle

falls out of the painting from the bottom.

Rex has glued it, border-breaking--

and this thread remains, subversive,

straightening, permitting eyes to follow.

Jim Bodeen

17 June 2021



Stand with hands on hips

Elbows out, Color Seekers

Quilted Worship Door

         14 June 2021





        --for Anne B. y las amigas

Fajitas, nopales, rhubarb pie, and flan.

All of it under Maple tree shade, on deck,

gone, fast as talk and the hummingbird’s

heart-beat. Green onions from Aurora.

Heavens descending like gold-finches

eating thistles at the feeder. Las amigas.

Mujeres, ancianas, como contadoras.

Women weavers song-savoring .

Children following cairns

from Mountain Copper Mine

turned re-treat, Rest and restore

again and again listener-absorber.

Treats as songbird trouble-joy

trebled. Gold-hearted minng.

Green onion jazz-bird rare,

and recorded. Notebook blue-

lined vision counting to two

billion—heartbeat assurance.
Hay tiempo. Si, hay--

tiempo para contar la historia.

Sweetness of rhubarb in a butter crust.

Jim Bodeen

2 June 2021

From "The Creekside Tales"

 From The Creekside Tales

      --for Jim Hanlen

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right

       --Robert Frost

Zooming Chugach Range

Google Maps can’t locate

my friend Creek. Paramedics,

firemen, his old school principal

turn up nothing

but off-placed priests

hiding under moss-covered

succulent stones. Considering

themselves safe, but embarrassed,

underwater fingers thrill

before pubis-rich wonder.

Creek sees it all. Even

among the horrific here,

and off-balance, hand-cuffing

collared hands, himself unseen,

swift-moving Creek,

in great danger,

my friend, delivers oxygen

to oppressed beauty.

None of this will be told

because none of it is seen.

Commotion, and commotion’s

memory seats itself.

What happened told wrong.

Creek yields word to water.

Jim Bodeen

2 June 2021

Pool of Fresh Water


Pool of fresh water

Underneath the bird feeder

Garden stone blossom

Jim Bodeen

24 May 2021




      --for Lea Ramirez

We talked once of stones

and you remembered other

things I had forgotten

that had nothing

to do with stones.

So much like mountains

even in our hands

they carry news

of mountain majesty

in our pockets

how like tiny moments

in our lives

when they remind us

that time, that song,

that parable of Jesus

woman at the well

how often stone and water,

for instance,


As children

we remember singing,

the wise man

building his house

on the rock,

and especially for those

of us who’ve said

in more ways than one

how we love certain stones,

yes love them, we say,

because we don’t have

another word for them,

don’t we—each of us--

have a stone we can visit

when we’re left alone?

A stone where the beloved

will meet us

and we will be one.


Jim and Karen




I. ------------

      ...all your mother insists

      we must see to know...

      from Kevin Young’s Money Road

Robins in front yard, eastern morning

sunshine, mid-April, Juneberry Bush

blossoming. Walking into house,

wiping dew-wet shoes, into guest

bathroom where your Blues Poems,

lovely, rests on cabinet with Jody’s

True North in snow storm

also backed in blue. Jody, gone

now blues sustained lifted,

Dear Darkness, food celebrated

passing, giant steps all,

Kevin Young,

Dear Kevin,

This week you’re everywhere in this house,

David and Gil here this week for pork sandwiches

outside, outback, David’s wife gone after 51 years,

Detroit born, Vietnam Vet baseball hat,

(Being two years older, I’m two years earlier in Nam)

this is your lovely Art of Losing, my gift,

open first to Yusef’s Facing It

as we mirror each other. What’s so lovely

about Kevin Young’s work, the way

he breaks down boundaries,

We can talk about this.

We can talk about this because Gil’s

our listener-griot, soul historian.

He doesn’t flinch questioning,

Isn’t listening making love, Gil?

Isn’t listening, deepest penetration?

You’re everywhere in this house, Kevin Young.

This week’s New Yorker, new direction coming from

Nathaniel Mackey’s Song of the Andoumboulou

and I turn to Blue Light Sutras 1976-1989,

250 Years of African American struggle and song,

and in Falso Brilhante,

White sky made blue by the blackness,

Mackey setting out, singing all the songs.

Your singing tracks surround, Kevin Young,

your books placed carefully in each garden roof

providing sanctuary and shade from sun.

This morning your centerpiece essay.

Return to Blue Light Sutras, this time only women,

that kind of read, trying every way I can imagine

to enter the book. Start to finish, then, the women.

Soaring once more, struggle and song.

II. A. African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song:

Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters

I’ve got a friend in Yakima, looks out for me.

Found Struggle and Song in the Independent book store, Inklings,

turned it around in the poetry session so nobody’d

find it until I got there. That first sit down with the book

in my hands. The solid fact of A Library of America

bound book, as close to a permanent thing

as the idea. That night with your essay

and amplification. The difficult miracle.

Title, epigraph. June Jordan. That word,

persist, hope-based political, a bumper sticker

on my car come from here:

This is the difficulty of black poetry in America:

that we persist, published or not, and loved or unloved:

we persist.

I read her poems in the Big book. Take these

as another starting point: What would I do white?

I would do nothing.

That would be enough.

Non-action to that extreme.

Supreme effort to get out of the way.

Through the great anthologies of my time.

Johnson, Bontemps, Harper,

some look, some teachers,

and the great need to find

that what I needed there,

and now, this morning, how I got here with you--

Struggle and Song. Big thanks.

The Big Book stepping us through time

and the back of forth, including the outside-of-it-all

time, unending, good night kiss without end,

after all this time, here. Here it is in the hands.

A 12-Step beauty for all things right and wrong.

Get to it, Man. Get to it.

This morning, 28 Days in February,

the anthologies carrying me

after the appearance of the Harlem Renaissance Stamps

last summer. Names I hadn’t integrated in my life.

Arthur Schomburg. The Schomburg Center,

Center for Research in Black Culture.

Your office. Office itself. Opus facere.

Divine service. Doing service work of the divine.

Power, might and abundance. To set.

What does your desk look like?

Divine office. Worship.

I write to friends who write:

Go to the Schomburg Center,

write notebook poems that take me there.

Schomburg’s teacher urges him on.

He turned her lessons around.

Do this for me. Then the panel appears

remembering Sterling Brown

and I’m listening to his granddaughter.

Poets know those eight categories

of time, Kevin Young,

are eight lines making an 8-line poem,

not categories at all, maybe

I can call them reading rooms.

Why this matters to me.

Struggle and song makes gratitude possible.

For the black poets

have shaped my life and fed me.

Saved me. Some days. Ray Charles.

Seattle. 1962. What’d I Say. Modern Sounds.

Not everybody messing around. Not me.

Made me. Yes. Well, mess around. Of all people.

African American saves our country again

six months ago. That counts.

Made-make. Given to, and allowed. Me.

Allowed, yes. And questioned.

Doorways and Doors.

The too many ways.

Bury me in a free land,

This is a package in the mail to Kevin Young,

Phillis Wheately. Lift every voice in the dark tower.

Ballads from Gwendolyn Brooks to Bob Kaufman,

and the ancestors, the ancestors,

it seemed like they were all ancestors

and then it happened with Gilbert.

Even in blue light sutras Jesus remains.

Praise songs for today.

That’s Terrance Hayes stepping

from the basketball game to the poem.

After the hurricane la negra

takes Medusa to the hair salon.

Somos muchas/os. Langston knew it then.

What a book, this one, one to take me home.

II. B. What Happens Reading Blue Sutras

Between weekends at museums

who I think I am, questioned, tested,

re-affirmed, but still, this isn’t about me.

Created by a granddaughter, this time:

Grandma, didn’t you go to a bonsai museum.,

I’m trying to create new images of women’s beauty.

Bruised eyes at 15, she sees ahead of her time

what’s wrong. She sees the bonsai

in my back yard, knows this beauty.

Small trees with cut roots

in elegant pots. Wired towards

what’s natural, and the ancestors,

flowing limbs in mid-breeze

and the exaggerated exposure of trunk.

Grandma, didn’t you go to a bonsai museum?

Behind her question, 

How shall I find beauty in us all?


Between visits to Seattle Museum,

Unsettling Femininity at the Frye

probes politics of looking and viewing

images of women, I’m reading

250 Years of Struggle and Song,

African American poetry anthology

needing its early ancestors in order

to become the one that takes us into time:

I open to Blue Sutras, 1976-1989,

reading only the women, the years

women matured with the tradition

as they became the tradition, breaking

into daylight. Breaking into text-to-be,

thread-rule, ancient ones made scripture.

Over two days, from Ai, afraid that

if I let go, I’d live—And don’t I lead them

like a good shepherd? To epic

Cleopatra vision: ...what I want

is the weight of Imperial Rome.

Persistence. Word turned bumper

sticker in American electoral politics

shows up first in June Jordan,

This is the difficult miracle of Black

poetry in America: that we persist,

published or not, and loved or unloved:

we persist. Thank you Ms. Jordan,

most grateful for the epigraph, Kevin Young.

Brown girl levitation, these poems

have direct bearing on the future

of all grand daughters, each girl,

girl-woman-elder. Each man.

And on her wedding day, she wept,

Lorna Goodison, who pronounced

my blood holy. These poems

repair each time they’re opened.

Each day, on successive days,

a photo of my granddaughter

before me, a different sutra

speaks truth. Erica Hunt appears,

Would I recognize my name in the voice

from the burning bush?--These

birthdays don’t need to be rationed.

It doesn’t matter where one turns.

Ntozake Shange is the Sunday School teacher:

I found god in myself

& I loved her/ I loved her fiercely.

Xosa. She who comes into her own things…

She who walks like a lion.

Are you saying, these sutras

make one long poem? I am.

It happened by accident.

Once I was interrupted.

Once I was finished and lost

my computer text. Gone,

I told my wife. It’s gone.

Splayed grace on drenched sky,

random line in Patricia Smith.

These Praise Songs For The Day.

Does the title for this book

come from the Elizabeth Alexander

poem, and these are poets just

going about their business?

Salt, teeth, and correct pronunciation

of my name, Aracelis, little propeller

helicopters falling in mass from

the maple tree. Gift every time

from one privileged enough

to hold this book. And one more,

reading on a stool at the tire shop,

going back and forth between poems

and the biography section, after

Robin Coste Lewis’ research

of titles, catalogs, and black female

entries, I begin writing down

listed titles by the women.

Another poem. 10,000 poets

in the mothership of our time.

250 Years of Struggle and Song.

These 15-year old girls, daughters

of elders bound: test, question, develop.


a kind of coda

Among the doors and doorways

at the Frye—so many gods

in thresholds—so many ages!

Black marketplace

and one freestanding

Anastacia-Reneé (Don’t be Absurd)

Alice in Parts, devotee of Audre Lorde,

constructs the Church of Lorde

in a red room, Alice in Parts

delivers the eulogy

offering a rageful meditation.

Alice in Parts is a city girl

with Lorde’s poems on every wall.

This struggle-song’s not a done deal

and there’s hope in that, too.

III. Dear Darkness: Or Notes on Food While Reading Kevin Young’s poem

     Below us he hears

     as the dead must, the day

     speaking to itself, muttering

         --Kevin Young, Eulogy

He is trying to break my heart.

This curator-poet working long hours

knows lone time needs

I won’t/don’t pick from ode’s

already anointed sauce and smoke

rivals for God’s affections--

Say when!

Flipping pages backward

what gets said about pork bows

remembers my father’s feet

he got to the car but never

went back to work, turns out

it’s the prayer, not black-eyed peas

showing here, every un-proud

impulse and sounds in line-breaks

and dark luck coming into the city

just enough, just enough Stevie Wonder,

innervision prayer on edge

blues in water, how Jacob Lawrence

shows the granddaughter how to paint

water’s dark light, not a summer soldier,

that prayer for black-eyed peas--

that one, Aunt Toota and gravy,

every night doubled, doubled,

this magnificence.

Jim Bodeen

March—May 2021