I failed so miserably at being adult.
I couldn't sustain interest.
It wasn't in me.

Jim Bodeen
1 May 2010



He comes down the alley after
aluminum cans in garbage dumpsters
riding a bicycle. ¿Tiene trabajo
en su jardín para mi? he asks

as I walk to meet him with my rake,
in overalls y mi sombrero hecho a mano
de palma en Sahuayo, Michoacán.
He knows the hat as ally

and talks direct. In a few hours
I'm gone for 11 days. Venga
el 29 de abril, I say, and that's the day
he shows up to work, the day

we return from Arizona. We felt
protected from the law in Grand Canyon,
kind of like we had shadow guides,
and leaving the parks we were looking

for smoke, and covered in music.
I didn't feel full toxic presence
until we drove into our driveway
and heard the news, Boycott Arizona.

Had I just come back?
Or had I just arrived?
When questions surface
they don't come with protection.

This garden offers to listen.
Old roses wounded Rilke
sacrificing him. Sanctuary is here
where we're blessed for digging in.

I pay Jesús by the hour.
No benefits beyond iced tea and water.
I sign a contract with myself
reaching for new lows.

                 —29 April 2010

Karen hollers to me
in the garden, we have to go,
another field trip,
our daughter's kinder class.
Paseo's the word for field trip.
Appleby’s—donde vamos a comer—
y ver la cocina, Petco, y el parque
para correr. Leaving Jesús
in midsentence, él me dijo,
No se preocuparse. Entiendo el trabajo.
This is my rich life, walking with Karen,
walking with children, watching
these two bilingual daughters—
invitations to wonder, spending
this morning with 25 monolingual
Spanish speaking kindergartners.
Entering the classroom I sit
at the small table and pick up
a book about zorillos. It is so good.
A zorillo is a skunk, and like
I didn't know the word paseo
thinking it too exotic to be field trip
I didn't know the word for skunk.
It so happens I have a skunk in my life
and can't call him by name.
I've been redeemed after watching
this zorillo snake around my life.
Karen catches me smiling
and thinks I'm recovering my balance.
I'm reading a children's book in Spanish.
This is geology of personal life
in a receding ice field.
Jesús, kinder, zorillos, Arizona.
We get crayons at the restaurant
and order from the menu.
At Petco kids get hamsters
and my daughter gives me
bathroom duty. Girls and boys.
Trouble turning on faucets.
There's a grillo on the floor
in the boy's room. Teachers do this
every day after lunch.
Lining up for pictures before we leave,
28 of us saying Queso in unison,
singing the word. The man dressed in camoflauge
shakes his head in disgust reminding us
that we are in Arizona,
that our town is a dangerous place.


Walking through Jesús’ work
at the end of the day, a young man
hollers, Disculpame, Señor.
Mi esposa y yo necesitamos ayuda.
No hay petroleo en mi carro.
Nuestro bebé está llorando.
The plastic gas can for the lawnmower
will get him to a gas station
but there's not enough gas
to get anybody out of Arizona.

Jim Bodeen
29 April—30 April 2010
Yakima, Arizona


When seas evaporate
they leave behind salt beds
and salt under pressure
is not stable. Salt shifts,
buckles, liquifies--salt
changes positions.
Thirsty rock
layers upwards emptying.

Jim Bodeen
20 April—28 April, 2010
Colorado Plateau—Yakima



Fill the bowl
with Mountain Smoke

and pack it.
Light and inhale.

Smoke it up.
Fill the bowl again

and get real sick.
Vomit all of your impurities.

Jim Bodeen
27 April 2010
Rest Stop, I-84 North


Karen finds the ceremonial pipe
the day I’m on the Bright Angel Trail.
Made by Larry Cly, Navajo artist,
who hangs a bow over the entrance

to his home so enemies cannot enter,
we’ve been looking for this pipe
to hang on the gun rack
to protect the mothership.

Horsehair is for strength,
Antler so one can be swift and agile
like the deer. Beads for prosperity,
and fur for intelligence.

Feathers take our prayers to the gods.
As a boy in North Dakota I put
Indian Tobacco in the bowl
of my small pipe and smoked it

behind the barn in a tepee
made of sticks. We ask in gallery
and trading post what smoke
will honor this pipe, purifying us

for the journey home. “Mountain smoke,”
the man says who shows me Nakai’s
flute and Talisman for the music,
“Clay pipes is what our people use,”

he says. A young Navajo father
at a roadside stand sells me an eagle head
carved from buffalo bone and directs me
to PowWow Trading Post on the upper

side of Page, just off the reservation.
Original Mountain Smoke blend,
Dzal na toh, for goodway blessings,
made by Franklin Yazzie. We learn

of the elders’ fight to keep young people
from American cigarettes and cancers.
For the generation behind us, then,
I buy three clay pipes and three bags

of Mountain Smoke for three men
who I love, each one son and brother.
At the end of our day, Karen and I
shower and clean the table of all

but pipes and Mountain Smoke.
We have not been given
complete instructions. We made
it this far by learning to love each other.

Karen strikes the wood match
placing it over the bowl in my hands.
We smoke the ceremonial pipe
and the clay pipe for common days.

Other lessons have been given to us
for the men of the next to come.
Medicine in Mountain Smoke
is theirs to find. My job is to drive.

Jim Bodeen
27 April 2010
Marysvale, Utah


Walking the trail out of Indian Garden
into the blossoming desert towards the edge
of the plateau where cliffs fall
into the brown water of the Colorado River,
images of two daughters surface
in my altered walking state. One
of the daughters is mine, one is the daughter
of an aging witness watching
my country during a dangerous time.
That time is now. My daughter
gives her beautiful blood from the marrow
of her bones in multiple transfusions
to people she will never know.
The other daughter washes her clothes
on rocks in solidarity with women
in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
I had hoped to help make the lives
of children easier. Before the witness
of the daughters, now fully grown,
I can only petition God
for what Dr. King called for in reversing
the Parable of the Good Samaritan,
unsustainable obedience. Let me listen
that deeply, towards what I’m unable
to hear on my own, following
in obedience with no agenda.

Jim Bodeen
25 April 2010
Mather Campground
The South Rim


Salt is one of the shape shifters
in the American southwest. I carry
the salt fragment with me into Sunday morning.
At the far end of the Rim Trail
Mary Colter built a memorial
for hermits that folds into the landscape.
A high school teacher in Minneapolis
answering the call of design. We buy
her book and I drink a Diet Coke
as Karen fills a shopping bag
with gifts for grandchildren.
Hats, t-shirts, stuffed squirrels,
and chocolate rocks. I pick out the book,
Who Pooped in the Park, illustrated.
The Rim Trail, accessible and unprotected,
allows the vulnerable and the elderly
to get as close to the edge as fools
who seldom survive their falls.
More people here carry digital cameras
than water and it’s all good,
the sun’s out, and it’s Sunday.
A builder of interiors, Colter’s
touch includes soot on fireplace stones.
Karen and I take one ceremonial meal
in El Tovar, looking at Hopi House,
another part of Colter’s vision
at the other end of the trail. A mud floor
made of cement, carved bultos,
and Hopi builders to do the building,
modeled after houses in Oraiba.
Colter’s architecture emerges
from here, this place, these people,
where everyone walks the rim on Sunday,
carrying what they came here with,
cancers, children, bills—
old marriages and new ones,
losses and new beginnings.
The old hotel proclaims,
“Dreams of mountains as if in sleep,
they brood on things eternal.”
We all come carrying. Colter
tucks herself away, unseen,
part of the salt we can’t see.
It really gets good
when a woman carrying the same book
Karen has in her pack
reads to her husband about the school teacher
Mary Colter from Minneapolis.

Jim Bodeen
April 25, 2010


Le Guin's poem says,
"Let the arch of your feet be the mountains."
Her poem is some of what I carry.
Let me see even parts of this trail.

“This ‘fossil’ rubble marks the gates to the dark, foreboding inner gorges of the canyon, which contain some of the oldest rocks on earth: the Vishnu Schist. It is as if the depths of the earth were open to our gaze. It is like a journey to the earth’s interior. It is as if one were regressing in time into the geologic dark ages, before life or oceans or atmospheres as we know them, as we enter the black depths of ‘Granite Gorge.’”
          “The Colorado Plateau, A Geologic History” Donald L. Baars

A photograph of John Wesley Powell alongside Paiute Indian, Tau-gu, in southern Utah, introduces the reader to Part III of Barr’s book, “Enter Man.” Tau-gu is on the right, Powell on the left, both looking off the page to the right. They stand in front of large rocks and we can’t see what they’re looking at. Powell is pointing to something with his left hand. His missing right arm behind Tau-gu. Powell is wearing heavy black wool pants with suspenders. Baar’s caption says Powell is providing information to Tau-gu. Tau-gu is interested in what he sees. What is clear to me about this photograph, is that whatever the two of them are sharing, it is a true thing. What they share is what most of the world is looking for.

Wallace Stegner writes of Powell’s journey, introducing Powell’s, “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons” like this: “The last great exploration within the continental United States…not a government expedition…the meager funds came out of his own pocket…And the purpose of this shoestring expedition? Only to discover. To find out...the disinterested search.”

99 days. A 300 mile canyon turns out to be a chain of canyons more than a thousand miles long. Thin tradition in a thin landscape. Nine men. One learns about Powell reading any geology book. There were stories “from hunters and miners of men and boats entering the gorge in boats and being carried down with fearful velocity into whirlpools of underground passages for the great river into which boats had passed never to be seen again.” And this sentence: “There were other accounts of great falls whose roaring music could be heard on the distant mountain summits; and there were stories current of parties wandering on the brink of the canyon and vainly endeavoring to reach the waters below, and perishing with thirst at last, in sight of the river which was roaring its mockery into their dying ears.”

The disinterested search listens to everything and learns to listen. Pure discovery contains a channel for discrimination and discernment alongside a purer tradition of gathering raw data without judgment. Raw data and story telling. Leaving behind the war that took your ----- arm. Immersion into landscape and story. Not belonging to one’s past. The rock cut loose from the earth’s bedrock is dead. The present is the key to the past, but what past? Immersed in now for survival one is given the big story. Leaving the village behind.

Powell walks with the Indians into their mysteries of the canyon. “Long ago there was a great and wise chief who mourned the death of his wife and would not be comforted, until Tavwoats, one of the Indian gods, came to him and told him his wife was in a happier land, and offered to take him there that he might see for himself, if upon his return, he would cease to mourn. The great chief promised. Then Tavwoats made a trail through the mountains that intervene…and this, the desert home of the poor Numa. This trail was the canyon gorge of the Colorado…and when they had returned the deity exacted from the chief a promise that he would tell no one of the trail.”

Elevation, erosion and time greet one at the Bright Angel trailhead. Exposure to air and water changes the minerals. Both prehistoric and historic American Indians used the trail and raised crops along Garden Creek. There are pictographs above the trail at Indian Gardens. It is a 12-plus mile day hike to Plateau Point and back, accessible in spring with the last mile and a half crossing a blooming desert of cactus and banana yucca. It snowed on these tiny flowers yesterday. Sunny today, and warm, and one sheds the layers of clothes by mid morning. Annual rainfall on this plateau is four inches.

My hike into the Canyon is to Plateau Point. My photographs concentrate on knee-crunching and back-stretching switchbacks stunning in first morning light, and desert flowers on my knees crossing the plateau. Arriving at Plateau Point, after this beckoning descent, I remain on a mountain top. The Colorado River is directly below me. The Bright Angel Trail Guide tells me that I’m standing on Tapeats Sandstone on a broken sequence. “On the north side of the canyon, however, you will notice that there are several geologic formations between the Vishnu Schist in the Inner Gorge and the Tapeats. These layers are known as the Grand Canyon Supergroup and were deposited between 740 million and 1.25 billion years ago by seas, swamps, and rivers.” After lunch,

a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an orange, a pork chop from last night’s dinner, and a Starbuck’s Coffee Mocha, I carry out my last official task of this journey. I say Hello to the Vishnu Schist for the poet Jody Aliesan.

The Tapeats lies directly on top of the Vishnu Schist. The contact between the two is called the Great Unconformity. “After the deposition of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, faults occurred, pushing the rock up and tilting it. In most places in Grand Canyon, erosion was so extensive that these rocks, over time, disappeared, leaving a 1.25 billion-year gap in time. This gap is called the Great Unconformity.”

“I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People”, a testimonial by Stephen Hirst, with its extensive collection of historical photos, and encomium by Fydel Jones on the back cover: “This book is our Bible. We use it to teach our kids who they are,” and the stunning cover photo of “Fire Off, Fire Away,” Waluthma, also known as Waluthma Charley, is the book I carry in the Mothership to read at night.

The photo of Supai Mary, from the 1940s calls to me because she grew up in the Garden Creek area where much of my hike passes through. It feels accurate to say: She is the Grand Canyon. It does not feel like as exaggeration to call her face the landscape of the Grand Canyon. The caption reads in part: “Yuul Gsayo as Havasupais knew her, grew up at Indian Garden and lived much of her life at the South Rim. In old age and completely blind, she rode on horseback sixty miles across the Coconimo Plateau and known a treacherous cliff trail from Grand Canyon Village to Supai.” On the opposite page, “Baa Glaqa, ‘Collapsing’ Black Tank, called ‘Bob’ by outsiders, Baa Glaqa (1870-1918) was a Havasupai gthye (shaman). After his death, his wife Lucy became one of the few Havasupai women ever to assume this role.”

Havasupai Tribal Chairman Lee Marshall is quoted by Hirst: “Our people were picking piñon in the twenties at Grand Canyon. The rangers wanted them out and told them, ‘We want to save it for birds and squirrels.’” Stephen Hirst’s book seems like an appropriate trailhead.

Ancestral Puebloan groups inhabit the area along Garden Creek from around AD 1100, building granaries and dwellings in the Tapeats cliffs. Garden Creek provided a permanent source of water for drinking and irrigation.

While this day is our solo day, Karen on her exploration, me on mine, I’m still walking with Karen, and I know she’s taking care of the dog, when I leave the mothership before sunrise. She’s still with me on the trail. And so is Noam Chomsky, 81, partly because of a painting of him that crossed my dreamfield last night. My sister walks this trail too. Vonnie was the chief companion and caretaker of our mother over most of our adult lives, before mom came to Yakima to be with my brother Chuck, myself and our families three years ago. Vonnie searches her knowledge of movies and Fedex’s us Grand Canyon, a story of urban chaos with a single thread of the Canyon’s archetypal powers. Vonnie accompanies the movie with a single last minute thread, “Transcend.”

Jim Bodeen
25 April 2010
Mather Campground


How does it stay up? the man from Michigan
asks himself approaching in wonder.
I don't know know how it stays up.
She keeps it up, I say to Karen
getting into the mothership,
and She lets it down,
isn't that right, Karen.
That's right, Karen says,
She keeps it up, and She lets it down.

Jim Bodeen
23 April 2010
South Rim Grand Canyon

My poet friend says, Say hello to the Vishnu Schist


--for Rob Prout

Dodge music heading south in a rig
looking for stories my Daddy would've called
real life, I look at Navaho dolls
in a small trading post called Thin Bear.
Karen writes the name of the doll maker,
Lou Ann Paul, in my notebook.
Bob and his wife opened this place
after careers in education and social work.
He's a jeweler, too, and when I take off
my Marty Lovins belt buckle I've worn
for 20 years, he takes off the one he made
from found .22 shells. We photograph them
in my hand and he speaks Navaho,
telling me names of Navaho artists
whose pieces will become part
of Native American diaspora
once they're sold. I know I'm passing
through, that this isn't a neighborhood
I've walked the past 35 years. Still,
I cringe at the word "tourist." When
Karen and I take our young family
to the barrio in Guadalajara, I stand up
and make an after-dinner speech
at Jose Luis' house, the doctor
for every family who knocks on his door.
He pulls me aside and says, Jim,
you just told everybody you're happy
to be here and you're sexually aroused.
Thin bear and traveling music.
I scratch the rash on my ankle
and remember my dermatologist
telling me years ago, No, I don't
open hearts like surgeons.
I like skin. We take an interest
in what comes up from below,
and comfort in the fact that skin
is the largest organ of the human body.
Maybe these poems can serve as snapshots
for just being here, passing through
in a thin tradition. I hold my camera out
over the rim of the Grand Canyon
in a spring snow storm. No railing,
trying to see something
like the beginning of time.

Jim Bodeen
April 23, 2010
Grand Canyon South Rim


Look at the purple flowers,
on the roadside, Karen says,
driving. Karen with the Dead
taking us into Arches.
Snack on the side of the road
in the mothership. Rub Sadie’s belly
with an oatmeal spray. After her swim
in Lake Utah this morning, she sheds
the last of her winter coat. Peanut butter
and jelly sandwich. Tiny herring fillets
on crackers. Karen and the
Estimated Prophet, some whacked-out
California dreamed-out dreamer. Karen plays
Jimmy Row all morning on this big
purple and brown highway.
Karen the Deadhead.
Everything charged. An email comes in
from the city. It’s harder to ride
than drive, I write. Is Utah
the Beehive State, Karen asks
looking at the state highway sign.
Rain drops on the windshield.
The sky’s a great big bulletin board.
I drape Karen’s yellow shawl
over her right shoulder. Sensuous,
rounded formations below the cliffs,
sensuous human bodies linked.
Karen says movies use these formations
for underground worms.
When did she see these movies?
What movies made by who?
Karen brings me the wonder
of her universe. She links to
an older time, the ancients
caring for her, keeping an eye on me.
Easier to punch in words
on a computer than to
write through the tightening
left hand in the notebook.
We play at gassing up talk
after we pass the truck stop
where the gauge I read says, Empty.
Her gauge isn’t empty.
What does your gauge read Karen?
This is it, Karen says
many songs later.  Good, I say,
What do you mean, This is it.
This is where we get diesel.
Oh, oh, say, oh. Oh, good. I buy enough
to make safe passage at 3.89 a gallon.
I’ll sing Karen’s song for her,
The Dead elegy, Jimmy Row,
I’ll sing it over and over for her
until she gets real tired of me,
Jimmy Row, Jimmy Row,
I don’t know, row, Jimmy Row,
Jimmy row, and she calls for
the relief of natural wonders.

Jim Bodeen
21 April 2010


Birsdsong, cattails, stars and a crescent moon. Nearly empty campground and a few tents. I don’t know the birds. Reports from the doctor and reports from my daughter. The further we get from home the closer we get. A poet writes me about God: Beautiful blood in a beautiful brain. I would add dark roast coffee beans in a ceramic mug. Light now, and a second cup. Sadie at my feet, humbled after breaking into her bottle of chewable glucosomine tablets yesterday when we left her in the mothership for 20 minutes crossing into Utah at Snowville. Karen calls the vet in Yakima and the receptionist laughs. Two weeks ago all that I could think about was skiing and now I’m traveling back to the beginning of the world. Lake Bonneville is all dried up now, but once its circumference was 20,000 miles, and fed by rivers that never reached the seas. Now it’s shrunken to the Great Salt Lake. How many tablets did she take? the receptionist asks. When did I bring her in? A week or so ago? Count backwards at three a day from then and it must be 100 or so. Give her a bottle of peroxide to drink and induce vomiting or let it run out her rear end in an hour or so. We give her lots of water and a bit of dry dog food and here it comes. Sister Sadie Sadie. I monitor the bowel movements of my wife and dog out of the corner of my eye. Who could I tell? Why God chose me to live this life, I do not know but I give thanks daily. A boy from North Dakota smoking Indian Tobacco in a souvenir pipe and walking railroad tracks taking medical reports from his grown children and sobbing. Will my dog find extreme suppleness for twenty minutes? We pass a Mexican restaurant called the Herradero. Here comes the sun. I hear George Harrison singing as I’m given the access code to the bicameral brain. Before falling asleep last night I read an early version of Martin Luther King’s sermon on the Good Samaritan. Obedience to the unenforceable. He uses this image twice. This is it, of course. Unsustainable obedience. Following the directions we’re given to the end, following past our ability to hear, to the without sound in absurd, I can’t hear it, but I follow, going that far, that is the work of the poet. Choosing a life with no guarantees is a life one doesn’t want to brag about too much in public, Be careful of that word called, it’s been commandeered by civilians, and those so honored are often given starched white collars that look, another poet has remarked, remarkably like nose rings in cattle. As Karen thought about what she read at the Lake Bonneville rest stop she carried it all the way down the mountain. She saw backwards in time. She looked into millions of years and saw the ancient shoreline of the Great Salt Lake. Needing land, now, high on the mountain, they’re building expensive row houses. You can see it from the freeway. Call it the highway. Listen to the singers crossing to the other side.

Jim Bodeen
20 April 2010


She found the original shoreline of the Great Salt Lake.
Then she turned off National Public Radio.
She said, That’s it, like she was sailing out from the Ballard Locks.
She was driving the mothership. When we stopped
for the night she had a dish of Karamel Sutra Ice Cream.

Jim Bodeen
19 April 2010
Utah Lake State Park

            —for Karen

Ancient ones watching over Karen
as lone certainty, or certain as Vishnu Schist
the poet said say hello to, I say again,
I must be on borrowed time, thank you Old Ones
lifting us up, take us down, take us
to the desert floor, let us get close
to that river. Here, on the Powder River
after the 45th Parallel and the North Powder
before that, meandering, we follow
in the mothership on I-84 East
heading south to Baker City, Oregon.
My sister sends me the movie, Oh,
Grand Canyon, says, Look for transcendence.
The poet says, Say hello to Vishnu Schist.
We eat a simple meal of pasta
and take a walk with Sister Sadie Sadie,
who sleeps at our feet. Our first night out
in a series of measureless nights crossing
into our 42d year or our 45th, depending
on the way you count backwards
to say 4 billion years. We sit
at the little table where I try to comprehend
and Karen reads me the paper.

Jim Bodeen
18 April 2010

My poet friend asks, What is a mountain?


            —for my daughter Krista

You are bone marrow
for the world. You

give your blood
to dead bones.

Bones walk away,
you too, transplanted.

18 April 2010


            —para Leah Meiser, maestra

Seis mesas y seis estudiantes
sentado a cada mesa, azul, verde
amarillo y rojo—25 niños en kinder
saliendo la escuela
caminando al super
la clase de nuestra hija—
Karen y yo, esposa/o
abuelitos llevando
chalecos de amarillo
y naranja para cruzando
la calle, escuchando
m’ija, cuidado
con los perritos
agarrando las manos
los niños llamando Karen
mi novia, tomando mi mano
caminando en una fila
cada estudiante con su compañero
calles peligrosas
podemos, queremos, tenemos

Llegando el super
vamos a probar las frutas
un paseo al parque después
¿Cual es su primer comida?
Presten atención
Comida a veces, comida siempre
¿Porque? Porque  tiene azucar
El panadero Rubén
Hago pastelitos, hago bolillos
Es muy rico aquí
Hey guys want to see something cool?
¡Hace frio! Ha, ha, ha
Prueba la chocolate de soya
Pasan después
Estamos hablando de comida saludable
Medicina importante
Bocas cerradas aquí
la ultima parada
lapiz, agua, arregla
Seguimos caminando
al parque a comer
y jugar
caminantes somos
No estamos cansado
Sí estamos cansado
No estamos cansado
Sí estamos cansado

Su papa, Jim
17 de abril 2010

You’re carving ham on Easter
when I ask you that question on Willie.
James Hirsch says he sits right next to Ruth
and I wanted your thoughts before

putting a 600-page book in your hands.
Your careful answer runs the list of names
through all possibilities, Pujols and Griffey,
before circling back to Say Hey Mays.

Mays had no interest in toppling sacred records,
like the way you coach fastpitch,
Chuck. I love to watch you work—
practice more than games. You’re conditioned

for joy to this play. Mays outperforms Ruth
at the same age. Mays defies his biology
when he doesn’t retire. You take another life
in an alternative universe, show how

many ways to win exist in a single game,
breaking innings into pieces as small
as the next pitch. Hope as fact,
basket catches made running away.

Your brother, Jim
16 April 2010


            —for Tim Bodeen

As the farthest point North,
Jasper has one place to buy diesel, 
so diesel’s on our minds. We want
to find Maligne Canyon, too. The man
at the pump next to me tells us how.
He’s local. Yes, Maligne Canyon.
It’s not really a cave, but the river’s frozen,
you can walk it, be careful,
the man from Jasper tells me.
It’s close, you don’t need a guide.
I put sand in my pockets
and spread it on the ice
as I walked. It’s at the 5th bridge
out of town. You’ll see where
people duck under the fence
and walk to the river.
I ended up breaking my arm
doing things I shouldn’t
have been doing. It’s after 5
when we get out of the truck
and begin walking. I’m beat
but the ranger says there’s time
and it will be light until after 7.
In a couple of months there won’t
be anything but light, he says.
My son and I, man and man,
on the Ice Field Parkway.
Now if I can make it to the ice.
Tim, energized by the drive
and ice on frozen rivers,
carries the camera working the documentary
in the same way he’s taken care
of the mothership. I slip,
ducking under the fence,
making my first fall. Mud
before ice, I say to myself.
Where the Maligne River runs frozen
I step towards a rock and sit.
In silence I say the names
of my friends. I don’t need to go
any farther. The young man goes
farther than the old man. For the first
time, I feel old. Tim guides me across ice
from rock to rock, much as the way
he skied me down
Double Black Diamond runs
at Kicking Horse, as though
cornices weren’t cornices. Past
frozen falls, into caves with running water.
Step in there, Tim says, and I say OK,
taking off my hat, washing
head and face, a ritual bath.
We find a natural hole in the ice
and lean together with our heads,
listening to music of water below.
Slip the camera in, I say,
all the way into the ice, record the music
of the water. Ice light
surprises even the camera, side-
lighting the under-river in reflection.
Now I’m done, I say. I let you go.
You let me go a long time ago, he says.
No, I didn’t, I say.
I’m dizzy by the frozen moments.
Crossing water gives me vertigo.
You go, I say. Turn around so that
you get us back to the truck
in good light. Record what you find.
This is the farthest point North for me.
30 minutes on this rock
turns into 30 minutes of sleep.
I’ll fall on the way back, but won’t get hurt.
Tim’s eyes will guide my feet.
Walking north into his own truths,
the guide isn’t young in his confidence.

Jim Bodeen
14 April 2010


I didn't know if I still
wanted the job, but I do.

Overalls, boots, hat,
and a morning's work

with music, walking
with my rake,

pruners holstered
on my hip. I stop

my neighbor, the new guy
from Texas, and he rolls down

his window. I am the sheriff,
I say. You're FBI,

but I'm local authority.
My job is wood smoke,

music on three corners,
and slowing traffic.

Jim Bodeen
13 April 2010


            —for Amy Huacani

Unwrapping the surprise carefully,
(What would a potter send but a pot?),
I take the first cup and place it
inside my arthritic left hand,

sacred outsider who cares for me,
saying to myself, This is morning
pleasure medicine for daily use.
Yunomi cups from Amy in North Carolina.

Japanese teacup with no handle.
I’ve been using a cup whose handle broke
when Sadie’s tail took it off the table.
Best way to hold it, Amy says,

is at the top rim, and bottom
so you don’t burn yourself.
Yesterday my granddaughter
burned herself drinking China

green tea from the metal cup.
Now I can show her how.
The cup will cool fast.
The cups come in pairs,

called meoto yunomi,
meoto means married couple.
Same pattern, one slightly larger,
in similar, but different, shape—

husband, wife cups. We’ll
call them Grandpa/Katie cups,
or Grandpa/Josh cups. For green tea,
daily use, comfort ceremony.

Jim Bodeen
12 April 2010


—for Lucille Bodeen at 86

Nine of your great grandchildren
huddle around you at the kitchen table,
Mom. Josh holds your cupcake
with the lit candle close.
Evelyn smiles from her open book.
Your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren
gather around you. We sing,
and you make a wish. When the candle
goes out and we cheer, we look
around the table and glimpse
your creation once again.

11 April 2010


            —for Nelson Bennett

Nelson walks through the lodge
like he did then, when he ran this place.
Nelson’s 95 and 3 months.
Nelson Bennett came to White Pass
in 1960, from Sun Valley,
a few years after they cut Highway 12
across the summit. 10,000 bucks a year.
Nelson said stumps were six feet tall
and you had to have eight feet of snow
to ski. Old baseball cap and sweater,
blue vest, red suspenders, mussed hair.
Nelson’s here to take questions.

I’m here to thank him for Tom Mullen
who isn’t here, and hundreds of kids
from the alternative school who skied free
when Tom told him their story. I still see
those lives you saved with Tom. Thanks.
I taught with Tom and school
was on this mountain every Friday for ten years.
Tom died, but it sure seems he’s here with us.
Nelson smiles. It’s a selfish sport,
he says. You don’t need a team
to change your ways on a mountain.

Before you cut a new trail,
Nelson says, walk it for three years.
Build it narrow. Widen it later
if you need to. His best day of skiing?
Two weeks ago in New Hampshire.
He still races. 10th Mountain Division
Ski Team—two runs, slalom.
I will not bore the hell out of you,
Nelson says looking around,
but 95% of you are overbooted—
the bar is open.

Jim Bodeen
10 April 2010

             —for Leah

I'm not going crazy
and I'm not going to die.

Jim Bodeen
9 April 2010


Leaving the launchpad, I hand Tim the keys. He’s a man as much as he’s a son. He shows me this. He’ll show it for the next ten days. Pulling out onto Bell Avenue, the power of the Dodge with its marriage to the Lance Camper all lifted by the air bags underneath, takes his breath away, as it does mine. This is the maiden voyage, the winter practice after the winter practice. We’ve made ritual, burned sage, blessed the ship and did what we could to purify our hearts. Before driving the Columbia Icefields Parkway on this 10-day alpine skiing journey north. I’d cut some sage for the Smudge Ceremony, and I’d bundled some to make some smoke to purify the mothership of any negative energy that might be brought into it, or left over, for that matter. Dan saw the sage I'd cut and didn't like it. He cuts his own and brings it wrapped in ribbon. I wrote friends who knew about journeys and asked for their advice. I have those kinds of friends.

Tim is 39. I’m 64. Tim planned the trip last fall. He drove over the mountains from Seattle, and we’re driving north and east to cross the border. Some of you know Tim. Some of you know me. It has taken me a month to arrive at some kind of epiphany on this ritual. I think it’s been given to me. It comes in the form of a poetry reading Richard Hugo gave in the KIVA at Davis High School nearly thirty years ago now. He began reciting a poem and nobody knew that the reading had started until it was over. That’s the kind of ceremony I’d like to have on Friday. Isn’t that what elders do? Wouldn’t they sit around the back porch wondering how to do this? How to cut and bind the sage? Weren’t they, too, trying to wake from a kind of sleep where they’d forgotten the old ways? Ceremony of no ceremony. So wherever you are, and what ever you offer becomes part of the conversation, part of the porch talk, part of the ceremony. Whatever you bring, whatever you say, however you say it, or sing it. It’s time to load the storyship. Basho, Jesus, Cold Mountain. Buffy St. Marie. Crazy Cloud. Neil Young. Skaay, too, translated by Robert Bringhurst. Sitting out back, then, on the porch, with music and talk, briefly. How do we make this smoke?

Marty, Barry, Jody, Jim, Vance, Dan, participated. Karen, of course. Jody sent an order of ceremony followed by an urgent, P.S. Important: I just remembered something very important! I don't know how I could have forgotten it! At the very beginning of the ceremony, before invoking the Spirits of the Four Directions, the first thing you say is: "Grandmothers, Grandfathers"... I have no idea how I left out the ancestors. Maybe I just assumed their attendance. So here it is again, in toto:

First you face the direction you'll be traveling in.
Then you light the sage.
Cleanse yourself with the smoke by passing the sage around you and waving the smoke towards you, with your hand or with a feather.

First you say 'Grandmothers, Grandfathers,'
Then move the sage in the four directions, saying '
Spirits of the Four Directions'
Then move it up and down, saying
'Father Sky and Mother Earth'
Then make a circle above your head, saying '
The Eagle that flies between the realms'
Then make a circle far above your head, saying,
'And the Great Spirit beyond everything,
about whom nothing can be spoken'
Then say, 'Be with us.'

Then make your prayer, whatever it is.

After that, walk around your rig, waving the smoke to it,
then go inside both the camper and the pickup,
waving the smoke in all the corners.

Then you make an offering,
like four bundles of good pipe tobacco wrapped in squares of cloth:
red, yellow, blue and black.
Hang these, in the four corners of the mother ship.
Hang the feather in the cab of the pickup.

Then you give thanks, ending by thanking the spirits above for attending.


That’s how we waved goodbye to Karen. After our ceremony. Karen's camera is ceremony, too. Along with her blankets and quilts inside the housemoving. My work was done. Tim would captain the ship and the map. Dan made a film. We carried another bundle of sage wrapped in red ribbon by Dan. I tucked it behind the barbecue in an outside compartment. For the ceremony when we would turn and start for home. Karen waved with the following words, “At the border declare everything.”

Jim Bodeen
3 March-8 April, 2010


The way to Jasper
began long before you found
it on the map, years before
you proposed this father-son

journey North with skis.
You've given me more than
Sugar Daddy boards,
my son, and this morning

I pause long enough
for this note to place inside
Mountains and Rivers without End,
the way we've made walking,

inside and outside of time.
The mothership is language
I first heard from you
listening to George Clinton.

It's packed and ready to drive
North, a cloud(ship), a dream quilt,
a kind of story-promise, promised
and delivered, sage-sealed.


7 March 2010