The Patio


—Mi copa está rebosando
   Salmo 23

In straw hat and tuxedo shirt—camisa de esmoquin,
Don Alfonso dresses for the day. Black slacks and brown
leather belt. He's lost the cufflinks or never had them,
I don't know which, but his flair, su forma de hacer,
arrives in the cuffs, one hanging over his wrist,
one turned back to his elbow.

Don Alfonso Carranza Martin, 88,
en el campomento de los refugiados,
se llama Fe y Esperanza. Don Alfonso
quien perdió su dos hijos en la Guerra Civil,
me dió su mano y saludos, de su camisa
de esmoquin colgando sobre sus manos
sin butones o enlaces. He gives me his story.

Me levanto a las 7:30.
Tomo café con pan.
Tengo 60 años de trabajar.
Nací en el cantón de San Sebastian.

Don Alfonso lost his two sons in the war.
I put photos of him on the inside cover pages
of my notebook and promise to deliver this poem.
You can see the cuffs dangling
one way or the other, flipflopping
like government officials. His daughter
in the United States sent him this shirt
he wears everyday. Fe y Esperanza
is the name of the refugee camp
run by the Lutheran Church.
I ride in the pickup with Pastora Abelina Gómez.
I can hear her voice saying Don Alfonso's name
three thousand miles away. I have his portrait
with his leathery face to look at every morning.
Don Alfonso, so tall and skinny.
I hear of his death before I can return.
Don Alfonso wears a white tshirt underneath
his tuxedo shirt. Don Alfonso understands.
He smiles and nods. He answers every question.
Don Alfonso who lost his two sons in the Civil War.
Don Alfonso, remembered in the notebook—
voice, face, story, witness and style,
especialmente estilo—elegancia de personalidad.

Jim Bodeen
July 27, 2005—May 30, 2010


A voice comes from the darkness
of the sky as I walk back to the house
after relieving myself. ¿Está en solidaridad
con la Guerra en Iraq? 
                                  Are you in solidarity
with the war in Iraq? A soft voice, unseen.

Antonio Ramírez, 60, calls from the scaffolding
on the other side of a wall below a palm tree.
The ex-guerilla combatant works with concrete
blocks before sunrise adding a room
to the house of Juan Carlos Perdonmo
in the repopulated community of Rutilio Grande.

No. Ojalá estoy un luchador por la paz.
Pero, es verdad que yo soy un soldado.
Estuve con los medicos en Viet Nam.
¿Por qué, me preguntaste de la guerra?
Quisiera saber más de la semilla de su pregunta.
Creo que su pregunta es parte de su testigo.

I believe that his question is part of his witness,
and that he comes forward to honor a larger story.
Antonio descends after permitting my camera.
He tells me he couldn't work for ten years
after the armed conflict in El Salvadro, tremors,
that a politician bought him these tools,

and he is the one on the hammock last night
when I arrived. He waited all night to ask his question.
Nuestros heridos son de la misma guerra, I say.
Our wounds come from the same war—I have tremors
Paises diferente, pero la misma guerra.
With the notebook in the kitchen

while he sings: ¿Puede escribir las palabras
de su canción en mi cuaderno? He takes my pen
and says, We sang this song every day
during the war. It was one of our popular
songs of liberation: Se al soya nuestra roja
vandera abenser o a morir ya maya por la patria

y el mañana sosialista El Pueblo Armado vensera.
He sings the dream of the two little girls.
One daughter is bourgeoisie—burgesas.
One is campesina. He sings in the same quiet voice
that called to me from the scaffolding.
The campesina dreams of bread for her pueblo

to heal the dolor and sickness of her people.
She dreams of work, and better crops.
The rich girl dreams of being a princess.
The poor girl promises to become a guerrilla.
No cuesta para entender la gente.
Cuesta para llevar la conciencia. Having a conscience...

Jim Bodeen
March/April 2006—Memorial Day Weekend, 2010


Birdsong at sunset
turns up the volume
as the solitary speaks—...reformulated for the poor?
Can you see the young man?

         Un mundo salvado
         Podemos hablar de esto.

The forgotten ones. Believers. Saved from below.
A world redeemed—We can talk about this.

To admire a man who repeats what needs to be repeated.

It couldn't be done
if it weren't for Jon Sobrino
and the few like him,

talking to power,
talking about power,
relentlessly talking, repeating themselves—

los pobres traen salvación—they mirror Christ.

Among us, the question is not
how to do theology 'after' Auschwitz,
but doing it 'in' Auschwitz,
that is, in the midst of a terrifying cross...

It would be so easy to bring flush toilets,
dentists, and doctors, to places like Rutilio Grande.
We need a critical mass.
Yesterday the world from above said, No.
The world from above doesn't have the humanity.

Flowers are important.
No sabemos sus nombres.
We don't know your name
en este mundo de abajo.

God of the life of victims
bringing us into a God different
than the God of thought

Saved from below
saved by your face
we don't even know your name.

The university can't save the world.
The poor teach hope. No one else can.
Y los pobres creen en Dios,
en algo tantos basico.

Participate in the risks
and change your life.

Jim Bodeen
23 March 2006, University of Central America,
19 April 2006, Yakima
28 May 2010

[This poem is a compilation of notes, of visual and aural observations taken in an altered state during some of the time periods listed. Notes are internal and external without citation. Italicized lines, did, but no longer come solely from Sobrino's book, Jesus the Liberator: A Historical-Theological View. jb]

       —para Alfonso Kijadurías

Contradicción y coherencia : Sapo y Poeta / Frog and Poet

La poesía siempre ha sido el poder y la renovación que desplaza los limites. El amor es su patria, la insumisión su ley, y su lugar está siempre en la anticipación.
    —Alfonso Kijadurías, ganador de Premio Nacional de Cultura

[entrevista con Alfonso Kijadurías en el Diario suplemente cultural tres mil #10267 de noviembre 2009]

It's an odd thing to walk with power
when power walks with the poem.
Of a sudden, a newspaper is placed in my hands.
The hands who place them there, says,
Tengo el sentido del poeta.
The poet says, Poetry has always had the power to displace the limits.
Poetry as motherland and fatherland, following poetry's law,
anticipating the world made new.

The government gives the poet a prize
and the poet gives the government a poem about a frog.
The poet discovers a frog hidden in the rocks,
one eye open, one eye closed.
The poet knows that the frog is God.
This is as much a problem for God
as it is for the poet because, fundamentally,
the poet does not want to listen to God.
He'll think he understands
when he doesn't understand a thing.
There you go. Given the power,
the poet knows the laws he's responsible for,
he knows to whom he bows and begs.
Even knowing this, looking at the frog,
he can't quite keep a straight face.
One more thing. What about the power
that put the newspaper in the poet's hands,
hands themselves representing God on earth?

Jim Bodeen
23 May 2010


How it happens, happens in its own way.
It has something to do with disinterested search.

My friend brings out an old cassette tape
she's been carrying for twenty years.

She's on a dirt floor in a rain storm in Central America.
The priest says rain relieves daily stress and helps one forget the war.

Above or below, it may not even matter.
It became clear to me I never belonged to anything

from above. I knew
I was the poorest of the poor.

Neediest of the needy.
Believe me, I scoured landscapes.

God surrounded me with expensive knives
and gave me my own poverty—some kind

of joke between the two of us,
and he gave me the ones who would let me do my work.

Jim Bodeen
22 May 2010


Union people, that's who we are.
Este es el cantón de San Antonio.
Somos unionistas, Osmín Pacheco says.
We stand in the middle of the soccer game.
Young people playing through us
shouting for the pelota, kicking the wet ball.
In a downpour from the tail of Hurricane Ida.
Teenagers, girls and boys, at joy speed,
hair streaming water, a young woman
in a breakaway.
                                Esta cancha de fútbol
aquí, era el patio de la hacienda.
¿Qué dice? I ask in disbelief.
                   This football field, here—
the patio of the hacienda?

Osmín points to the four corners marked by flags.
This soccer field was the patio for the casa grande.
Osmín shows me where helicopters landed.

Rutilio Grande belongs to this community.
He smiles. Sí, sí, sí. Los jovenes nunca jugaron aquí.
The children run through us laughing.

Jim Bodeen
13 noviembre 2009—Cantón de San Antonio—
24 May, 2010, Yakima

Fr. Jon De Cortina ● With Solidarity, it's Different


A couple of days of rain again.
That's great comfort.
But for me, I like this type of gathering.
We are normal human beings.
Soccer games and a dance at night.
They can dance all night.

Rain, it relieves a lot of stress...war, and the stress of the day.

These are our people.
They left the community
so we might be able to stay here.

[Young men] as soon as they get 15, 16 years,
they join voluntarily, the FMLN.

For the military, every civilian is an enemy
until he proves he's a friend.
For FMLN, every civilian is a potential friend.

Last night I came back, took a boy who was wounded.
He told me stories. 'We have to respect things to do not belong to us.'
That's the big difference.
are bad days for everything.
I run around giving masses.
I can't find out anything.
You listen to the radio...
Farabundo, Guerilla Radio, Radio America,
at the end of day...try to make an average.
Three years here, only three years.

When Rutilio Grande was killed
I took his place in Aguilares
and fell in love with campesinos.
I visited refugee camps three times a week.
I have known the campesino people.
I have been shot at in my car three times.
Sniper fired ten bullets, different locations in 2 1/2 hours.
Threatened in Las Flores.
[        ] want to kill me and drink my blood.
18 bombs in our house. Only four exploded.
That has been usual.
Guacamonte Battalion.

I stayed in Guarjila just in case.
I had to get to the ranchos.
I have to go to Las Flores.
I can't stay because I was threatened.
I couldn't move alone.
I had to go with people from community
who protected me.
                                  Look, Jon—
         they came yesterday. 'What was priest's name?'
 Guacamonte Battalion. I couldn't move alone.       
         They don't like you. 'What was his name? the priest?'
          'Yes, you've got the priest here.'
         They don't like you.
That boy was nine years old, and he said that.

           If they come, they will not find you.
           Never. We will take you to mountains.
           We know the mountains better
           than any of them.

That has been usual...Threats on the phone.

1977...since he was killed [Rutilio Grande]...
I began working in Aguilares where he was killed.

They'll have to kill us all before they touch you.

That's how I feel about the campesinos.

Well, look, you are one of us.
We are going to protect you.
You are going to stay with us.
It is our responsibility, this solidarity.

Usually women, the old ladies are so fierce,
I can't tell you. Vamos a ir a los viejos...
Vamos...nice, really nice. Mainly campesinos.

Let's say they were unionists, labor unions...FECAS...
Quite strong in Aguilares. For them.
it was a revelation...Medellín, Columbia, 1968...
They found out it isn't God's plan that they be poor, nothing...Christian based communities.

To fight fight back,
they needed a little more political organization.
They were repressed...alone they were nothing. the end five groups...Bloque Popular...
beginning of FMLN...alliances...

I have changed myself from above...
Now I believe it comes from below.

We were threatened to death.
[  The threats ] gave us a month to leave the country.
You will be a military target if you stay.

[               ] ...a big flood...lots of people...
450 people from the slums.
I was in charge of feeding them.
At end...plot of houses could be built for them.

So then I thought, Something must be wrong in my training.

I had a ph.d...I had worked in Canada...
but I didn't know how to live in the slums.
I went and found the people.
I used to say mass.

Nine months working with us protection...
We were a dangerous people. To be invited to their homes was something.

I needed to know.

9th of March, 1977, Rutilio was killed.
Rutilio told me...   it is...
so good the university comes to peasants. University steps down.
Ever since, working myself with campesinos, I have changed.
Saved from above...[ unclear ] but over here it just doesn't work.
If something is going to come it must come from below.

That could be my conversion, my change...
eat with them, live with them...
Dance with them...No, I can't dance. I don't know how.
I am poor.

I would say that some people...they were theoreticians...
Ellacuría, Montes, some way it worked...
Go and share my experience...after with theoretical...
I am the lucky one. I lived the experience myself...
Sobrino feeds us theologically.
I try to put in black and white
what he says in Technicolor...

The way these people forgive...

Sobrino, he is my medicine.

[          ] tells one story. I tell it to Sobrino.
He writes afterwards theologically
what forgiveness is for these people.

Where's my flashlight?
Lights flickering. Oh, you have bright candles.
That is another thing. 10 o'clock.
Time to go to bed.
We are not going to have lights again.

Sobrino and needed...
for those who need to know about...

Molestado. That's why. They bothered them...

Life over here
has no value

Mozote massacre...
they would be...

They threw up the children
and received them with machetes...

The life of the poor...

The dogs of the wealthy, excuse me,
receive better treatment of the poor...

Problem of survival.
Dividing line is death.

Poverty is survival.
The struggle is survival
over places to reach a level
where you are not poor.

Before we can talk about God
we have to feed them.
It isn't a problem of ideology.
Not East-West...not Communist...Marxist...
They're starving, trying to survive.
Those who fight for the right...

What do we need?
We need everything.

So the best is money.
Much through SHARE...
We are thinking of development,
survival within war.

There is milk always for the sick.
And one day [a week] cows are communal property.
We don't need more cows now.
But we need something else.
Maybe to write for small projects.
That's what we think.

they weren't laying eggs.
It was a bad administration of our chicken farm.
We ate chicken for a few days.
We need to restart the chicken farm.
How to put it, I don't know.

Surgery is in my room.
Surgery was being carried out in Parochial House in open air.
Surgery works. Surgery under a tree.
We rarely get infected here.
What is your blood type?
All positive.
You are my men.

U.S. Aid? For us, whatever comes from solidarity is ok.
With solidarity it's different.

It's time to go to bed.
Thank you for being here.
Before you go to Ellacuría...
may I go have breakfast with you?
After my shower...
under a faucet.

[From a cassette made by Lisa Zeilinger. Personal copy of Mary Campbell, member of Wisconsin Delegation of 18. Mary Campbell works with Global Mission of ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), Chicago.]

Transcription in lines and stanzas by Jim Bodeen
15 May 2010

Fr. Jon de Cortina, S.J, who escaped death 16 November 1989 by chance, created Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos, in El Salvador by re-uniting families separated by violence. Fr. Jon de Cortina, Bilbao, Spain, December 8, 1934 - Guatemala City, December 12, 2005.

Protejamos el mensajero—Protect the Messenger


[Obispo Medardo Gómez is called the Bishop of Peace in El Salvador]

Medardo calls his driver in time
to get us to Iglesia de la Resurrección,
city cathedral for the poor,
just before midnight. Church of the Resurrection.
Juan Carlos, 18, is dead, killed by gangs,
las maras, that call came last night—the Bishop
knows the wake will be tonight,
that the church will be occupied
by young people, by mothers and babies—
girlfriends, children sleeping on the floor,
covered in blankets. The Bishop knows
Juan Carlos died from a rival gang member's bullet.
La muerte de Juan Carlos, 18.

Sí, vive con Dios.
Medardo's first words. Yes, he lives with God.
Obispo del pueblo. Bishop of the people. Obispo de la Paz.
Sí, vive con Dios, a second time.
I sit between the man with the guitar
and the woman singing. Más alla del sol.
Further on. Beyond the sun.
Young women weeping in other worlds.
Beautiful in tears recycling loss and revenge.
The romance of violence.

Juan Carlos, 18, dressed in white,
dressed for the journey. Four candles
lit at each corner of the coffin.
A colored drawing by his little sister
full of the things of this life Juan Carlos will miss.
Say goodbye to them, Juan Carlos, 18,
member of this Community of God, killed by gangs.
This world did not love you enough to keep you.

The people's bishop, Obispo Medardo Gómez, takes it in.
Medardo. Obispo. 
Telephone by his bed.
Telephone at the breakfast table.
No secretary screening the Bishop's calls.
He takes calls from the people who have his number.
Another one of his children dead.
The Bishop standing with his people at midnight.

Dios es Dios vivos.
Dios es Dios.
Sí, vive con Dios.
Dios es Dios de vivos.
No de muertos.

Ese noviembre es el mes de martires.
Ese mes es Día de todos los Santos.
Somos perdonados a Dios.
Terminado los engaños.
Más alla del sol.
And then, looking up, surprised—

Ah, el papá de Juan Carlos.
El papá de Juan Carlos.
Obispo sees the father of Juan Carlos.
He talks directly to him.
The father of Juan Carlos stands.
White shirt, wrinkled.
Standing before the women.
Standing before Obispo.
Medardo Gómez, Bishop of Peace.
The son, Juan Carlos, taken down by a gun.

Medardo speaks directly to the father of Juan Carlos,
18, dead by gangs, gunned down by a rival's bullet.

No tenga miedo de la Iglesia.
Don't be afraid of the Church.
Esta es la casa de Dios.
Aquí es la oficina donde yo trabajo.
Tu estas seguro aquí, en esta casa.

Here is my office. You're safe here.

Medardo sings, Tuyo soy. Medardo picks out the songs.

One word comes up from me. No hay venganza.
No revenge. Venganza no existe.
From inside me who can say words that can't be practiced.
If El Salvador exported the death squads.
My own country exported the gangs.

Jim Bodeen
Iglesia de la Recurrección
San Salvador/Yakima
23 noviembre 2009-23 May 2010


Para que llegue el mensaje—
White dove, blue sky,
sniper's gunsight on the bird of peace—
Protejamos el mensajero—

Protect the messenger
in small type under this message:

En America Latina,
han sido asesinados
más de 300 periodistas
en los ultimos 10 años.

More than 300 journalists
have been killed in Latin America
in the last ten years.

Jim Bodeen
12 de noviembre 2009


In the juried trial
of the two lieutenants and the colonel—
dos tinientes—Mendoza y Espinoza
y el coronel, Peña Veda—
held in July, 2002—
soldiers were supposed to get
30 years in prison—
they got 90 days instead.
My friend was one of the jurors.
Before he was chosen,
he used to joke about it—
I don't want anything to do with that trial!—
And then he was selected
to be one of three jurors.
He listened to it all and did his job.

They put a cloak over his head
and put him on a plane out of the country.
They sent him to North Dakota
and got him a job in a green house
working in potatoes.
His life sentence
still speaks for truth.

Jim Bodeen
19 February 2005


La tinta más débil es mejor que
cualquier memoria brillante,
the man begins, standing
in the back of the room.
I catch this much
in order to be certain
what he says next:

The poet who is not a voice
for his people, no matter
how beautiful his words,
how skillful his verses—
regardless of his gifts—
As a poet, if he doesn't speak
para el pueblo, for his people,
he will only ever be a canary.

Jim Bodeen
San Salvador—Yakima



    Rogad a Dios por el eterno descanso del alma de
              Jorge Alberto Olmedo Hernández
    Falleció el 13 de octubre de 2009

El ángel del Señor acampa en torno
a los que temen;
a su lado está para librarlos. Salmo 34: 7

The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him,
and delivers them. Psalm 34: 7

Our small pickup is one low gear short
of what we need and stopped on a hill
as another half-dozen women and children
climb into the back end. It takes
just under two hours driving out of San Salvador,
and no one who knows Trini will be turned away
from our truck, squeeze in, 25 of us
will climb out when we arrive
at the community cemetery where Trini's son
was buried two weeks ago. Extorción.
A la tumba de su hijo en el día de los difuntos.
Her son murdered by the gangs. Extortion.
Trini is the cook who makes my breakfast
and her older son, along with family and friends,
are on the way to place flowers and make beautiful
his grave, celebrating his life.
This is the Day of the Dead.
For God, there is no difference
between the living and the dead.
Everyone from all over is on their way here,
cooking pastries and meats, buying flowers,
preparing a feast with the ancestors.
School children carrying buckets of paint,
shoe polish and brushes, elbow each other
for business. Business is good on this day,
scrubbing and painting gravestones.
We are all women and children. The truck
rests on the rear axle full of bad sounds,
and the truck pulls into a gas station
where Trini's other son puts air in both rear tires.
A stencil on the rear window of the car
in front of us reads only this: Salmo 34: 7.

Jim Bodeen
San Salvador—Suchitoto—Yakima
20 May 2010

Comunidad Oscar Romero Song



Barefoot in the Bishop's office
selling lottery tickets,
dezplado de la guerra.
The Bishop buys a string of tickets
as long as his arm
from the ex-combatiente.
Vida eterno, he says,
looking at his numbers.
Vida sin ilusión.
Share the feast
at the deepest need.

Jim Bodeen
20 May 2010
Notebook from the month with the martyrs


Te pedimos que nos oigas,
que escuchas el clamor de tu pueblo
            Medardo Gómez rezando
            después de desayunar

I eat like a king
but the day the Death Squads
came to get me, I hadn't eaten breakfast.
I saw people eating termites.

Jim Bodeen
San Salvador
February 28, 2005


Obispo gets in the car and hands me
a sprig of ruda, canoe-shaped leaves
the size of the moon on your fingernail.
Para su protección, he says. He knows
the yerba buena y mala de su mamá.

Esta mañana, Obispo, ¿Que vamos hacer?
Ataque, he says, striking the air.
Sí, sí, comandante, I say, saluting.

Strong, sweet smell of tiny leaves be your morning shield.

Jim Bodeen
18 de noviembre 2009
San Salvador, El Salvador


     for Bruce & Ann & Karen & Jim E.,
     & Connie & Barb & Roy

Now things coming from everywhere
begin to come from here.

What comes up from below
reshapes the continents.

Jim Bodeen
18 May 2010


       —for Mary Campbell

Solo le pido a Dios,
que el dolor no me sea indiferente,
que la reseca no me encuentre

Mercedes Sosa who died, sings in the living room
and the song of Violeta Parra lives.
I'm listening where we listened,
with you, Mary, and you've gone,
but we hear your voice plain as day.
May this loss become a presence
not leaving me indifferent. We sat

right here—Mary, Karen and I,
listening to the voice of Fr. Jon De Cortina
talk over an El Salvadoran downpour
in a dirt floor home of campesinos
with people who came to find out.
"November 17, 1991," Mary says,
"Because I know. On the 16th,

we were at the 2d Anniversary
of the Jesuit Massacre. We had taken
the night ride through road blocks
to Guarjila. Mass for the Jesuits
is always on the 16th. It was pouring.
We were the Wisconsin Delegation.
I was a public defender. My grandmother

had just broken her hip." Lisa Zeilinger's
fragile cassette. Mary, on the patio, under tents,
you say, thanks for coming, listen to the woman
say, This time I've bought my ticket, and
the pastor who heard the bishop
say, Me gusta marchar. I like to march.
Since then, I've got new books by my bed.

You tell the hard story of discernment.
You sit with one of St. Ignatius' own—Dean Brackley,
and commit to a larger faith community
than theologians can produce. Your bishop
walks through glass in a crime scene
and you're not afraid to follow. Sobrino's book
drops in the crucified blood of his brothers.

Travel is a faith journey. You tell us
it sounds like a love story: She began
to suspect, and question—at first she thought
it was another man. Then she realized
his involvement was political. How best
to bind. Mutuality and deep respect—
to hear what's happening now, and be changed.

This is what you bring to us, Mary.
Decentralizing the empire—peace
not walls, God's work in our hands
for the sake of the world. Not every wall
is holy. Not what they believe
but where they were born. Disgrace
where Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.

You are the newest words of Dean Brackley.
Immigrants are God's ambassadors,
and we're all immigrants. So much
coming at us, we can't keep up.
Rutilio Grande, Oscar Romero,
Rufina Anaya—I didn't lose my mind
the Mary Knoll sisters, each one of us.

Mary, you are accompaniment recommitting.
Say hello to Rafael in Chicago and Puerto Rico.
You turn us around. Instead of over there,
we walk into everywhere. Our story
turned on its head, and sustainable.
Looking for the other with a second chance
to find what's lost in ourselves.

17 May 2010

This Morning


Freeflow the talk around the table,
changing direction like fast river
discourse. River Discourse in free-
fall word flow. God talk. God

talking. And just like that,
faster than eye can follow,
pedophiles find defense
in power. Sleep on that,

Big River, fast moving water.
My grand daughter walks a wall
with her mother looking into a closet
of clothes—Look Mommy

those robes are worn by God.
Mother walks River Innocence
with her daughter in holy light
dazzled by daughter's vision,

sitting with me, father and grandfather
in the small pew whispering
words. That's God, Grandpa,
seeing pastor walk in his robes.

Jim Bodeen
17 May 2010


     —for Mary Campbell

Bachelor Buttons started popping
about an hour ago, and the sun
zeroing in, still has
two hours before the plane

arrives. Solidarity walks
in our garden this weekend.
Mary, who walks with the world,
brings her witness. Mary

is a blue guitar in the sky
over El Salvador. Her sombrero
is the blue song we can't
get out of our heads, the bird

in the song released, dale,
dale, accompaniment
be our way, interdependent
be our feet, dale,

la lucha tuya es pura,
free spirit giving itself to love,
dale, watered by the River Sumpul,
preparing Bachelor Buttons to open.


14 May 2010

    for Marty at 71

begins with their shoes,
often enough, expensive running shoes.
The poverty of men dresses in the rich cloth
of a dying tribe. My friend from an earlier
generation of men, explores this poverty
in small, abstract assemblages of found objects
that can be pinned to a lapel,
or worn on a baseball cap. In his 70s now,
he knows one lifetime to explore this bright,
but hidden river, is not enough for any single man.
Stay amused, he says to his friends who know
they're poor, Stay amused. Male and female elk
produce two teeth made of ivory, which he values
as objects whose size makes things risky
for his art. They're not teeth at all, he says,
but tusks, from an earlier time. He's given
his life to mining these rich fields.

Jim Bodeen
13 May 2010


making small paths, go through twisted
knuckles and fingers that can't unwind.
Listen to men praying for each other,
in our one and the same unheard song
of misplaced chance. Men with arthritis
in cupped hands from too much work
and not enough toe-following gamble.
For we have not brought flowers of being
into our becoming, and now we are left
in solitary heads-thrown-back-laughter
and dogs in their comic merry-making.
Oh, Lord, let all cunning follow the ice
into disappearing. We pray as best we can.
Let us be checked into idleness.
Let us hold dominoes on painted red porches.
Hear the laughter coming from cars and be kind.

Jim Bodeen
12 May 2010


Nothing about believing.
Nothing about stirring the water.
Just trying to stay awake,
remembering what happened.

Whose testimony have you listened to?
How could one detail have been altered? Or left out?
How could it be anything but true?

Jim Bodeen
10 May 2010

Light of days, what word
lifts me from dream fields
carries me, what carries me
from dream fields makes me
blessed vessel sustaining
creation in the other time,
I too, I too,
and now this light into flowers

She went down in her boat
with her words and her baby
She went down in her boat
with her lover  She went down,

she went down, she never
was found, she went down
as the boat came home
The boat came home,

it did, it did, the boat
came home and went down
It went into the wind
it was lost in the storm

as the captain of maps
steered and floundered
He steered with no sound
as he'd lived without song

his boat could only go down
We sail around sound
we do, we do, we sail
around sound in our song

And nobody can say
what our work will be

Nobody can say
if they see it

It doesn't matter
if you don't see it

It doesn't matter at all

Jim Bodeen
10 May 2010


Our mom, Margaret Fuller, and Mary Colter,
three who crossed over, wait for you at the table
whenever you sit to eat. Colter designed
these plates after looking at pots of Mimbreño Indians
unearthed after 1000 years of sand cover.
She built her tower on the South Rim
of the Canyon at its highest point—
over 7500 feet, and her Kiva,
seen repeatedly in nature, recognizes
how one enters from above, by foot,
before descending. One must turn geologist
to imagine you sailing ancient oceans
in the Esperancé. Gifts arrive as one descends
even in boats. Bright Angel Trail contains
more kivas than one can photograph.
Colter wore waist-long strands of multi-colored
wampum shells and turquoise beads,
a Path of Truth ring on her finger.
Margaret Fuller's here because of your word,
transcend. My inwardness is grown insight,
she wrote. Can you sail with that?
Margaret Fuller, winged phoenix,
life within, life without, making talk and poems.
She edited The Dial with Emerson,
both transcendentalists. She, too,
needed more than Jesus, calling on Greek gods
to walk with her. "The blue sky seen above
the opposite roof preaches better than any brother."
No preaching here, sister. Mom remains.
Now she shows us how to fall. Her doctor
says she's found a way to go down
and not get hurt—still better to let her go
than tie her down. Amen. Mom remains
the wildest teacher we've ever had—hence,
the best. This morning, with Kick Ass Coffee
from Kicking Horse in Canada, I'm thinking of you,
and your story on your birthday—all you've done
with your life, and what you're doing.
Where you're going as you sail.
It's your birthday, the day gods give us
great permission to practice.
You sent me the word transcend
and a movie and I walked Bright Angel Trail,
a walk returning me home before I came back
with Karen. This poem's a coupon
for the meal with the women.
It's good any time, no expiration date.
Fuller, Mom, and Colter sit at table
whenever you pull into the harbor.
Unlimited seatings. I promise
not to listen in at what gets said.

Happy Birthday, and Love,
your brother, Jim
9 May 2010


It's fun to talk about someone
who knows things, because
of their strange competence—
but even better to talk with them.
What's better than this, is to talk
with someone who makes things,
and Steven, you know and make.
With you we enter the mysterious
coffee shop of knowing.

Even better—to tell someone:
My son-in-law races cars.
His blue Chevy goes 130 miles per hour.
It's not so much about speed.
It's about timing. About not
getting there too fast.
It's about relationships of all kinds.
It's not about the 10 seconds
in the quarter, either,
although there's nothing without that.
Hitting it just right—

No, talking about Steven,
talk always turns to character.
Something that's not part of any part—
a part of who you are invisible,
yet engraved and inscribed,
something that can't be changed,
but can be counted and seen.
That's how we talk about you
when we talk about what you bring
to the track for all of us
while you wait in your car
for those ten seconds that go so fast.

Love, Jim
7 May 2010


Piano lullaby comes from Karen's dream.
The grandpa that I am turns me in my bed
and I fall asleep in the middle of my own prayer.
The garden waits knowing that roses
will soon be eclipsed by a storm
of bachelor buttons that have taken over
the Path of the Mailman. Bachelor buttons
ask for nothing and bees come as they're called.
I sit before all of the facts with the best coffee
the world can produce. I have sat in the shade
and eaten the sweet berries like children
unable to stop until their bellies swell.
I refill my cup, piano keys
tapping both sides of the bicameral brain.

Jim Bodeen
6 May 2010