—for Jim Engel

Then the man came with the bubbles.
Children had permission to run to him,
but no one, not even the parents,
knew about the bubbles. The man
pulled them out of a paper bag,
soapy nothings with all the colors
of the rainbow. They sat there,
the man and the children,
blowing bubbles. They blew
bubbles and made rainbows.
The bubbles popped and disappeared.
No one called anyone Bubbles.
They didn't talk about it.
They blew the bubbles into a paper bag
and they were gone. The Bubbles
were not asked about their bubbleness.
I watched it all from a distance.
For the life of me, I can't explain my joy.

Jim Bodeen
3 August 2010


No, No, No. No somos criminales.
Somos trabajadores. Sí, Sí, Sí.
Somos trabajadores.
Todos no aceptan la ley.

Este presidente no ha cumplido su promesa.
Llama el presidente: 202.456.1111.
Lunes a Viernes—Desde 6 hasta 2.
Todos les gustan nuestra comida

y los mariachis. Llama Obama.
Los Tigres del norte cantan
corridos para el pueblo mientras
la hermana Silvia está preparando

su oración: Venga aquí, Señor.
Venga, Señor. Tiene hijos en tus manos.
Cada uno de nosotros, todos somos hermanos.
Todos somos Arizona. Hagame, Señor, un instrumento.

Jim Bodeen
31 de Julio 2010
La Casa Hogar


—for Jack Large & Aekyoung, and the children of SE Asia

Has it been three years? this thread
of hope on my wrist. Now down
to one purple string, hanging.
I felt it on my hand yesterday

in the pool, water dragging it,
I could feel its drag against the back
of my thumb as my arm came out
of the water. It held, this thread,

made by children, brought to me
by a friend from Korea, and worn daily
for what? three years, through privileged
morning showers and doors opened

by children and their mothers.
These threads of chance make
offerings for anything one might carry.
I write my friend about threads

holding lives together.
"They're made by children in the Philippines.
Threads of Hope give them a chance
to escape sexual predators in beach hotels."

We know how little power we have
against those occupying children's bodies
in power spots of pleasure. We know
how dangerous home is, how close.

These threads of hope on any wrist
open doors of uncertainty, walking strangers
where all one has to do is listen.
Walk this line into your own uncertain place.

Jim Bodeen
31 July 2010

*Visit Threads of
and Penpride


Knowing I'm not smart enough
for underground irrigation
I run a hose through the fence
to connect with the hose by the roses.
I walk through the gate with Pete Seeger's song
in my head. He and his wife
in the same house for 61 years.
I attach one end of the hose by the roses
with the other end, walking back and forth
looking for the loose end to attach it to.
Drill baby drill, Spill baby spill.
God's counting on me,
God's counting on you.
They've been married 67 years.
He likes to sing with kids.
He's still learning the song.
Singing with kids, walking with them.
Uncle for an hour. Grandpa for the afternoon.
Walking with kids requires one
to carry hope, hand it off.
God's inside the kids. You want God?
You give kids hope and they'll give you
the end of the hose you're looking for.

Jim Bodeen
31 July 2010


My two hands, creations of exploding stars,
fold into a single thought—
Which star gave all to the left hand?
Transportation is part of our ancestral

tradition. Movement, moving.
"Hot, muggy, and I had the most
beautiful curly hair," Karen says,
talking to her girlfriend on the phone.

Jim Bodeen
30 July 2010


Jefferson and Madison Rivers
come together first. I'm throwing
the tennis ball into the Gallatin
as Sadie retrieves. I write in the notebook,
We're playing in the other two rivers.
The river system starts here
where we're ending. Karen fries
farm fresh eggs from Indiana.
I dry Sadie, and bunch sage in preparation
for the smudging ceremony after dinner.
We're cleaning up after ourselves,
remembering tires and motors
that have taken such good care of us.
We're asking Persimmon Pudding
to receive all we're grateful for
in foods placed before us.
We carry sage from sand dunes
from our first night out. We light sage
and bathe in its smoke, watching mosquitoes
disappear. Following the ephemeral path
of the smoke, we say, Sage,
asking to remember all fishermen and boats.
Our daughter, Leah, was called Turtle in high school.
We ask smoke to wrap itself around myeline
whereever it unravels.
So much news and no mosquitoes.

Jim Bodeen
Headwaters of the Missouri State Park,
Outside Butte, Montana

Germinating the Seeds


The road you travel rests.
Crossing into Texas
you hold the brochure
of wild flowers between
you and your host.
'Not even a picture of Lady Bird?'
She saved these for us.
How do you germinate the seeds?
That was her famous question.'

Karen says, Don't make a fool out of yourself.

Here you can swim in the lake
with your dog. The beach is open,
and water's so warm
neither of you will want to get out.
Two teenagers giggle and make out
in the water, and you focus
on your dog's wet fur.
You don't have to watch to feel
the electricity in the water.

Jim Bodeen
Ray Roberts Lake State Park
Dedicated in 1993 by Governor Ann Richards
20 July 2010

Grand Isle, Louisiana, Sunrise



"We're driving on water, in the Gulf. I don't like this," Karen says.


Beauty of end times
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Karen, Sadie, me

The first pickup pulls out of Grand Isle State Park. Two men in t-shirts, windows down, elbows out windows. Houses on stilts ten feet off the ground. Bridge disappeared, with men fishing off the side. Fire charred pilings. House boats, and fishing boats. Evening light off the water. Narrow towns. Narrow land. Barrier lands. Grasses. Swamp or marsh. We've had it defined for us, but what is it when you're really seeing? Wetlands. The grasses slow the waves on the way in. A necessary beauty. Witnessing a grieving community. We'll handle it. How to enter this world. The drive in. The one you don't see anymore if you live here. Whereever you live.

Driving to Grand Isle last night, I slow the mothership for two dogs, and a man fishing off the side of the road. He turns to wave, returning my gesture, I think, and then I realize he is pointing, not at me, but away, like he's saying, "Over there." I'm off the road. The highway has crossed the canal—is that what you call it, canal? We turn around, stop beside him to admit the error of our ways. He nods. We hear the Cajun accent, "Grand Isle," in the native voice.

Signs by the side of the road: We can't work or swim—how the Hell we gonna raise our kids? Alongside the simultaneous defense of the family, the village. The homeland. Homeland Security's here too. "That's just the news, the two men in the volunteer Fire Pickup tell me as I'm checking in to the park. "Of course the shrimp are good here. Otherwise we'd be dead." I don't argue. Shrimp's been checked for oil according to my sources. For oil, but not for dispersants.

They've told their story and now they have to defend it. Or not. The world that needs them, walks with them. How we live with denial is part of our beauty.

Deepwater Horizon, capped and holding for two days. Most likely there's better news on tv than what we can get, but maybe we can feel something even NPR can't feel. Better news, and worse. Karen will find local radio stations. But this news doesn't grab me either. Latest news says it's leaking. Always more news. And news that stays news. A real question.

Karen says she's sleeping in this morning. I went to bed and she was still posting photos and writing in her blog. Watching Karen has been one of the joys of this journey. Two cameras have gone down before the humidity. We're taking pictures with the video camera now. I haven't looked at her work from last night. We're 18 days out, driven 3,500 miles and slept in the same bed every night.

Yesterday was one of those days in anyone's life. OK, OK, all days, potentially blessed. French donuts with powdered sugar and French Quarter coffee and cream at Café du Monde in the open air. Summer rain. A downpour. Walking the Sunday streets of New Orleans. Karen shopping. A 2-hour guided tour of the bayous at Jean Lafitte National Park. Under the boardwalk. Alligators. Heat and humidity. The meal with white tablecloths and an early dinner with pecan pie, and the accompanying drowsiness. Looking for a state park and a replacement, we found ourselves on the road to Grand Isle instead. We drove. And we made it.

Collecting raw data, the prayer of my story, to behold it, listening in suspension and uncertainty, my work and process. With an extra set of eyes in Karen. She was too exhausted last night to do anything other than look. Eerily beautiful. Privileged. Let us stay in our place. Let us not ask for too much.

Here we are.

The mothership is one of the gifts of our grieving.

Who by fire, who by high ordeal...

Some of this goes back to the Mississippi River Flood of 1927.

Bessie Smith sang about that flood.

Larry Tuohy's walk with us.

Bayou Coquille Trail: 0.5 miles one way. This trail is one of the Preserve's most diverse. It begins on high ground deposited by flooding from Bayou des Familes, once a major distributary of the Mississippi River. An American Indian village was here about 200-600 A.D.

Marsh Overlook Trail: Length: 0.4 miles one way. Access: Bayou Coquille Trail. This continuation of Bayou Coquille Trail sits atop a bank formed by dredged material from Kenta Canal. Originally used for irrigation and drainage of plantation fields, the canal was deepened and widened in the late 1800s so loggers could gain access to the bald cypress swamp.

Visitor Center Trail: Length: 0.25 mile one way. This trail meanders through hardwood forest and bald cypress swamp to a stand of giant cutgrass. It ends on the edge of freshwater flotant marsh, one of the most productive ecosystems on earth.

Here we are.

6:30 am now. I'll take the dog and the last camera and walk over those grasses and take a look at what's there when he sun comes up. As soon as I walk past the orange cones with my camera, I'm met by two young security officers. I'm ready, but not that ready, for how serious they are."This beach is closed and you must get back behind those cones. There's a beach a mile down the road that's open." They don't want to talk. They're not interested in why I'm here. They're the first people I meet. In a few minutes a young woman, Amy Wilkinson, who's in a tent, an animal person, who has been in Florida, will tell me more. And then I'll run into Rodney Bush, from here. I'll know lots more in fifteen minutes.

And then I see Holt Webb's bus: Vanishing America. Pulling a Land Rover, fueled by vegetable oil.


They're picking up the beach and removing it.
You can see the mounds.
This sand will be gone.
Taken out in trucks.
Venice got hit the hardest. This is nothing.

Cameron, my home town, was wiped out by Rita.
Katrina was a political war against the Bush administration,
but Rita was a nuclear bomb on my home town.

I'm half Cajun.

They give you a card when you go to work for them
and it tells you what you can say and what you can't.
They don't say who they are.
Don't cross them, though.
They took a man the other day
who walked by them.
Who walked past those orange cones.
And they gave him to the local police
and the local police took him in.

Cajun people are glad you came.
Shrimp are good. And fish, too.
We're glad you came. We need you.
The shrimp are glad you came.
Us Cajuns we talk with our hands.
We can't talk without 'em.
Don't screw with the wetlands, man.
Government digs 'em out, cuts new bayous.
That stuff gets you in big trouble.
My mama was a Dupecilien
and I'm half Cajun.
The other half is Texan-Irish.
Music, all Cajun. Cajun music's
coming out of all these little houses you passed through.

And what's your name?
And what do you do?
I write poems.
I write a little poetry myself.
I give him my card, Storypath. Cuentocamino.
Jethro. I like that.
Cajun people are good people.
They'll talk to you.
But go back to the small towns
you passed through on the way up.
You'll find better music and cheaper.

Go and eat at Sara's. Local folk there. They'll talk with you.

Amy tells me she's an animal person but she's not going to get to work with animals. There's too much macho on all sides. We're sort of reduced to being observers at this point.

Like election watchers in Central America, I think.

Powered by Vegetable oil—on the Land Rover.

I knock on the door. A young man comes out wearing a pin-striped bathrobe. "Holt Webb," he says, "I was just stepping into the shower." I invite him over to the mothership when he's ready.


Holt Webb knocks on our door. Vanishing America listens like this.
"You're almost there. The Cummins engine in this Dodge
will take vegetable oil, but don't melt your turbocharger."
Holt's a photographer from a small town.
Mom's Canadian and Dad's from California,
and they moved to Georgia when he was small.

"Alpharetta, Georgia. It means, 'first town.'
I sold greeting cards door to door and won
a Kodak 110 Instamatic. I never looked back.
I studied photography at U of Georgia.
I watched Alpharetta change from a farm town
to a great mall. Wallmart, Home Depot, all of them.
They're all the same. You can't recognize a town anymore.
I used to ride bike and trails to Stovall's.
Stovall's is gone. About the time I was 10.
I watched it happen in San Diego.
There's a law in quantum physics:
'The act of observing effects the observed.'
I'm not an activist. I struggle with what
can be changed and what can't.
I don't know. I watch people move
into the country and their dogs
get eaten by coyotes.
I've been on the Vessel of Opportunity here.
I do odd jobs to support my project.
I'll trade photography jobs for campsites.
I want to show communities working together,
to say, 'We're not allowed to fight.
We're going to help ourselves.'
I own no property. Just that bus
and the Land Rover."

Holt asks to see the cameras
and a pencil with an eraser.
He rubs the eraser on points of contact
with the batteries, and powers up
both cameras.


On our way in to Sara's to eat,
we pass by Rodney Bush driving
his compact street sweeper. I honk.
He stops, I back up.
I wanted you to meet Karen,
and wanted her to meet you.

Yes, Mam, we're glad you came.
Yes. Sara's. I had stuffed crab.
Only ate there once.
Be careful here, Grand Isle's expensive.

We pass the new cemetery.
The big cross made of fish traps stands back behind
the white crosses—maybe 100 of them—
names in painted black letters:
Sand Between My Toes, Sea Turtles,
Stuffed Crab, Lady Fish, Beach Ball,
Picnic on the Beach, Watching—one
for each death. With an entrance,
and a special sign for Tony Bologna
and the federal government.

We stop at Sure Way, the one grocery store
to pay the toll from the highway bridge that crossed us
to this barrier island. A 'Go Pass' good
for four days. Four days to pay.
Karen orders a cheeseburger.
The waitress says shrimp and oysters
are local and I can split the order.

When we buy gas the woman says to Karen,
"Do you need to fill it up, Baby?"
In the small town, best-meant way.

We know the best witnesses carry innocence
for the gift exchange. Back in camp,
satisfied by oysters and French fries,
we watch the big trucks haul away the beach.

At dusk we go out and see what we couldn't see
coming in, this time with our cameras.
What none of us can see where ever we live.
All this beauty. The grasses in the Gulf.
Grasses that can save our lives.
Karen's eye sharpens each time out.
The little boat on wheels.
This privileged moment, this glimpse into disaster.

Jim Bodeen
Grand Isle, Louisiana
July 18-19, 2010

Wetlands, Marshes, Estuaries, Coastlines



--for Larry Tuohy

South Louisiana is full of water. High ground
created by deposited silt with a need for constant replenishment.
This is one of the old channels of the Mississippi River.
High ground now. The only stable land.
High ground can still be below sea level.
In the bayous we'll walk, we'll descend
from hardwood forest, to palmetto forest,
and then to cypress and tupelo--still billed
as fresh water. The descent will be a matter of inches.
You won't know you're not walking a level path.

Yes, it's beautiful, that pale green on the water.
But it's lethal. It's a combination of duckweed and sylvania.
Sylvania's from Argentina and it's invasive,
crowding out duckweed. Yes, those small wheels
of green, as you say, are also sylvania.
And each one is an individual plant.
Tidal surges create the real danger.
No natural waterways left.
So you've read Mike Tidwell's Bayou Farewell.
We keep it in the bookstore. You also need
John Barry's Rising Tide. He's right.
Twenty-five square miles a year disappears--
but it's not 25 square miles you can see.
It happens in such small ways--your own eyes
can deceive you. Cajun fishermen feel
a disappearance that can't be easily proven,
even when right. You can't point to the football field.
Constant, constant erosion, one spoonful at a time.

Let's stop for a minute and talk about this man, Jean LaFitte.
Do you know what a privateer is? No. A privateer--
Jean LaFitte, a crime boss. He and his two brothers.
99 vessels. He didn't captain boats. A private entrepreneur,
contracted by the government to make war on our enemies.
Like Halliburton? Maybe. The privatized army in Iraq?
I've heard that before. Maybe.

These are Dwarf Palmettos.
Indians could make everything they needed but boats,
from the palmetto. That's Spanish Moss on Bald Cypress.
Doesn't hurt the cypress. Takes nothing from the tree.
Frenchmen's beards. It's an epiphyte.
Tchefuncte Indians from here.
They took these nasty tasting clams--
Rangia Cuneata--and made their world.
These tiny shells piled as high as 50 feet,
creating a higher ground that saved dwellings
from flooding. With boats from cypress trees
they had what they needed.

This is the beginning of the cypress swamp.
Cypress trees make a nearly perfect wood.
Dense,straight. That tree may be 750 years old.
Cypress wood lasts forever. Those dark spikes?
Part of the root system. Called knees.
Spikes to keep trees from falling?
An academic argument. Fiercely fought
with very little at stake. I'm a naturalist by default.
My degree's in military history. There are still
sunken cypress trees out here. Still good wood.
So dense it sinks but won't rot.
Clearcutting was bad, but the steam engine
created havoc, too. Steam engines created disaster
carrying out the trees. Cypress needles in a cypress bog.

his undergrowth is a result of Katrina.
Giant Blue Irises used to be the biggest draw of the summer.
All gone, now. Too many tree tops knocked out
and too much sunlight let in. Oh, that--
Daddy Long Legs. Has the most dangerous venum
of the spiders, but its mouth is too small to do much damage.
Barataria is one of the best kept secrets near New Orleans.
Yes, the liquid load. A canal Alligator's been walking around.
This canal's been turned into flotant marsh.
Not rooted to the ground. OK. I heard
about the David Muth interview, but didn't see it.
He's very good. His ideas all solid.
Oh, there! 750-1000 alligator's in this park.
She's a teenager. About four years old.
She'll grow and mature. She acts like teenagers.

A swamp is a forest filled with water.
A marsh is a prairie filled with water.

Marshes are artificially stable ground.

Down there. See that pipe? That's Tarpaper Canal.
Shell Oil Company dug that channel, created that marsh.
Yes, there's a pipeline underneath the water.
It's all mapped. Relationship beween park and oil. Yes.
There is. We have to speak truth.
And then, I'm a volunteer.
There's another hurricane most have forgotten.
1893. Chenier Caminada. Do your research on that one.
Sunday, October 1, 1893...nearly 2000 dead.
The Great October Storm on the slender ridge
above the mainland leading to Grand Isle.

Jim Bodeen
Barataria Preserve-Grand Isle, Louisiana
19 July 2010



Jack, Jack--what would you do if you were behind the wheel
of the mothership? I ask myself, being turned out of a second
parking lot. Too Big Man. Oh, but it's a small zendo,
the little casita, this boat on wheels, turning into the French Quarter.
Just asking the question gives us the answer on St. Charles Avenue.
Sidewalks crowded, parking lots full, drinks walking on their own
leading the thirsty by the hand. Karen gets out of the car
and programs us into cityscape for two hous. I take the dog to pee,
and she chooses the ivy in the entrance way
to Hotel International and Executive Conference Center.
I give her a bone biscuit good for her teeth and entry
into Dharma Dog Paradise. Oh the cool drink of water
for a black dog in July down in New Orleans.
We air condition the zendo before we leave,
pulling down the blinds. At a used bookstore
I buy a copy of Rilke's letters, this is a mind-collecting
week in the cloud zendo, and your image again, Jack,
"minds fly like tinker toys" even if we don't save
New York, we'll walk with those who carry music.
The bookstore man gives us four options for food
New Orleans style, and it's early enough for me to eat it.
We get directions to Preservation Hall.
We walk into Acme Oysters and I order six oysters
charred, with garlic and parmesean for beginners.
Karen has shrimp and hush puppies.
Hush dog. Deep fried corn bread thrown into fire.
I get a crawfish poor boy with red beans and rice.
I take a picture of Karen in the mirror
by our table and get two for one.
Oh, Jack. I flunked out of school in this city
when Hurricane Betsy hit in 1965,
and joined the army to get back to Karen on leave.
Can I still apply to the training temple
for the zen peace maker order?
It's 45 years later and I'm a half dozen days away from 65.
Still beat. Blessed by all those you didn't get.
I don't eat everything. We get back to St. Charles
and the dog, and Karen goes to the ATM--
it's a machine that keeps on giving.
I take the dog while Karen gets the money.
We go to poop. She poops in the same ivy
where she peed. She feels at home.
A brother at the restaurant tells us
about this place under the bridge
where we can park the mothership.
Looking for the spot I see three New Orleans police

talking with each other and pull in alongside.
Karen asks directions. One of them
was stationed at Pier 90 in Seattle.
You were coming down from Canada
ready for the Cascades with Jaffey.
The policeman stops traffic so we can get out.
Everybody laughing, he blows his whistle
and we make our turn into traffic.
We talk to our kids on computers.
The dog's beat after chasing the ball.
It's cool. We're on our way to Preservation Hall,
the mandala of sand returns as music.
We're the last two to get in.
The zendo floats Mississippi Dreams upriver.
Dharma Bums lift us all into the void
where you still preside.

Jim Bodeen
New Orleans, Louisiana
17 July 2010


--and for Arnie Mindell and Deep Democracy

Sitting outside, sitting inside.
Not just with my feet on the ground.
Living under water,
something protects me.

One-third of all U.S. oil and gas
passes through New Orleans.
What happens to New Orleans will happen
to most U.S. cities in some form

oozing up from the sidewalks.
Bringing the world of projections
into the light. Things in the the background.
Not annihilation but a chance to be heard.

Let us bring the other into the light.
This is the earth spot, the room that you live in.
The tent is such an intimate experience
between children and parents--exploring

polarities on the Pole, I found certain people
I could not approach. Arnie's wife asks Arnie
if he will tell where he wants his ashes.
"I want them to go into the toilet,

any toilet will do. I want to be
where there is a lot of trouble."
The tent is a dreamboat following
double signals. O, grateful, all-loving

You, Pacha Mama, essence, great mother,
Your mask is made from different fabric.
The kind of God you look for depends
on your spirit quest. Relax against deep

roots surfacing. He was fed by a mix
of rain and ocean spray. Smell the roots
opening beneath your spine. You are
a listener easing into the day without trying

too hard. You carry fire. You bring smoke.
The tent is a listening dreamboat on fire.
Channels overlap in the confusion of senses.
New Orleans came about partly through me.

A man worked for the Corps of Engineers.
He saw it coming. I could have listened. Teams
in trouble have usually forgotten
their purpose. It's easier to change your world

than to change your mind. Suenos con serpientes
This is Silvio Rodriguez swimming up
from the inside. A Japanese proverb says,
The nail that sticks up must be hammered down.

In the center of the wave swims a fish.
We know the rocking of the boats.
Fish ride with the waves.
I can't strike. I can't be struck.

All issues must come forward as earth changes.
Empty center, bringing forward what's in the back.
Oh those poor bastards in the center of power.
This foggy state you talk about is music.

When we become the space the space
starts dreaming us. The red-blue war
is a cultural project road show, a category V
hurricane oozing your way. In the tent

with Karen how could I not be overwhelmed
and inadequate under the stars! I show my grandson
The Big Dipper and it's still lonely. Let my back
look again for those swollen roots.

I am aware that my body smells like a campfire
upon entering the room. Which way I walk
determines how I tell the story. 1700 people
died in New Orleans. Grand children spin me

and I get dizzy. Oh my mask! Oh my God!
It's all documented and I'm sorry I didn't get there.
I'm one voice returning to my house.
Alchemists have a word, enantiodroma.

Cook one thing in the deep pot
and cook it and cook it until it becomes
its opposite. That air force jet that left
Minot, North Dakota, flew into Louisiana

carrying five nuclear bombs no one knew about.
The tent is a dream canoe given to me.
Through her death people would find
their rhythms. Use the bridge to bridge

the gap. Sometimes you don't have to
do too much. Know the songs.
This is the city getting up for work.
The only day and only night.

Jim Bodeen
September, 2007
Yachats, Oregon--Yakima Washington



The miles are marked
Johnny Cash is an American highway

The song is on the tip of my tongue
Sensory fragments from morning showers

Huck. Huck Finn? Huckleberry!

Jim Bodeen
16 July 2010
Mississippi State Park
Natchez, Mississippi



We agree to weave our own ways through galleries
trusting our patterns to find each other.
I'm looking into fire coming from the dragon's mouth
and flames coming from his inner eye.
Sue McCarty's quilt bows to Tolkein from Utah.
Remember to tell Marty of the single eye in each shield.
The Southern Man talking loud
behind me is not Neil Young. He's claiming
this was all sewn up in Taiwan or China
and his wife tells him to shush
or she'll have him tossed.
I'm still in Middle Earth when Karen comes up
and says, I'm looking close at the stitching
and you're reading bios of quilters.
Read this, I say, pointing to McCarty's words in my notebook:
Gollum is difficult to place because he's only a memory.

"That bronze in here is all done with bronze
thread, the gold and silver, all thread,"
Karen says. "I learned that in Threadplay, years ago,
and I want to show you the quilt my teacher made."
The number of worlds on these walls makes a star chart
of the summer sky. Mariye Waters of Melbourne says
that a guilded plaster ceiling panel
from the Islamic Arts Museum inspired her.
Tell me which quilts in each gallery moves you most
so we know how to map our talk on the highway.
Karen leads me to Memorial Day Quilt suspended
and free of any wall. Loose threads from 4,038 frayed
American flags, one for each U.S. soldier killed in Iraq
at the time of the quilt's making. This is what quilts do to me, too.
"Did you see the Extinction Quilt in three layers
of silk, silk, and rayon with cotton threads?"
Wrap, enclose and enfold, Pamela Fitzsimons writes,
"Australia leads the world in mammal extinctions,
28 species disappeared in 220 years of Europeans."
A possum skin cloak made by the indigenous.

How many quilts are made after a grandmother's death?
I ask Karen. Did you see the Wild Rose? Where
the quilter discovered a box of her grandma's Friendship Blocks?
Or he woman inspired by photo remains of a quilt
partially destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871?
Quilts are practical histories.
Practicality, yes, that wears them out,
versus the precious memories famed and preserved on walls.
African-American quilters argue that with daughters.
I think there's an Alice Walker short story.
Will you look on the map and locate Gee's Corner, Alabama?
Remember those quilts on postage stamps?
All these ambiguous birds count on me to respond.

"Amish and Mennonite quilts are the most distinctive,
of all traditional quilts,"Karen says. "Why?"
"Because of colors. And those colors don't come
from who's who in American decorator homes.
Look at these: Mennonite Bars, Double Chain,
and Diamond on Point. All traditional.
"Look at the colors. Read about Vibrations."
The curator says color vibration happens
when two colors of equal intensity are placed
next to each other. Eyes can't focus.
Colors appear and vibrate.
Joseph's Coat puts four colors together.
Yellow, orange, red and purple.

Quilts take the quilters outside of time
in order to preserve it. This doesn't turn quilts
into elegies or poems. Quilts take quilters
through time in order to change it.
Is that right? Well--did you see
the lace curtains in Summer Wind?
"Could you feel the breeze?" I liked the tea and saucer,
her embroidery, and I liked her book on the stand.
I could see pages turning. Deeper and deeper dives
into thread, and not only thread, but paint, too.
It's chenille, Karen says, like I did with your vest.
Cut each layer open and fray the material with a knife.
The joy of life walks into cut squares of cloth,
cut and sewn into blocks on barnyard walls.
"My favorite quilt came from a single piece of white cloth
with all colors coming from different colored threads."
Pastels of orange, yellow and green. Yes,
and Spring Mountain, the quilter's mother,
giving her a face and a voice--not just
to her mother, but to all forgotten and marginalized.
You have the walk of one dazed by threads in light.
The white wizard Gandalph walks in fields of tight silver stitching.

Jim Bodeen
15 July 2010
Davey Crockett State Park, Tennessee


Cicadas in surround sound singing
with the insects, wake me to the heavy breathing
of Sister Sadie Sadie, telling me in her gentle way
to get up and get her a drink of water.
She's been swimming in slow moving water.
I let her go, and she went, and her swim
seemed to be interrupted several times
as she snapped her head and barked.
Cicadas wake me in wonder.
What might have been nipping
at Sadie Sadie's belly? I lose my dreams
questioning what's left of my good judgment.
Where do I get these things?
When did I cross paths with good judgment?
Paul Tillich's ashes nourish a roofless church
surrounded by unmarked graves of Lutheran Separatists.
I swear to God.
I rub my good dog's belly.

Jim Bodeen
15 July 2010


Wondering if we could make it
to the small town before quitting,
we turned and looked toward the city.
That made it possible to go on.
Oil wells in corn fields, no kidding.
When I let go of time
my dog entered the creek and swam.

Jim Bodeen
14 July 2010



And let us acknowledge the power
   of this day's holiness,
for it is full of awe and dread
Un'taneh Tokef

First words with the first train out of town
before 5 am leaving New Ross. Fill

the child's pipe with tobacco
from Indians in the child's story.

Another translation calls your name
Sourdock-With-Tender-Leaves, like spinach,

grown-up's food in springtime. In full summer,
gone to seed, its flowers dried

and sperm-tasseled, dark along
highways of memory, its coffee-

colored reds and browns
could be chance-carried in cuffs

of men's pant legs on boats from Europe.
You are from here, where a child sits

dreaming out back, sending smoke
signals from a toy pipe.

Jim Bodeen
14 July 2010


--for Arvin

Beyond nuisances
all plants have endearing qualities--
Agriculture, something man invented,
either moving or plowing,
throws things out of balance

Locust blossoms are out of this world
The black locust is a nuisance
Problems survive as a defense
Animals learn hard ways
learning the hard way
Even mosquitoes must be considered
advocating for bats, purple martins and frogs
to eat insects

13 July 2010
New Ross, Indiana


We planted all this, Mary and I.
We said, Jim and Karen won't recognize the growth.
These six acres make a world.
The Sycamore, the English Walnut.
Mulberries are weeds to some people.
Not here. Walk with me.
That White Ash came up in the fence row.
We've had 24 days with no rain,
but the corn's still growing. It's tasseling.
Monarch Butterflies need that Milkweed.
Corn won't allow milkweed.
Our neighbors, some say we like weeds.
OK. The Canada Thistle is one we don't care for.
We pull it. A large plant can produce 5000 seeds.
We don't use any poison.
I pull thistles, try to starve their root system.
Here is the Black Locust Forest.
I planted these by hand in 1981.
We haven't been that happy with them.
They were recommended for firewood.
Their bark is toxic to animals,
and when we kept cattle we lost a cow
who chewed on that bark.
Be careful of the Poison Ivy.
That's Bergament, a wild flower.
That's a red-wing blackbird.
We've counted 60 different birds.
Inderdependency is what we're after.
That's what the Monarch Butterfly needs.
Do you know the Bittersweet?
It was nearly extinct because of people
cleaning out fence rows. Mary and I prize
our Bittersweet, along with this fence row.
Berries in clusters in fall.
Country people value them as decorative.
We don't eat this garlic anymore.
I enjoy the life cycles.
A man helped me move that Tulip Poplar
last fall. It's a favorite of mine.
You can help me water it.
We'll pump water and carry buckets together.

Jim Bodeen
July 14, 2005


"The seeds lodge against fences, and in a neglected garden
more than enough elms spring up thus to set before the house."
--Henry David Thoreau, Faith in a Seed

"What you've done feels good to me. It makes clear the experience of the Irish and ties that in to state bioterrorism as it's practiced today -- both the high-tech developments of genetic engineering and the fact that famine is political."
--Jody Aliesan, email response to a question about the Irish famine

"Getting rid of fence rows
is what nearl caused the Bob White to disappear.
Do you know the Bob White?" Arvin asks.
"Are you familiar with Pheasants Forever?
Bob White are quail indigenous to North America.
The Ring Neck is from China.
Grasses, wild flowers. Diversity.

Bird feces is the critical link.
When settlers moved from Blue Ridge
into the Ohio Valley, they cut the forests.
They build houses and fences.

"Since diversity has occurred,
why would you want it do disappear?
I like seeds for their relative imperishability.
And they're disappearing!"

Livestock are the original grasses.
A new order of weed and grasses
could be traced in manure-born seeds
heading west. Small birds appeared.

"Worthiness of seeds--their flavor,
and nutrition is unspoken for.
My six acres speak for seeds and trees."

A complex of related things took place:
Cattle grazed in the pasture
dropping their manure.
They sidled up to fence rows.
Weeds and grasses grew
in their protection,
protecting fields from erosion.

"Arvin," I say, listen to the end of this note
from my friend, Jody: 'P.S. I just finished reading
a piece about biopharming and bioweapons.
It's a simple and ancient axiom:
if you control the seeds,
you control the food supply,
and if you control the food supply,
you control the people.'"

"I suppose that's true," Arvin says.
"There's a couple in Decorah, Iowa
involved in seed-saving. This couple
in Decorah will exchange seeds with you,
but they want to know what it is you've learned.
One of them said, 'I want my bread
to be bread that will mold.'"

My friend is Irish-American, Arvin.
She says, "Learn what happened
to the Irish under British rule.
Serfs on their own land
left with one species of potato
originally grown for animal feed.
When the blight came,
four years in a row, the Irish starved
while growing food for England."

Fence weeds trapped nutrient.
Fences became stalking platforms for birds
who fed on wild berries, shitting
and waiting for insects. Everything
grew in a fertilized fence row!
Cedars and chery trees!

Arvin asks, "Do you know Thoreau's Faith in a Seed?
It's on a shelf in the house. Thoreau said,
'Convince me that you have a seed there,
and I am prepared to expect wonders.'"

Fence, weeds, trees, and birds.
All interacting, each one protecting the other.
They send the invitation for others.
Squirrels and chipmunks.
Dogwood and persimmon.

"I know this," Arvin says,
"Bittersweet will not grow on a wire.
It cannot grow on a metal fence.
Quail eat ticks, and quail aren't around.
I've had a plague of ticks for 25 years."

At this point the fence row is 25-years old.
It protects the climate around the field.
It makes its own weather, changing the wind.
At maturity fence row country
becomes settled rural landscape.

"The Japanese Beetle is not my friend," Arvin says.
You've seen it stripping the leaves of trees and flowers.
Others use poison. I can't do that.
I've worked too hard to attract these birds.
All I can do each evening is brush
the ones I can reach into a pan of soapy water."

Fence rows and lanes stand against bulldozers now.
Maybe our best protection against erosion is at risk.

Jody says hedge rows go back
more than 5000 years in Ireland.
Traces excavated under bogs in County Mayo.
Arvin's wife, Mary Ellen, remembers
collecting dried Milkweed Pods
as a child during WWII. "They used them
for life preservers. "Do you know the Persimmon?"
Arvin asks. "Persimmon Trees grew
on Mary's side of Indiana, but not on mine.
Go ask the birds. They know."

We look at each other and look away.
Arvin's looking into my notebook,
and I'm looking into his trees.
Jody says we're reaching for each other
across space and time. Arvin gives
the last word to Lewis Carroll:
"'Don't just do something, stand there.'"

Jim Bodeen
New Ross, Indiana--Vancover, B.C.--Yakima, Washington
July 14-21, 2005

*Arvin Brokaw lives and farms in New Ross, Indiana. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, are critical links to my wife's family and family story.
Dr. Gerald L. Smith, writes "The People and the Land" and can be reached online or through the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. I have used and drawn from his narrative to provide an extended definition of fence rows to supplement and expand the practicing wisdom of Arvin Brokaw. Dr. Smith's narrative appears here in italics.
Jody Aliesan is my friend "who writes" in the poem.