Coffee at sunrise
Like seasons in grandparents
Lost pleasures walking

Jim Bodeen
30 August 2010


—for Vonnie, Craig, Jan, Roger & Karen

Everyone in these waters can't be named, but six of us find ourselves wrapped in sail light. Wheel, wind, ballast. Dream of being overturned. The hidden rudder. Water and all that's beneath the water path. Craig, I've been with your father all afternoon, looking at his stamps. The careful way his hands held the scissors, his crisp cuts creating smaller rectangles, framing. The process he used at the P.I. to develop his inner life. The newspaper we all loved to grow up with—how he sent out mail to the world to be returned to him with postmarked stamps for you and your sister. Country by country. Filed in the wooden box. Stamps I know he loved because of the multiples. I've put some aside. I don't know how to thank you except to say I love your Dad. This letter's an exercise in musical fusion, Roger, a hybrid. Sometimes it makes a sound like a flute over keyboard. Sometimes I'm making noise. Ecstatic? No white space in this note, Janice. No short paragraph to give the eye a rest, as Secord taught. So good to hear intimate fragments of that life after 40 years, from that time of never was. The teacher with your father. San Francisco Chronicle as cigarette paper wrapping his love into nicotine bringing the cancer. You teaching Mr. Case, who taught me The Chambered Nautilus and The Tyger. Was I 14? Boat people. Wood boats. Roger and Craig teaching together. Finding each other on water. My sister in Alabama with my brother in 1963. All I knew about King coming from you and Secord in that journalism office. You transcended as Vonnie says. One recent riff on my life. I never went to high school. I float this with my friend Barry, a poet who found a way through high school with baseball and journalism. I never had baseball. Went to work. Right now percussion sounds make hands clapping on water. Maybe 12 hands. I can't tell. Someone throws a baton in the air. My mother sends pictures to me in Vietnam. It's Vonnie at the head of the band. My brother at second base. I'm writing letters to Karen about writers promising not to be like them. Promising a decent wage. And here we are crossing water. This letter comes from the Gobi Room in desert ambience. The computer screen an ocean itself, just made me dizzy by the way I touched its glass. Seasickness? Can we get out and walk? Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water. That's how Leonard Cohen sings it. When Ray Carver started making money on stories he bought a boat and put everybody in it. At least in the poem. This boat is a gift from Tyler. Some stories are so true they want to be sung at every border crossing. This is one. Karen made this journey as a child. She was one year old when she set out. I've been following her since she first told it to me. Karen. Mother Quilt. Bead-weaver threading us. Now I'm my mother's biographer, too, but I was never her caretaker, like Vonnie. Like Craig. Sailor stories. Craig piloting. I love the pilot in the father, preparing to cross, rubbing his hands on his legs, exclaiming, "Isn't this a lovely suit!" Courage and readiness. Here it remains a poem from the listening. Deserving original music. And now this beautiful boat, this French hope cutting through water. Wind, 15 knots, sails full, hybrid winds.

Jim Bodeen
28 August 2010


Only the boat comes with the bill of sale.
One of the problems with hope
is that we don't know what it looks like
when we see it. Experience tells us
not to trust our eyes, so we have to go
against all we know. It feels like
more than betrayal of those around us
when we step on to it. More than that,
betrayal of our world, and then of ourselves.
So OK, hope against hope.
The toll that hope takes. In Spanish
the word for wait is hope. Esperete, m’ijo.
Esperanza, the name for hope.
Esperanza on Mango Street
dreaming for a house. Cisneros' hope up Holler Creek.
No more than an echo.
Helplessly hoping in the rock song.
Peggy's good riff.
And now Vonnie's boat sailing.
Named by the man who went overboard.
Who had to swim for it.
Whose boat of hope, Espérance 1, took off on its own.
French hope French-kissed.
The man wasn't done with his life and had to swim for it.
He's forced to swim away from hope.
His boat took off, he swam the other way. 
His hopeboat stops outside his house and drops anchor.
You have to sail out from your own safe harbor to get that story.
A dog out running with the wind, ears pinned back.
Tom with his famous finger in the wound.
Word as west marginal way. Wind margin.
Win by the margin of our hope.
With root beer and ice cream. A hope float.
Lots of practice, lots of practice.
Jesse campaigned with it years ago. The narrow margin.
Running from it, swimming for it.
Dry land farming is so over-rated.

Funny stuff, you bet.
The gift boat. Son child. Skiff of grace.
Step here. That's right.
Put your foot just like that right on the water.

Jim Bodeen
28 August 2010


Mothership heads north
Desert sailors from Espérance's bow
My sister's cosmic orbit
Salt water passages.

Jim Bodeen
27 August 2010


Jesus, just around the corner from us,
sits in a corner booth
at the Salmon Bay Café
listening to men plan their day.
Stewart Marine, Seattle Pump, Ballard Hardware.
Karen dips her toast into egg yolk.
Sadie waits in the mothership.
The men listen to the boss
talk about his lost keys
but he buys their breakfast.
This is how we enter the day.
Nobody in this place
wants to run anybody up the pole.

Jim Bodeen
27 August 2010


Adjourned for three months
Adversaries and justice
Notebook awareness

24 August 2010
Seattle, Washington



This coffee, Señor, this morning,
and places you've asked me to see for myself,
alabaré. For language, también, and how it happens, alabaré.
For your funky little church in El Salvador
causing such irritation in the justice system of the empire,
you've given me a place, my own little pew,
tribunal de justicia, where I can say Amen. Amén.
You have given me guides who steer me,
Señor, right to pride itself. Pride, Señor will squeeze
the judge himself in his swivel chair.

Somos pobres, ciertos, pero somos gente con agallas.
You've given me the courtroom of America, Señor,
where we adjourn until the appointed time,--
Tenemos en agallas. Guts, Lord, and spunk.
Hágase tu voluntad. You're penciled in, Señor.
No podemos llegar a un arreglo extrajudicial.
No settlement out of court this time. Buscamos asilo.
While we wait, Señor, sea con los que sufren
en este mundo de abajo. My eyes are yours.

Jim Bodeen
24 August 2010



She asks about the tie die t-shirt
hanging on the porch.
"Was that for me?"

"Do you like it?"
"I like this tie die scarf on you."

Jim Bodeen
23 August 2010


At 3 am I light charcoal with woodchips.
Music, wood smoke and slowing traffic.
That's my work now, and I'm on record for that.
Mom's still here. My brother says, "Jim,
she doesn't know who I am. I asked her,
Do you know who I am? She couldn't tell me."

"I always let her know," I say. "Maybe wrong
giving the answer, but I'm talking when I come
around the corner. Good morning, Mom,
I say, It's Jim, are you ready for Church?
Other heads come up, too, all nodding,
and for 30 seconds I'm everybody's son,

and Mom's ready to go in minutes."
Texas roadhouse barbecue. 12-pound brisket.
Big smoke, low heat. Ten hours.
Break 180 degrees to make tender all that's tough.
Brisket is nothing but controversy on a grill.
My rub is simple. Garlic, salt, cayenne,

no mustard. Standard herbs. Texas mop sauce
for moisture and sandwiches. Root beer instead of beer.
Carmelized onions and Ray Charles. Burnt ends for ones
you most want to share all that's secret. Bite-sized favorites
of kitchen staff. This is the first Bodeen family reunion.
No expectations from me. Staying close to this brisket

and the Weber Grill. Monitoring heat.
Why now, this year, a question most everyone has.
Gathered in circles counting losses, that's part
of what comes with what remains, isn't it?
More beginnings than any two eyes can see.
We'll run out of brisket. All should get a taste.

Jim Bodeen
20 August 2010


To bed early with Eliseo's book, Marcos.
Mexican dichos. Sayings. La familia sagrada.
Trying to control what's sacred may be the worst error
a man can make. Not knowing a thing,
trying to accommodate the suffering in my head,
defending against it. Footholds.

I grew up in a small town in North Dakota.
A couple of safe houses—Grandma Myra's, Aunts Lil & Alice—
some friends, and railroad tracks on both ends of town.
I ranged on foot and bicycle, walking tracks was best,
and birds on wires—robins and Meadowlarks whistling.
Baseball cards and the Saturday Evening Post. An image

of family, and the family I had. That Victorian
house owned by Farmer's Union. Town boy in a farm town.
I've said all this before. Groves of trees by tracks
outside of town and rock piles believed to be Indian graves.
Both house and church, gone now—the Lutheran Church
by fire, a fence between us. The calling came from here.

The minister's voice saying one would know.
God's call unmistakable. Not for everyone.
In my yard, my mother called, and my father cried in pain.
A bowl of water in the kitchen where my father's feet soaked.
And out back, a barn, and Indian tobacco.
Mandan and Sioux. I knew the difference,

I knew my place between nations.
What fooled me was the pastor's voice calling one way.
I listened for that not knowing one had to follow the other.
That's been my life, listening for that call.
Crying out, too. From silence, and back to it.
The burning began, and kept burning.

Jim Bodeen
20 August 2010


—for Barry and the tin can trust fund

Ears on the street—
the band sings what the young know:
The money's gone
and all jobs feed the machine.
The dance in city's summer
a Cumbia rhythm mirror
shimmering off sidewalks.

Jim Bodeen
19 August 2010

Toca Mi Corazón, Play My Heart



El Jesús de Marcos es un caminante nato, siempre en movimiento, constantemente invitando al pueblo a seguirle...por su contacto con otra culturas y por su mezcla con otras sangres. Eliseo Pérez Álvarez, Marcos

Only Karen, only our children, only Paco,
know me like this. With this grip.
This firm confidence, not mine.
All this so much fun.
Oh, Jesus, this Raza! Oh, Jesus, this joy.
And light pouring from this taco!

Jim Bodeen
18 de agosto 2010


—para M. M.; y para Eliseo Pérez Álvarez

The woman teaching citizenship
classes in my town, the woman who is my friend,
Lord, is very good at what she does.
She knows her stuff, and you know
what's coming, God Never Surprised By Us,
she'll never be allowed to take the test herself.

Jesus ate with the poor and the outcasts.
Give us our daily bread is a prayer to Monsanto.
That's what Vandana Shiva says.
O Tlaloc, God of Water,
God of Eternal Spring,
why have you settled in Texas?

Henry Kissinger says, Control the continents
by controlling food supply.
En el mundo de los olvidados
the tractor is an image of war.
Sabemos que el hambriente es mortal.
Feeding people is no more difficult

than providing toilets and running water.
40 million people in my country live in poverty.
You can find Jesus sentado a la cena campesina.
¡El Señor está en dos lados de la frontera!
Puede verlo buscando a dentro de la Cortina de Tortillas.
Cortina de Tortillas sea mi protesta.

Tortilla Curtain be my protest!
When a woman asks for your promise, Lord,
she doesn't want to go through a hijacked democracy.
Astronomy is easier to grasp than rule of law.
Yes from you, God, makes my privileged life possible.
The hamburger in my hand comes from 100 cows.

Jim Bodeen
15 de agosto

"Camote es para la espalda."—Doña Cruz


Walking the trail to Ten Mile Falls
we meet Luz coming up the trail
with an agent from Homeland Security.
Karen keeps no time. She can't hear
blades from helicopters. Talking
with Tecos from Guatemala,
refranes come up political.
Me cayó un pelo en la sopa.
The man who just walked
through the door is someone
I'm not pleased to see.
A hair falls in the soup.
Age out is the term used by agents
referring to the sibling waiting in line
for his Green Card. Age out,
bleed out, it's been good to know you.

Hiking to Monkey Bear Falls with Paco
three women ask for a guide.
Paco es nuestro capitán. ¿Tienen agua?
Mother, daughter, grandmother. From Guerrero.
Cuidado con los raices del arbol,
Doña Cruz. Soy de campo, she says.
Muestreme la yerba buena, I say.
She's carried ollas filled with water
heavier than my backpack
with a couple of sandwiches and nuts.
We photograph our way to the falls
while Paco leads and Doña Cruz
wraps her shawl around her head
saying, Soy Arabi.

Muerto el perro, se acaba la rabia.
Guerrilla soldados sean mi mentores.
I do not want to sleep in the jungle
or face down bullets winning hearts and minds.
Refranes no son proverbios. No son frases trilladas.
Zen koans with consequences.
Miss the sublime and you're in big trouble.

Camote es para la espalda, Doña Cruz tells me.
I take the plant by the root and look at the vertebrae
pattern of leaves, in wonder. Boil the leaves
in water and rub the healing water on your back.

Jim Bodeen
12 August 2010


Mussled, muscled, mussed
on my grandma's birthday
30 years without her
No railroad tracks to hold me
Still a boy from a small town
gathering a country place
mountain time trail berry

Jim Bodeen
12 August 2010


Walk the path to the falls
Catch fast water in digital glass
Parade rest earth song

Jim Bodeen
12 August 2010


—para Felix Malpica

Boom, ba ba boom
Boom, ba ba boom

De noche remos
de noche que para encontrar la fuente
sola sed nos alumbra

How many, How many
Boom, ba, ba boom, ba ba Boom

Sing it, and chant it
Sing it until you can feel it
Chant it until you don't have to
look at the words...

Felix shows us how to bring
our fingers together until they meet
the other, confrontation-like,
becoming candles of light
in our song

by night, by night
only the thirst leads us onwards

chanting, chanting

Jesu tawa pano
Jesu tawa pano
Jesu tawa pano
Jesu tawa pano

Tawa pano mu zi ta re nyu
Welcome...we are here for you

Salaam eleikum
Salaam eleikum
Salaam eleikum
Salaam eleikum

Le ho yah! Ho yah!

Jim Bodeen
11 August 2010
Holden Village


for Emily Van Kley

Before we get to compost
we have to break down boxes,
sort paper for the barge downlake.
Treat flat paper boxes like paper
unless it's corrugated. It's tagboard
in both corporate and recycling worlds.
Sorting is nasty archeology.
Hair, waste and alcohol from the village.
How villagers live. This is garbology.
Burnable, plastice bottles, sorting colored glass.
Recycling. If it tears, it's paper.
Save all bottle caps.
For Africa or artists, one or the other.

I love the way dough acts in a compost bin.
Scoop some sawdust in there. It's too wet.
Chop peels fine. Orange and banana
take so long to break down.
Good compost smells so good,
the carbon and nitrogen.
Everything's gone wrong on this compost shift.
Get that chicken bone.

Jim Bodeen
11 August 2010


Two hundred Mexicans in a mountain retreat center
just sang Las Mañanitas to me on my 65th birthday.
I was born August 9, 1945, and I'm trying to reconcile
the first two sentences in this poem. Bring the word
down to size at the same moment you bring it to life
by singing it. Say, All. Sing All.
The Mexican pastor working for no salary
in the Valle del Rio Bravo tells the story
of being so mad at the coyote taking the money,
she called him up and gave him thirty minutes
to return the $2500 or else. When he returned
the money she said, "You go against the love of God."

Palabras sacramento. Faith moves us to do so much.
A young man wears a t-shirt that says, Soldados Caídos.
Fallen soldiers. Hay otro lado de macho.  ¿Sabe?
Even Mexicans can't talk about it anymore.
Ese macho es el "Sí" en "Sí, se puede." Yes we can.
This can be done. El "Sí" de Dios es una promesa.
Another man plays the flute for his pueblo in Arizona.
He tells me he lives next door to the man who wrote
the bad law. He tells me more than that.
His song is for those who suffer.

I am so much of nothing, I don't have to do much
to cancel myself out, but God has given me La Raza
to walk with in my great need. Raza, called
by high ordeal and common trial. Raza.
Who by fire and who by water. All.
Raza is the the prayer of awe in any context.
You want to lose yourself in the divine?
Ask for King David's song in the palace.
Stand and have 200 Mexicans sing
Las mañanitas to you on your birthday.
Be born 9 August 1945.

Jim Bodeen
9 August 2010
Holden Village



I'll take care of it, he says.
I'll take care of it.
I don't ask for help.
I'll take care of it.
Don't worry about it.
I'll take care of it.

Jim Bodeen
8 August 2010


—for the Habitat community in Yakima

Picked up in the driveway of the house gone down.
Kitchen and bathroom go first. They're signs.
From water-damaged to water that can't be stopped.
Other signs that things aren't quite what they seem:
extension cord leading from house to garage.
Not just who, but how many? We're not talking
poker chips. Picked up and pocketed.
Who played in that card game when risks
remained inside. One card changes all.
One red, one blue. Those two chips
left behind in the move, not in the game.
What about get-away? This house,
gone now, and people gone.
Watergone, for good gone, and fast.
Not dream gone. Back into shadow gone
with those plastic chips, one red, one blue,
rubbing against each other like money.

In poverty housing, every room is a bedroom.
Cost burden breaks down like this:
If you're paying more than 30% of your income, you're stuck.
This house is gutted to bare framing.
No permit's been issued for this work.
This is Yakima. We have 6,000 homes like this.
This is no chicken coop.
Habitat housing partners with working poor.
Partner families put in 500 hours of sweat equity.
No waiting lines. This is not, Go back to Mexico
and wait your turn to cross. There's a pool of applicants.
Habitat looks for a family and a house to work with.

The working poor has family income.
Between $16-31,000. Typical Habitat house
has 1100 square feet, one-and-a-half baths.
20 to 25-year no interest loan. No upside-down loans.
$120,000 average house. Two notes.
One's a "silent second." 87 Habitat homes
in our town. The principle portion
from all payments goes into new houses.
And we have a Habitat store. Last year
it contributed $150,000 to home building.
We have individuals, church sponsors,
corporate sponsors and grants.
Four families each year get a house.
Jimmy Carter builds, but he didn't start us.
Fred and Ann Bauman built the first house in your town.

Signs all around. Working signs.
Cutting signs. Border guards dragging the desert
with electric rakes. Garlic in pant cuffs
to throw off snakes. Plastic Bicycle chips
in the dust. Red chip, blue chip.
Look for the extension cord leading nowhere.
Follow it to one end of a drifting conscience.
Tap your finger against the single ply glass
in the window pane. One chipped corner.
Put your finger in the sharp hole
and serve as the insulation.

Jim Bodeen
7 August 2010
Holden Village
North Cascades



Oh my God, you are wind and silence
and absolute other. I can have no
other gods before this terror. Breathless One.
Everything I do not believe, you are.

Jim Bodeen
1 August 2010


El paletero José Fuente viene
en su bicicleta con su tesoro.
Fruta y azucar en hielo.
"Escribe un libro para mi," él dice.
¿Un libro o un poema?
"Un poema, Gloria a Dios," José dice.

Su cultura cree en poesía.
Mi cultura cree en negocio.
El paletero vive en dos mundos.

"Soy José Fuente, paletero.
Viene de Hacienda Cabaña, San Jeronimo.
Soy amigo de su amigo Jesús."

Puedo escribir un poema para el paletero.
Voy a ponerlo en el Palo de Poesía, en mi jardín.
El paletero tiene ojos para mi vicino.
Él sabe el empirio, que es peligroso
en el camino—el calle sin salida
en el Sueño Americano. Hay mucha sabiduría
en su rumbo cotidiana. Paleteros tienen
campanas en su bicicletas para llamar
los jovenes, los abuelitos, y los poetas.
Es trabajo bien sagrado.
Paleteros son bien pagado también—
en lana, y en canciones de los tigres del cielo.

Jim Bodeen
4 de agosto 2010


God wants to see your Dream Catcher.
Jesus says, "Let the kids ride with me."
Katie sings songs in Spanish.
Katie eats the fish.
Katie shares the bread.

Grandpa Jim


God wraps his arms around Dee
and holds her tight with strong arms.
Dee trusts herself, saying, "Yes," and "No."
Dee folds her hands.
Jesus prays just like her Mama.

Grandpa Jim


Jesus says, "Come over here.
Show me how Mama and Papa
taught you to say prayers."
Jesus asks if you like transformers
and race fast cars.

Grandpa Jim


Jesus waits for you in the kitchen.
He wants you to help make bread.
He gives you the dough to push and squeeze.
You tell Jesus,
"I want cookies like Grandma's."

Grandpa Jim
3 August 2010