—for Cliff & Gay Hall

The man gets up from where
he sits, and walks across the room
unnoticed by me. Then he's there,
at my side. He puts his arm around me.
Later he says, I'd like to be your friend.
We work together with the elderly,
elderly ourselves, friends already
beyond this time we keep
with time's keepers.
We are friends, my friend.
My life is not mine to give.
You have it now, knowing
I belong elsewhere, as do you,
first source of friendship and love.

Jim Bodeen
27 September 2010


I don't know much about.
But I believe this to be true.
If I can't tell it to you
in a way that makes sense
to you in your place,
then it isn't true in your listening.

I'm talking here about
every aspect of my life.
If you don't get it,
there's nothing to get.
My love, my poems, my prayers.
My all or nothing.
Yes or no.

Jim Bodeen
23 September 2010


When my father was dying in Seattle
by luck I found Christopher Smart
chained to his bedpost writing praise poems
to the Lord. I would take match books
from my back pockets and write
what I saw taking place before my eyes.
I would write praise before and after
the given image. If someone was talking,
no matter the horror or confusion,
I would do the same thing,
praise before and after.

I knew I had been given a great gift.
The door of poetry had opened.
I did not know I stood before the door of prayer.

Jim Bodeen
24 September 2010


So many things stood in my way.
Or seemed to. And then,
in the way things happen,
I found myself walking
with the monk who had walked me home
from the war. It's simple,
he said, of the telling.

If the telling doesn't ring true
as you're listening,
then it's not true. More than that,
it's without sound, absurd,
you can't hear it
because it isn't there.

So there it is, in a nutshell,
my faith, my way to God,
a watershed. From that day on,
so many things were told me,
so many wonderful things
knocking me off balance.

Jim Bodeen
24 September 2010



There are these things, Lord.
A couple of songs
reminding me
how little I can do
about so many things.
I play these songs over and over.

Lord, you have given me
territory others leave behind.
You have given me the land
of the extremes.

Under 5 and over 80.I love the young and old
and the edges they show me.
In this mix, Lord,
there are places
where I am repeatedly crushed
and can do nothing,

not a damn thing about.
No news to you, Lord.
I cry and get mad.
I'm not asking
for an intervention,

nor am I asking to be heard.
I'm in personal lockdown
trying to pay attention,
writing this poem, calling
what I'm doing, a prayer,
making a life
from what I've been given.

Jim Bodeen
25 September 2010


"There was an intervention for Abraham..."
—Mac Gimse

"Pick it up. Touch this," the sculptor's
message says. "My hands made this.
I want you to feel it." Sculpture has no voice,
I have to make it speak if I can.

The artist passes around the wax mold.
"Do something to it, and I'll cast it,
making a mark of the village." Hands do
different things, heating it with our breath

and thumbprints, even violence
because we carry toxins, too.
My thumbprint over Isaac's body
warms into wax. Burning

and not burning. "We asked the nuns,
'What are we supposed to do?'
'Go pick up a child, and hold that child
until he responds.' My friend got a response."

We exchange words at breakfast.
Between tables. Underneath conversations.
We spread grape jelly on toast,
hearing birds feed, crying for liberation.

Jim Bodeen
23 September 2010



2300 FEET elevation in 3 1/2 miles
Glaciers before my eyes  late afternoon

Copper Creek—Naked
five years ago—On this rock
Balls in gravel like salmon eggs

Vine maple wet from rain on trail
Brushing my Levi's  Wet from hips
to ankles  Could rain more
Rocks slippery, no poles
Short of time  Time's urgency

Private concert with Rolf in Wes Prieb's room

Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Rolf's voice and guitar

Leonard Cohen's Sisters of Mercy
riffing with Who by Fire

Who shall I say is calling

Lovins' pin to Mac Gimse  Gift gesture
Craftsman to craftsman  One trusts words, one doesn't
Flecks of gold from the bottom of Karen's pan

Karen in the cave, on the loom
Karen in the cave, making books
Karen in the cave with water colors, painting
Karen in the cave making the necklace
Karen knitting, listening   Karen, Karen

Ephesians and Harald Sigmar 40 years ago

The divorced father at McDonald's at Christmas
changes the meal -- changes vespers too, Stephanie

In this basin above the fray and bread rising
I carry a bar from the kitchen full of chocolate

Knees holding  Good old knees

Trish shows me how she walks parallel to Earth at 74
her wonderful pace  like my mother leaving a baseball game

Irene's doctor doesn't want her here   refers her

Second physician, a Muslim, says to her,
You're going to your retreat
and I'm going with mine
You're going with your family
and I'm going with mine
You're going to your mountain
and I'm going to mine

What could be better

The elders, the elders, the elders
The aging, the aging, the aging

Walking solo,—sideways Mapuche,
heel and toe—God-wonder walk,
walking on this side of the comma walking, always

Jim Bodeen
17-21 September 2010
Copper Basin/Yakima

Irene and Jim walk back from Geology Hike
to Ten Mile Falls, telling Jim about her
multiple careers, teaching in the one-room
school house, and then working at the university


—for Trish Pipkin

After vespers in the cafeteria
with the water color painter, she shows me
how she walks parallel to ground,
back straight from the hips.
What I have to get right following her,
is her pace, like my mother
leaving the ballpark—
I rachet my speed.

Her paintings surround the village.
She sold her car to buy paint.
She's 74. She writes. She has a story.
She talks me through switchbacks
to Copper Basin. 2300 feet
elevation gain in less than 4 miles.
Time is short, but there's time.
She chooses the paint.

Jim Bodeen
30 September 2010


—for the writers at every work station

A blessing and a curse,
tap, tap, tap. Shiny pencils.
I didn't know what I wanted at 17.
I wanted out of any room and any school.
The in-between place where art
carves out our lives did not yet exist.
I didn't have the courage to say,
Nobody's on my side.

Jim Bodeen
30 September 2010


—for Elizabeth Felt

All of us.
All, surpassing our imaginations.
And I'm glad you said it out loud.
All creation healed under our own roofs.
From what matters, from the first time
I was listened to.
Following the rule of the power of air
among those who are now disobedient.
But God. And this is not your doing.
The in-between place you wear at night.
This vision we're only living into.
If I can only take this fragment
and break it open.
A future filled with hope.

JIm Bodeen
30 September 2010


—for Kaya & Lillie

Notebook on deck bench
Steam from the barista bar
Ears for the village

Jim Bodeen
30 September 2010


—for Don Coberley, Irene, & ElderVillage at Holden

In September I cross water to a village
full of my elders. I come to listen,
and work with people in the oral tradition.
I am old enough myself that government
pays my doctor bills, and I get into movies
at half price, but I'm not a wisdom keeper.

That's why I come. I walk on the side,
listen to what elders have to say.
Each year we walk with a geologist
to Ten-Mile Falls. Mostly level, cleared
of tree roots, one-mile trail to the falls.
Rocks on one side, companion

on the other, we walk with time
and through it with each step.
To do geology is to look ourselves in the rock.
What rocks have to tell us
is more important than what we call them.
Curved surfaces usually bow down.

"This is bedrock. Bedrock is the mountain,
bedrock is attached to the world," the geologist
tells us. We write in our notebooks
as he writes in his—he calls his
a logbook, writing what he observes, signing,
his name at the bottom of each page

verifying data as truth. I look at my notes.
The present is the key to the past.
Rocks are raised into the environment.
The principles of least astonishment
and superposition. Gravity works downward
and the oldest is on the bottom.

Principles are few but sobering.
The youngest cuts the oldest. Ouch.
One of my companions tells a story
about dating in horse and buggy days,
and how a horse stops out front the secret
girl friend's place exposing the two-timer.

Small crystals, quick cooling, the geologist says.
I guess so. We talk as we walk and stop each time
the geologist stops. "We are smarter than I am,"
he says. That's not geology. But it's just as good.
"There's a hole in my story only another story can find,"
I write in my notebook, remembering my mother,

listening to Irene tell her doctor story.
Her heart story, really. She had to get a second opinion
to make this journey. Her second doctor a Muslim.
"You're going to the Christian village in November,
and I'm going to Mecca in November!" he exclaims.
The world gets healed in one telling. That simple.

"Stop Four. New location. Put a pin on your map,"
the geologist says. "You've seen this before.
This is all the same stuff. This is M1. If we had
our hammers we'd bust that rock to see what
it looks like on the inside." On the inside, I repeat
to myself, astonished. New location, on the inside.

Jim Bodeen
16 September 2010
Holden Village


—for Karen Benson Bodeen

For she is the poet's basket beautiful.
For her stitch holds water.
For she sews her books in water-colored bindings.
She loves the way jewelry redirects the eye.
She doesn't tell you what it means.
She doesn't give you a piece of her mind.
She doesn't trust words.
What this artist makes is for the children.
She shows you how.

Jim Bodeen
30 September 2010


Good Morning, Mama

Bottles of blue glass
tucked under an old porch
lead to wild waters

Jim Bodeen
15 September 2010


—for Mac Gimse

Insect wings on alert
Augury descends into deep water
Common sense stands with the prophets

Jim Bodeen
14 September 2010
Holden Village


I'm in the mountains, Mom,
with Karen, and we're telling stories.
We're with others, Mom,
older, like ourselves. Mom,
I'm older than Dad was when he died.

Mom, I'm still telling your story
every chance I get. You're still
the only story I've ever had.
You gave me your life
before I was ready.

You made me promise
to get it right. Mom, I work
on that part every day.
Your voice is all that I have.
I share it today with your permission.

Jim Bodeen
13 September 2010
Holden Village


Night sky all lit up
I pull on my jeans
Karen says, It's 3:30.

Leaving Holden Village five years ago after Abriendo Caminos. The closed-down copper mine. The ecumenical Christ-centric retreat center in the North Cascades. Hanifah Murfin waves goodbye to me by inviting me back in the fall for Elderhostel. If I felt called to sit with elders at table it would be to sit with experience and story. In laughter and silence. I remained too thin-skinned to have anything to offer other than listening, and this approach to the written page. The week Hanifah gave me the invitation I had just turned 60. Five years ago. Prior to our week with Abriendo Caminosopening the ways—Abriendo comes from the Spanish Abrir, to open, and Caminos is Spanish for the road, the way, the life. One who opens one way opens many ways. Prior to that week of AbriendoCaminos, Karen and I had taken my mother to North Dakota to the Centennial Celebration of Burke County, which today leads the nation in dying population. Our family was part of the diaspora before it was recognized as such. Walking with Mom, accompanying her, has always been part of my apprenticeship as a writer. A part, I add, that hasn't always been embraced. Refusal of the call is part of the answering.

Karen and I returned to Holden Village a month later for our first Elderhostel and we felt like we were the kids. We were surrounded by a group of people, men and women mostly in their 70s and 80s, some reaching further, whose bodies and being carried and exuded poetry and the spirit of poetry that poetry witnesses to. That group of elders, and they were elderguides, elderspirits, eldervisions of the sort that we make literature and movies about, that group walked Karen and I through the door into our own lives.

The week we returned home, we brought Mom to Yakima to live with us in assisted living. Things happen that fast. Things haven't been the same since. In a sense, they've never been better. Our introduction to Elder Village at Holden. It's good to be back.

I'm a beginner. In Spanish, the word is principiante. Another word, especially for poets, is amateur. Amar is to love. And poets sign on to be lovers. The ama in amateur does not signify our ineptitude, it signifies our love. How could one be anything but a beginner in love? As part of our contract with the muse we acknowledge that beginners is all we will ever be. Experts go into other work. Like it or not, no complaining. This is our lot. If we want to be poets, we better check our egos at the door. We don't create poems. We wait for them. They're given. Our job is to be there when they pass through. We are beginners, but we aren't the same beginners as when we set out.

Birds fat on blackberries at Field's Point. The last of the blackberries. Poets all over the world sit on benches or coffee shops on this day, before blackberry bramble with notebooks open trying to say something that will stop the madness. First fall colors. All color washed out of the desert mountain rock surrounding the lake. Lake Chelan. Dream music of Steve Roach. 25-Mile Creek and the end of paved road. Everything in this glacier-carved lake from here goes up by barge.

Lady II. Lady of the Lake. Steel constructed. 100 feet long. Powered by twin Detroit diesels. Inaugurated in 1976.

Going up the straits. Into the in-between place in the margins. Safety Harbor's a halfway point. 1100 feet of water here. Now nearly 1500 feet. At a depth of 386 feet the lake is below sea level. 50 square mils of lake fed by 27 glaciers. 150 miles of shoreline. Look for wildlife. Mule deer, mountain goat, bear. Cold and windy with sunshine. Two hikers get out at Prince Creek. Seventeen miles to Stehekin by trail for these two.

The boat ride to the dock at Lucerne, our stop, is nearly three hours. What you're carrying now is different. You don't think about it. You don't even know what has taken place. Crossing water. Part of the dreamwork. Process you can't put your finger on. You don't want to. What takes place is out of your hands.

The "yes" comes from here.

Crossing water on Lady II.
Karen sits inside and spreads out her beads.
Later in the day she'll get bit by a bee,
finger all swelled up and then her body,
too, filled with prednasone.
We eat that fish,
that rainbow trout those two guys
in the camper gave us at the State Park.
On the boat, I sit in wind,
looking at shoreline
until I fall asleep on my book
and then go inside with Karen
and finish it. Marcos.
I'm without colloquial Spanish here.
I know who Jesus sits with at table.
Eliseo's some kind of witness,
talk about comprometido.
Beans and rice for lunch in the village.
I buy the last copy of the Koran
in the bookstore for five bucks.
Karen gets on a loom.
I photograph some blue glass
lined up by river rock
sticking out from under a shed
by the art cave in afternoon light.

I listen to children of the miners
back for a fifty year reunion,
and ride the bus up the mountain
from the boat with a woman
who was the last child
born in the village
before the mine closed.
I read the Koran until it too
rests on my chest while I nap.
The village harpist and his partner
wake me and we talk some
about music and the paranormal.
The child is a mother now.
She was born in 1957.
Her mother says,
"Snow banks were 20-feet high."

No miners left at this reunion.
Children of miners.
Stories around the table. passing old pictures.
The child who drowned in Domke Lake
defines an entire year.
We think we know what this work was like.
We think. Someone remembers the canary
in the mine shaft. That's my job.
I put it here. The poet stays in the old chalet
with the harpist and the reflexologist.
The miners' homes torn down long ago.

A young man sits down in front of us at vespers.
Hat and t-shirt with American flags.
"If you don't love America" on the front,
"Get the Hell out!" on his back before us.
The Village pastor just arrived from Brooklyn, New York,
reads a prayer by Stanley Hauerwas,
Great God of Surprise, he begins.
His short prayer is the message I say thanks for.
"'To go on as though nothing has happened..."
surely requires us to acknowledge
you are God and we are not."

I talk with the pastor about crossing Whitman's bridge.

The harp is the only stringed instrument where strings come through the wood. All other strings in other instruments parallel the wood. Harps don't last long. They're not like violins. They sound their absolute best, just before they're about to explode. My notebook is open because I've heard Harper Tashe play before. I wasn't ready for his weave, that time. Music in the village.

Harper tunes his harp as people enter the circular room. Koinonia. Greek word for community. A room carved out of the 60s. Tuning the harp in middle ages was considered a sacred act, Harper tells us, his long hair flowing, harp-like. Harperlike. Bringing order out of chaos. In medieval manuscripts, illustrations of King David accompanied the capital letter D. In these illustrations, David is always tuning his harp, never playing it. I hear Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah.

Strings are red and blue so you know where you are. Strings disappear in the light during performances. Red and blue strings help us find our way around the harp.

Heading home. Sound of yesterday's snow shifting on tree branches. Last days of summer. Fall equinox.

Composing is getting sounds to behave on paper. It's not the same as music. Music comes out of this. The harp says, Go for a walk. Amble and chat.

What does the poem say?

A child growing up on an island in Southeast Alaska. A king story with different levels of time. Walking through a park looking at lovers with guitars, Harper turns the small harp into a protest instrument, his left hand touching all the strings. Guitarists can't do this, he laughs, and he has one hand remaining free for his lover. Write a piece to play with one hand, piece for the left hand. This, too, is a dance of time. Heat changes what you see on the horizon. Boat and storm in one hand, bird in the other. Pleiades and Orion coming out one star at a time over Copper Basin.

Jim Bodeen
Mothership, Lady II, Holden Village

Before Matins

    Early Morning Village



—for Hanifah

Returning to the copper mine
that finds unexpected
ore in each of us,
I wonder again at emptiness
so complete in me
it feels like the only authentic part
walking me onto the boat
carrying me over water
into the village.

Your Sufi joy
at making the generous gift
gifts me again.

Jim Bodeen
12 September 2010


Here we are, Karen and I, at 25-Mile Creek
where paved roads end on Lake Chelan
on the eve of Nine Eleven, Two Thousand Ten.
In the Mothership, Karen's hand-stitching

the binding of a quilt she began a year ago.
Tomorrow we cross water, riding
The Lady of the Lake. Still reading Eliseo's
book, Marcos. I tell friends I'd tell them

about it. Según Marcos 13:22 el criterio
de verdad de la señal del cielo es la liberación
aquí en la tierra. I'm telling Karen,
This is the most radical book by a Lutheran

I've ever picked up. Karen asks why.
Cuidado y más cuidado. Eliseo Pérez Álvarez
knows the margins y los seres marginados.
Dichos y parábolas. Faith is what people have

who don't have a good shepherd.
Las migajas de las migajas o el derecho a comer.
Crumbs of the crumbs. Dream of the common table.
The right to eat. Clandestine seminary.

The reign of God is for the disinherited
and the excluded. A la orilla.
Lakeshore or sea. Same thing for Jesus.
The Galilean had a boat at his side

just in case, por si a caso, a quick getaway
on water. Caesar doesn't get the last word.
With Jesus in the boat, ghosts in water disappear.
Perdón. ¿Perdón? Eliseo, nuestro escolár

del pueblo, finds the gift, el don, Per-dón,
he writes, es decir, la donación, en contraposición
con el llevar la cuenta exactícisma de las deudas.
Don is the gift present in the word. This gift

helps us hear first syllable, Per. We hear perder,
to lose, perdió, lost, and even olvidar, forgotten.
Guilt gone. To pray is to pardon and be pardoned.
Orar es perdonar y ser perdonado. Not to be lost.

Jim Bodeen
25-Mile Creek State Campground
10 September 2010


The unknown word translated:
"speaking," carries me

when paired with these,
"the truth in love," making

a fragment one can build
a life around. Two Spanish

versions: "siguiendo"—
"following" follows

and "vivir" wraps itself

around us, clothing
of utter transparency.

...siguiendo la verdad en amor; or
...vivir la verdad en amor.

Speaking the truth in love.
"But" or "rather" precede

two English versions,
and "sino" adds "only"

and "except". I would add
"unless." Another,

más bien, even better.
The word crossing

me before water this
morning remains.

Jim Bodeen
10 September 2010



Jesús rompe con ese temor imperial y pisotea el mar...
—Eliseo Pérez Álvaretz

Equal parts day and night. Dimming of the day.
The boat that carries us takes away the shore.

Jim Bodeen
9 September 2010


Birds, mountains, crossing water.
Tangerine dreaming. Burning brightly
over time. Dream and chemistry's fusion
with ambition. Some chemistry here,
in this house, and some ambition
for putting the child in the poem
with the woman. Only one woman
bearing the ambition. She carried
her love into the artist's cave,
working with glass beads, threads
adding colors to the rainbow.
Her husband sits in the desert room
full of ambient sounds, hand-held
percussion instruments made 
by first nation peoples, and his dog.
Something missing in this room,
and that is what they go after
every morning before sunrise.

Jim Bodeen
8 September 2010


—for Robert Sanders

And then one day he appeared
in his new life, with a woman on his arm,
laughing. He had been gone so long
and there was still some catching up
to be done,
but other than that,
he wasn't afraid. Who was he?
He was the one who was the father
who was not the father who was the father.
This is not a Korean koan.
It is not a riddle from the far east.
He had that much love?
He was not afraid of that much love.
The simple truth is that it's just true.
It's true as it is with nothing added.
Like Christ, he was empty and open to being filled.
He knew the songs of the children.
The Jesus songs. Yes, the Jesus songs.
He came into their lives just like that.
Just like that, the same way they came into his.
And the woman? The laughing woman?
They're following each other.
Following each other. Another koan?
Laughing and crying are part of the same thing.
Yes, laughing.

Jim Bodeen
7 September 2010


Rain on the highway,
and in my heart? Say, Grandpa
and I see Grandpa
and grab his imaginary thumb.
He couldn't do anything about it either.
What a thumb he had.

And he's there every time?
Say the word.
This is the dream of the blue hole.
Hum on Highway 2 going east.
Funny thing, he wasn't really
my Grandpa, it's complicated—

his own son, cousin by tribe,
nothing more—has it, well—
This is the death of the virgin spirit!
He's the only one and he's always there?
Say the word.
Not your father? Not my father, not my mother.

Nope. Now you're him. Nope.
I have his steps, his imaginary thumb.
More than his own son. Too much.
Nope is some kind of word.
Some kind of word, nope.
Got that right. Got that

Can't do nothing about it
to it. Yup. Sure does. Nope.
What your Grandpa knew.
What he practiced. Big difference.
He had that thumb.
He did. He had that thumb.

Jim Bodeen
7 September 2010


He had his turn, and he had a good run.
He doesn't have to drive anymore.
He knows about that word drive
and he's more than willing to park it,
that word. Let him walk it into the dream
when he gets home. It's still hard
to believe in the light of silence.
Let him stand in wonder
at the child climbing rocks
placed just off the path
as a memorial to music.

Jim Bodeen
6 September 2010


"Save some time to dream."
—John Cougar Mellencamp

John, I was born in a small town, too.
I'm in another one now.
Last night at the ball field, feeling like I belonged.
Saving time. Looking good.
Singing our way through sorrow and laughter.
Running with scarecrows—
It's not only our friends who won't understand.
And to them you must be kind.
Your line is a blessing I carry.
Old songs have new things to say.
Like their singers. Your band brings it all
to Troubled Land. Sometimes refusing the preacher
is what brings Jesus. And humor.
My wife was 13 years old when I wrote this song.
So it is with compromising positions. I sing with you:
Put me in a pine box, six feet underground,
and my wife whispers in my ear,
I'm going to put you in a glass jar.

After your concert, before Dylan's,
a young man comes up to me
from the old neighborhood—I'm still there.
"We were playing whiffle ball in the street.
Your son and I. You watched us while you listened
to Blood on the Scarecrow. A glass of wine
in your hand and a cigar in your mouth.
You said, Listen to the song. It's important.
I thought it was the strangest thing to say.
That's how I learned about Farm Aid."
He's a lawyer now, a prosecutor.
He's holding three beers in his hands.
I'm listening, bringing it all home.
Driving, singing with you again,
I hear your home town voice in mine:
Always question your faith.
That's one place we lose our friends,
where we get to the place they don't understand.
We look so good in those moments.
Dancing on our toes. Shirt sleeves rolled up.
Small town look in a big time prayer.

Jim Bodeen
4 September 2010


"I've already gone the distance for a series of dreams."
—Bob Dylan

Dress the bard as a gaucho and let him walk
into the valley museum unmolested. Let him walk your town.
Let him scramble the arrangements of all your favorite songs
until they're unrecognizable. Unloose his band
to let them bring him to places unimagined and inaccessible.
Let all this happen in your home town ten minutes from your house.
Let him sing in many voices. It doesn't matter
if he says hello or not. Perhaps he is Miles Davis.
It doesn't matter if you can't catch any of the words.
Maybe he's Tennessee Williams or William Faulkner.
It's not important that you know.
His lead guitarist kneeling before him as he plays
mocks questions, possibilities, and the size
of the shadow cast on the back of the stage.
Women will die for his hat and say so.
You'll listen under the stars and be home by 10:30.
You will never be home.
You will never again witness this kind of direction.

Jim Bodeen
3 September 2010


We were already gone when the diaspora began.
We left the small town in shame
a full ten years before the great leaving.
I carried my parents' guilt
and this would be my greatest blessing.
This treasure in a child's heart
leaving his grandmother, waving
goodbye from the car's rear windshield
would become the greatest gift.
I belonged elsewhere already.
I became my mother's biographer
and she would tell a great story
involving children and baseball,
weaving it around memories of North Dakota.
She had been given a voice.
It took me so long to learn to hear it.
The work is inexhaustible.
It will never be finished.

Jim Bodeen
5 September 2010