Jack O'Lanterns lit, I pull on my moose head,
ready for work. Unlike the little Batman's who say,
No, I'm not Batman, this is my costume,
I am Moose. Half-man, Half-Moose,
and not in the best of humor.
I will take you into the bathroom, pull your teeth
and clean that blood off your face.

It gets worse, kids. I know about the Days of the Dead,
and this isn't it. This isn't in the same league,
and those of you who think it is
are trying to put out fire in a paper bag
full of dog poop. When you ring the bell,
you'll meet me when the door opens. Be ready.
In Canada more people die from moose than bear.

I'm sorry about this. I am. Even as you walk
up my steps I'm thinking about where we're at,
where I'm not, celebrating Día de los Muertos,
San Miguel de Allende, where bees swarm
candy acting out the drama of our lives. Abuelita
y Abuelito in bones a long time gone, dressed
in clothes for mass. My wife's there now, on her way

to the cemetery and fireworks. After ancestors
eat, she'll sit with a bowl of posole and tacos
filling tortillas hecha por mano en la cocina.
There will be mariachis, stories, tequilla--
and yes, people making love in the dark.
Even the Church is quiet as is proper
with newcomers. This night goes way back,

belongs to first peoples and singers. Poets
know their roles for a change. So come on up, kids.
You know the moose has more than one stomach?
Four. We regurgitate and chew.
We have cloven hooves, and if you've been listening,
your Sunday School teacher thinks we're devils.
No comment. Make up your own mind.

We run, we swim. Male's a bull. Female's a cow.
A herd is called a gang run by one female.
Do you know Spiderman? I haven't always been a moose.
Did I say the World Series is on? Tonight I'm done practicing.
Why are you giggling? Why mute?
Why did you ring my doorbell? Trick or treat?
Do better. Moose is horned and plays for keeps.

Jim Bodeen
31 October 2010


Like my dog lapping
water from the toilet bowl--
off-balanced fan blades.

Jim Bodeen
30 October 2010


"...moving the measured road..."
--Gary Snyder, A Berry Feast

Never read out loud in back yard
like I read Howl when Ginsburg died,
aim to redress that now--
harvest grapes, read poem with birds,
the best minds/where berries grow...

Talk to collared man of mountain spirits--
how to connect, how all things counter,
out west with pickup trucks,
Pacific Rim too much, too fast,--
Waylaid, every turn turns me around--

car salesman outside God Only Knows
talks Jesus, 28 years sober, you go man,
listen to them kids inside, show them
how bullshit cuts all ways--
Where's my damn suit? I say

naked in locker room. Can't swim now,
naked and alone with my old dog.
Dog walks house, sleeps where Karen's not.
Karen sends images of bees in candy swarm.
Day of the Dead in San Miguel,

Ancestors pile out of stars hungry--
hambre para noticias, sí, pero vamos a comer,
and photos delight, but empty house
creates too, hold off loneliness
with the poem. At Halloween Party

4-year olds look at Grandpa
in Moose Head, paint pumpkins. Katie says,
Sit with me, Grandpa--bawl
right through tundra mask.
Pick up rest of grandkids,

wait for answers, look in rear mirror
Grandson says, I'm ignoring you.
Ignoring me, I say, pulling over car--
You going to stop in the middle of the road? he asks.
Día de los Muertos bring the universe--

Outside, firetruck and men with hoses.
Tree on fire in neighbor's yard.
Power line in tree. Close stuff,
not fire of life but wild burn
burning vortex in one look.

Jim Bodeen
30 October 2010


Carry two buckets
of water to young Sweetgums
Eat oatmeal cookies
Watch water find way to roots
Raw sugar reach for coffee

Fall asleep in chair
Poems in notebook unfinished
Harvested grapes wait
Mash and cook before Samhain
Dark jelly from an old art

Swim in city pool
Listen to elder women
water walk one lane
Counting laps instead of time
Water draws me close to home

One fear-making call
from political hate phones
might persuade iambs
to unruly enjambments,
unplugged scholarship

Jim Bodeen
28 October 2010

Storypath/Cuentocamino: Mighty Tieton & Litfuse: Day of the Dead with Jim...

Storypath/Cuentocamino: Mighty Tieton & Litfuse: Day of the Dead with Jim...


Evolution of the foot
Single-hoofed ponies
Evidence of vanished toes

Not saying too much
Not really seen
With a notebook on his lap

Jim Bodeen
26 October 2010


Picking up after grandkids go home
I spot the lime green shopping bag by my chair,
wonder how I could miss it. Inside,
Moon Over Wings, Tom Aslin's book
I've been looking for the last two days.
Now I understand. Grandkids.  
The poems take me into the depression
I could not see. When Karen
returned from the M.S. workshop
she gave me two things the doctor said:
Put Prozac in the water supply.
Depression is 100 percent.

She also said there will be a cure.
Karen's four nights gone
to the museum city in Mexico.
I imagine her life without me.
Mine without her.
Her laughter over four decades.
My pathetic hand-crafted lattes
steaming in the kitchen.

Jim Bodeen
26 October 2010


—for Tom Aslin

When the phone rings
I know there is trouble somewhere
and I have been called to trouble.
Once my son brought home
a lost dog and didn't name it Joy.
It was a kind of phone call that dog.

I used to believe that we could make things
easier for others living a certain way.
I don't believe that anymore.
Riffing on that one takes us into another song
walking is all. Answering the phone.
Saying, Sure, that's fine. That's what blood

cells are asking from me. My brain,
so slow to respond and say Yes.
Leaving the State of North Dakota
as a child I carried an open wound.
I promised my mother while I ran from her.
I never overcame that promise and sometimes

let temptation cover it with shame.
When that happens I chew my fingernails.
Last week I listened to a poet
walk us all the way into his depression
and watched young people
writing on the back of their hands

in blue ink. He was telling them something
about themselves they were grateful for
even as they covered themselves
in another kind of language. I came home
and read his poems into my dreams
remembering my parents. In the morning

I picked up his book and read again.
Carrying his life around the empty house
I misplaced it, and have been searching for it
like my mother looks for her lost camera.
I've never been much for anything but poetry.
For a long time I had to pretend I was somebody.

Jim Bodeen
25 October 2010


—for Kevin

Any empty seat
Quiet rider
On and off at his own choosing

Knots like a sailor's
Indigenous weave
Dye made from blood of insects

Most rare commentary
Reader, poet—rarer yet,
poet reading

Jim Bodeen
26 October 2010

Mighty Tieton & Litfuse: Day of the Dead with Jim Bodeen



--for the GLBT Community in Yakima

Last night, in the middle of the seventh inning,
with the score tied 2-2, and momentum still very much
with the Phillies, the make-shift put-together Giants
hoping in the moment only for three more outs,
my momentum for wakefulness fading fast,
a message arrives in my inbox on my computer screen
from Karen's cell phone. Text message. She's sitting
in La Plaza de Limonada, San Miguel de Allende,
eating chicken tacos with her girl friends.
Imagine that, I say to myself, surrounded as we are
by unending war, including  a war surrounding
the State of Guanajuato where Karen is,
Lemonade Plaza. Four women seated at table
in an open air restaurant at a time like this.
There's baseball in my living room,
with a World Series berth to be decided
in the next half hour. Imagine that,
I say again, as the Giants come to bat
in the eighth, lemonade and baseball for all.

Jim Bodeen
24 October 2010


Sister Sadie knows Karen's gone already
and it's only been one night.
She's in my chair now, belly up
like a yogi, all four paws
frozen motionless. I walk
into the living room to see
about getting my chair back.
She does not acknowledge my request,
so much in the moment as she is.
As I leave the room I remember the poem
I heard night before last
about the talking dog.
Two words: Out and Mama.
The dog's vocabulary agreed upon by all
who remembered him after the accident.
The talking dog.
It's been a week in Yakima.
That's all I can report
after having had my public say.
The pool opens in another hour.
It seems like a long time to wait for anything.
One dog sleeps.
One dog talks.

Jim Bodeen
24 October 2010


That one time that God spoke to you.
Yes, the time he gave me my name.
Can you tell me again.
When I received my native name?
Yes, I was in the back yard
with Lacy Dreamwalker and Sister Sadie Sadie.
Sister Sadie Sadie had just come into my life
as a pup. My nagual.
The one who would never grow up.
Made more difficult by demands
for devotion from Dreamwalker.
I was full of confusion in the back yard.
And then God's voice.
Two Dog, pick up that dog shit.

Jim Bodeen
23 October 2010


Such a cipher myself.
So completely without the I,
even when I put it everywhere.
I am not. My I am
always and only other.
Search my poems if you will.
They are not me.
My place.
A citizen here in elsewhere,
county and community.
Complete with parks and rest stops.

Jim Bodeen
21 October 2010

Line of wonder stroke of water


Begin and work back
from where it ends,
to the surprising point of the blues—first news from here.

Jim Bodeen
20 October 2010



Waiting for hot water,
standing before the shower, brushing my teeth
naked in front of the bathroom mirror,
Josh and Sammie surprise me
in the quiet time. Josh says,
You didn't flush.

You're catching them, too,
wakers in ever and always,
in their ready wonder instantly accessible
amid dim lights of early rising.
Grandma's house.
Where's Grandpa and what's he doing?
At one's best, only glimpsed
a kind of entertainment for adults,
and worse, for professional trainers.
The child's too much, always subversive.

Overnight at Grandpa's.

Carrying backpacks into the kitchen,
dressing on the cold floor
during the making of oatmeal.

Sammie goes back upstairs
and gets in bed with Grandma.

Josh rides with me to get my mother
where she sits alone in the cafeteria
held by the chair with rails,
bib catching fallen egg in her lap.
"Look who's with me, Mama,"
I say, sprinkling a bit of salt
on her food, taking her fork,
feeding her. Josh watches.
He crosses around the table,
gives Grandma Great a kiss.

The child understands all.
We each take one of mother's hands.
We walk her to the car
where each of us buckles up.
We're traveling this morning
surrounded by sunlight, walking by feel
into pathways of music,
each of us protected
by what we cannot see or know.

Jim Bodeen
17-20 October 2010

To heavens of no guarantees
my friend sends liquidity
Investments in eternity.

Jim Bodeen
16 October 2010


La tarea está cumplida.

No sé, cual libros los mineros llevaron a la mina,
pero yo sé las ultimas palabras de La Oda A La Esperanza
por el gran poeta chileno Pablo Neruda, las olas diciendo
a los hombres luchando y esperando, todo será cumplido.

Jim Bodeen
14 de octubre 2010



He's the one who fainted
at the last meeting
when the program started.

Don't faint in a room full of nurses.

The ambulance is on its way.

I'd just come from surgery.
Still full of anesthesia.
The nurse with M.S. sat next to us.

Three days after I told my husband
I had M.S. he left for good.

I was writing in my notebook
when my head hit the table.

Jim Bodeen
13 October 2010


One million more women than men
between the ages of 20 and 40.
Winning the diagnosis feels like victory.
Women will be dismissed by doctors.

Slides of the brain. Plaque and white spots.
Multiple lesions and scars.
T-Cells are players migrating to the brain
and making mistakes, attacking the self.

Th1 and Th2 cells. Helper subsets.
Th1 produce inflammation. Th2 reduce inflammation.
Chemical messengers fuel Th1 response.
The vacuum cleaner of the immune system?

The immune cells learn to make mistakes.
That imprint looks like myelin, gets excited,
builds an arm. Memory T-Cells propagate attacks.
Electricity gets degraded. Axonal injury

strips and cuts myelin. Myelin's
a living cell, the protective covering
of axons—wire-like nerve fibers.
Oligodendrocytes protecting axons,

can get sick and hold onto itself, aimed
instead at attacking external myelin.
Self, non-self. Quiets the messenger.
Clinically silent attacking their own.

Blood-brain barrier. Science can create M.S.
in animals. Tendency to create Th2 cells.
Memory cells go into lymph nodes.
Ampyra keeps electrical charge higher.

Innate immune response has no memory.
Adaptive immune response contains memory.
Interrupt the chain of events.
Prevent damaging cells from entering.

How do you teach that new cell
to do what you did at three years of age?
How do we tell that new cell what to grow into?
Vitamin D. Protect axons. Remyelinate.

Jim Bodeen
19 May 2010—14 October 2010



That's the combination
of my lock at the YMCA.

All three of my kids worked here.
Twin daughters—Y life guards,

swim teachers. I've had the same
lock for 25 years. Lost it once.

Found it later. Couldn't remember
the combination. It was in there,

though, where memories keep.
It came back while swimming.

Swimming with my kids.
Remembering combinations.

I swim now for new cells.
And new cell memory.

Jim Bodeen
13 October 2010


Dark Pinots for jelly hide
under great green leaves I prune

back for the girls. Kate's buckled
with my belt and holstered cutters,

belt wound twice around her waist.
Dee has three fingers in one cotton

glove finger, walking railroad ties
in exclamatory repetition:

There's one, Papa!
Here's another. There's more, grapes!

Grandpa time. Both girls
drawn to raised rose beds

digging for worms and insects.
Mother and grandma in the kitchen.

Working joy for children.
Here's another one, Papa.

A grasshopper! No way to tell anyone
about dog poop buried in the roses.

Keep your fingers out of your mouths.
Don't eat any more grapes.

When you go inside,
Wash those hands with soap.

Jim Bodeen
13 October 2010


Nothing perfect about this life
except this life. We go
the distance we're given.

Rest is part of the work.

Jim Bodeen
12 October 2010

Of course we're children
We couldn't do this another way
Taxi, Taxes, Task us

Jim Bodeen
12 October 2010


Walking 15th Ave with grandkids
Five and three, pulling red wagon
remembering childhood

theirs, not mine
a kind of conquest
not for punishment or exile

Roll down hill of grass
Mount this horse of old tires
Gold fish dead and gone

Walk around this block
with Josh at 2, Sammie
holding wagon's handle

Outgrown toys, whistles
still calling for adventure
which way to go

De-fused words inspire
Sun-rust October roses
altar-time de-fused

Jim Bodeen
11 October 2010


Walking with poets
Wild ponies, talking, grazing
Counting syllables

What I've won
also a response

What I've been given
Losing as part

of daily practice
10, 10, 10

Walking crop trail
Sweet gums line Naches Ave
Poor children's police

Not a bad thing
living without the charged word
Walk what is strange

Jim Bodeen
10. 10. 10


In the seventh year the word
disappeared. The way,
which had been a harvest
for the listening ear,
quit speaking to him.
He was not ready to go inside.
He planted two sweet gum trees.

Jim Bodeen
9 October 2010



Neighborhood kids help me lift the fallen limb from the car. Impressive, a good 20-feet long, diameter of five inches where it cracked and fell, cushioned by lower limbs, onto the roof and hood of the car. The fallen limb falls as what it was, a tree branch. The neighborhood shows up and drives by, my neighbor, who lost her husband, my friend of 30 years. The neighbor with cancer undergoing chemo, the neighbor who complained when I left water running all night. The hood of the old Subaru has several new punchouts that will never see an autobody repair shop, but that's the extent of the damage to the car. But what about the Sweet Gum Tree? What's going on up there? Up high, what's going on. How's our old tree doing?

Sweet Gum limbs easily give to the hand saw. Trees make flooring too. I'm working on all this, inside/outside when the pickup pulls up. It's the young arborist from six years ago. You're the same one. I look at my neighbors. This tree, and this young man. We talked six years ago under this tree. We talked Coltrane, jazz, structure and God. We talked family. Conversation doesn't get better than the one we had. I'm lecturing. I know that. Tell me what's going on.

"Career track. Three years. I was dying. I'm back in trees."

He asks if he can carry away the branches and the fallen limb. Only if you'll come back and talk. Only if we can talk like we did about God and music and trees. Only if you'll do that. Say that again about the wind and pathways through a tree.

And how do you remember this conversation? Am I accurate in my memory? Am I talking truth?

I tell the neighbors again. This is what's possible between strangers knocking on the door.

I've not seen you, I say, in six years. I was working on this poem when you knocked on the door. You became part of that poem. You never knew. The poem couldn't have happened without you. I'll look for it. No one has ever seen it. It's somewhere in the computer. I'll find it before you come back.

You can only go up that tree for pay. As the arborist you are.

This tree is part of this house. The tree before I planted a tree. The tree after I took trees out. The tree that greeted my children as they were born. That my children climbed watching me roof the house after my father died. This tree. This house. Thirty-eight years in this house. This tree, estimated at 80 years, planted in the early days of the house itself, when the neighborhood was new, a Catholic working class neighborhood built around St. Paul's Cathedral Church.

Karen and I have been in this house for 38 years. We were 27 years old when we moved in during the late summer of 1972. Figure that out. It was the first house we looked at. Big trees outside. The railing upstairs on the inside. It cost less than a new car. Today, it's still not paid off. College loans. Travel. Daily life.

The Sweet Gum Tree is on the parking strip on 15th Avenue. We live on the corner of 15th Avenue and Bell Avenue. When we moved in, still kids ourselves, it was just a tree. We had a row of maple trees on Bell Avenue at that time, and I thought it was a maple. Our daughters weren't born yet, and our son was a year out of diapers. There were lower limbs they would be able to reach as they grew into them. This became the tree they learned to climb in. City workers and citizen complaints would take those lower limbs as the tree grew, as we grew into our lives. As the tree grew, along with our children, it became inaccessible to climbing, except by professionals, and professionals found it. We learned enough to have the pros shape the tree, never letting butchers in, and the tree became part of the neighborhood's beauty.

The tree had a split trunk, and we'd had those trunks belted about 50-feet up so that trunks held, and worked together. That's one of the things the young arborist taught me six years ago. The arborists found this tree. They loved it. One who lived nearby at the time, Charles, would talk with me about the urban forest, and its decay in our city. He would sometimes ask to climb it and look around. He'd strap on his belt and ropes. Charles was a pro. Careful. One year, before we knew better, early in our marriage, we had cowboys roped up and swinging from limb to limb with roaring chainsaws swinging from our big trees. That was enough. Charles knew about cowboys. He would take out dangerous limbs during winter freezes. He didn't take chances, but he spoke as a prophet for the Sweet Gum Tree. Don't let City Hall take that tree. Don't let them take it to save the sidewalk, either. Let the roots take out the sidewalk. When roots raise the street they make a speed bump. That was Charles' message.

The Sweet Gum Tree arcing over 15th Avenue. The Sweet Gum shading our front yard in hot Yakima summers. Sweet Gum cooling our old house. Raking the leaves in Fall. Learning to bag them for composting, turning them into harvest, food for flowers. Sweetgum, also known as redgum, star-leaved gum, alligator-wood and gumtree. Five-star leaves, clothlike in summer and brilliantly orange and purple in Fall. And the woody, spiny, ball-like fruit for birds, maturing over winter, dropping on the lawn in spring dulling lawnmower blades. Yes, field guides say that pioneers peeled the bark and scraped the resin for chewing gum.

In the summer when the Second Iraq War was just beginning, I was working on a poem, listening to John Coltrane when the doorbell rang. It was the young arborist. The one who pulled up just now. He wanted to take a look. He did. We gave him some work. He did a fine job cleaning out the tree. He talked about creating pathways for wind through trees. He said those two trunks would work together. He talked spirit. I talked Coltrane. An artist friend had just given me his large, epic painting of Coltrane before returning to the South. Coltrane on canvas. Full of gold paint. Coltrane as pure color. All spirit. Another friend had just given me the Complete Atlantic Recordings of Coltrane. Seven Discs. The young arborist didn't know he had become an important part of that poem, becoming part of my life. No one ever saw that poem. Here he was again, six years later to the day, showing up to look at that tree again, minutes after the kids and I had lifted that limb off from the top of my car.

Here's that poem:


Lift the music into your own life.
Reggie Workman says
I used to follow John like you would follow the sun.
I'm listening, sitting with dogs.
How can I be alone?
The clarinetist Don Byrun talks musicians.
Lift the music into your own life
If a cat is taking risks at a moment,
years later you can still hear the edge of it.
I'm looking at gold paint Rex put everywhere
in Coltrane's shirt, into the saxophone itself.
Four song titles criss-cross
their way through four bronze portraits of Trane.
The seeker is always alone.
Rex knew he was going back to Arkansas
when he gave me this painting.

The tree pruner knocks on my door.
We talk about the Sweet Gum Tree
overlooking the Garden Room in the front yard.
Stems blow out of phase in old trees like this.
Blowing in and rebounding,
instances of giant limbs pulling apart
under strong forces are rare.
Support at the extremeties moves them
where they want to move.
Do you know Coltrane, I ask.
Coltrane follows the line to see what it will bear.
He adds drummers and saxophones,
as well as bells, to be limbs and branches,
to see what will happen in wind.
You turn those trees into music.
I need to be in wind. When I'm in a tree
I'm searching those underlying principles
the bones underneath it all. The pruner
knows the story knowing other music.
I grew up in a house with no rules.
Vibrations and harmonies
cross-platforms to growing things.
I know the language of jazz and trees.

Eric Nissensen writes ascension
before the end of jazz before this:
Baseball, Jesus Seminar, textual criticism.
Three sources and the truth will set us free.
No compromises. The conversation
Coltrane would have chosen to have.
The one no one asked for.
Criticism as trance. The way Hugh Kenner
helped us with Pound. Or Taylor Branch with King.
An era as much as a man.
For the poet, the poem is already an artifact.

Write what you know and then write above that.
Starting every morning with Coltrane.
Work brings el duende against our will.
Credulity is in short supply.
Nissensen's careful word on Jarrett and Marsalis.
What he says about Miles:
He never got over losing John.
I write my son about Hendrix.
Nothing could have prepared us for Bush the Younger.
Coltrane wouldn't recognize anger as anger.
Anger wouldn't make any sense to him.

Jim Bodeen
Oct 1-13, 2004—October 2-8, 2010

Tree falls from the sky
Not arriving as a spear
Slow down, Grandfather

Jim Bodeen
5 October 2010