A room with a wall of mirrors
Steel chair with leather cushions
Open bottles of Wild Root Hair Tonic
A chair held by air, released to fall by the man in a white apron
stepping on the lever with his foot, unseen by the boy
The chair bigger than the boy, rising and falling and turning
A second mirror, smaller, hand-held,
giving the boy eyes in the back of his head

Jim Bodeen
30 November 2010


The long curve on the highway turning North
brings the lights of the Aurora Borealis
across Canada, and Mom says,
Look, Wayne, light from the North Pole.
Dad keeps the road from disappearing
in whiteouts coming from wind gusts
and gaps in fencing. The heater
from the 51 Plymouth whines
and can't keep ice from forming
while windows fog, our hands
constantly wiping them to maintain
contact with road and stars.

Northern Great Plains highways
and snow banks are my inheritance.
Peterson's lived in Flaxton with five boys,
all gone now, as is the town.
Bowbells absorbed their children
when schools closed. We left,
early in the 50s, exiled before the diaspora
swung into high gear. Out west,
where I became my mother's biographer,
we got news that my barber,
who cut my hair in the basement shop
below the bank, where I first breathed in
the heady tonics of lotions for men
with my grandpa, was driving drunk
in a whiteout coming from Flaxton,
around the same long curve
where my mother pointed out the Northern Lights.
He hit a semi truck attempting to pass.
Burke County, leading the nation in dying population.
This dark memory fills with starlight,
an early solstice gift for staying up, from early rising.

Jim Bodeen
30 November 2010


The cries came from the kitchen
where Mom sat with Dad,
his feet in pans of water heated on the stove,
his feet blue, steam rising to mix
with cigarette smoke streaming from his lungs.

Outside with my spotted pony
in the fenced yard, the big house
owned by Great Northern Railroad
rose Victorian, larger than the Lutheran Church
across the street where words came

indelible, flashing hues of blue light
through snow in North Dakota wind
sweeping down from the Canadian prairie.
The cries and words arriving to the boy
holding his haltered pony in winter wind.

Holding the pastor's words in mittened hands
cupped like a snow hut, I listened for the next scream
from my father. Jesus Christ, Lucille,
he would cry, linking my mother's name with Christ's.
Don't take the Lord's name in vain, the pastor said,

The call from God is clear, and you will know.
Father's cries cursed God, the pastor said.
In the North Dakota kitchen where Mom and I
listened to ball games on the radio,
Dad's cries were prayers. I knew that

standing in snow. I knew what that meant.
Jesus was in the kitchen. I would pray
like my father taught me. God wouldn't blink.
I would carry the lie as my great truth.
Praying in snow, my pony's nostrils flared.

Jim Bodeen
29 November 2010


A dark country road, Mom,
you're right. We're in Moxee.
Krista lives here, that's right.
Those poles are for growing hops.

They do look like skeletons.
We did have just about everybody,
the whole family. Not quite, just about. 
Who wasn't there? Who did you say?

Dad wasn't there. Wayne.
Were you thinking of Dad tonight?
He was there for a little while.
Yes he was, Mom. Yes he was.

Jim Bodeen
28 November 2010



Is it more difficult to begin now?
To be beginner? Beginning again,
principiante? I don't know the answer to that,
ascending and descending each day.

Accessible River. El Río Secreto. Secret River.

¿No es secreto? ¿Es broma? No.

That Jesus is one of many Christs.
Yes. There have always been those like Jesus.
Yes. Mary. Most of them women.
All times and places.
Jesús y muchas Jesusitas.

¿Que piensa Dios?
¿Y Jesús también?

No tengo aceso de mente de Dios.
Pero, no creo que Dios es celoso.
Creo que Dios no dice mucho. Jesús tampoco.
Posiblemente, Ojalá.

Do you know the bodis? The bodhisattvas?

They are numberless. Too many to name.

Jim Bodeen
17 de noviembre, Mérida  26 November, Yakima


On my back in the Caribbean,
weightless, I look to my left and see
what looks like a little boat floating nearby
and say to myself, That looks like my notebook
bobbing on that wave, my little composition book.

It is my Little Composition Book.
It swam right out of my swim suit pocket.
Lifting it from water I wonder what words
got wet, what happens to ink in salt water.

The Seventh Mayan Prophecy says now we will learn
we are part of the same organism. This will be a galactic spring.
No more moral values that change with the season,
no more poverty. Here the source of fresh water
is an underground doorway to the underworld
through porous limestone. Look down
into the mouth of the well, where you can see our people
fleeing the violence of the North.
the underside of Karen's knees, unknotting tissue
formed over decades of our walk,
hotel oils warmed into her skin show me again
places where we have been together.

Palm leaves that braid my hat came from fingers,
women splitting and braiding leaves in caves
combining heat and humidity, smooth and silky
the hat able to pass through my wedding ring
when rolled. In this world, victorious athletes
earn the sacrifice of their bodies. Owl
sent to other worlds, lost and beheaded
becomes the moon in a night sky.

Nuestros poemas no cuentan mucho,
pero como vivimos como poetas
cuentan mucho, porque usamos palabras
viviendo como poetas.

Our poems don't matter much,
but how we live as poets
matters a great deal.

We use words as poets.
Not greatly travelled, but travelled greatly,
looking into things.

If you had a chance to walk free would you walk?

All slaves embrace the responsibility to be free
given the opportunity. But the kind of freedom
I choose makes a difference. I am also freed
in my choiceand freedom remains here,
even with those who aren't free.

Cenote Chihuan. Sinkhole.
Dezonot the Mayan word, enigmatic magic,
source of fresh water, underground.
The beach is a beginning point for the world to meet,
for looking into things, digging for broken shells.
Obedezca las señales.
Obey the signs.

Jim Bodeen
15 de noviembre Mérida, Yucatan /
26 November 2010, Yakima, Washington
Thanksgiving/Día de Gracia



It's just after sunrise and I'm the only one on the Mayan beach. The water is warm. It holds me, and holds me afloat. I swim some and lay on my back in the water. I turn over when I want to float on my stomach--sea like a water bed. Waves wash over me. In between, for as long as I can remain in-between, where poems come from, that world. I'm suspended in sea water, alone.

The walk from the water to my sun-covered lounge on the beach is less than 50 yards. I remind myself, You've just walked out of the Caribbean Sea. Two cushioned lounge chairs rest on a raised platform above the sand. Four round pillars hold a simple thatched roof, and four white sheets tied around the poles create the effect of an open-air bedroom. A wooden floor holds books, purses, and sodas. An ice bucket. Yesterday, I suggested to Karen that we could un-tie the sheets and enclose ourselves in a kind of light-filled bedroom on the beach and make love. She said, I suppose it could be done. It's kind of like the bedroom for child emperors in Chinese movies, I say.

This morning I have brought two coffees in styrofoam cups and my book, La Isla Bajo el Mar, by Isabel Allende. She knows men and how dumb we are She still likes us. I'm drying off from my swim. I'm thinking about the 10,000 things, dreaming and drifting. Already too blitzed by salt and sun and waves to read. The coffee's good. It's all good here, waiting for Karen to come down to the beach before breakfast.

But it's not Karen who comes. Four Chinese men in business suits appear on the beach with their cameras and black leather shoes. Like they've just gotten off the plane. Two of them have their video cameras on the ocean, holding steady. They're filming the Caribbean Sea, shouting to one another, laughing. One of them turns in my direction and points, saying something to his companions. He walks straight towards me while gesturing to his friends.

He steps onto my bedroom office and says something in Chinese. I nod. He picks up my backpack seated on Karen's lounge chair and sets it on the floor between us, and loosens his tie. He swings his legs around towards mine, collapsing the space between us, and nods, taking out a pack of cigarettes, offering me one. I decline the offer with my hands. He says something else as he lights his cigarette. Good morning, and Buenos Dias get me nowhere.

Han Shan, I say to him, Han Shan.

Again he offers me cigarettes. I decline again, repeating my gesture, and my greeting, Han Shan, I say. Han Shan.

He takes out his camera and calls for his friends. They're on their way. When they arrive, standing outside my little hermitage, they say something to their friend and look at me. Han Shan, I say to them. They seem indifferent to my cultural literacy. We're going to take pictures.

It's not easy to get to Cold Mountain, I say to myself. Han Shan, these poems are written in sand.

My guest picks up the other cup of coffee in his hands, as if warming them. Karen's coffee. He motions for me to pick up my cup. We're holding coffee in styrofoam cups. He puts his arm around me, and I put my arm aound him. We look at each other before the cameras. Han Shan I say, smiling, as the digital cameras take one more and then one more. I have nothing to give him and nothing else to say to try and bridge the gap that he has already bridged. I feel inadequate to the moment, even as I realize that I am only a prop. I remember I'm wearing my Panama hat that I bought at the market in Mérida. I take if off, and put it on his head. Finally, I'm communicating. OK, he says, aloud in the language we all understand. OK, OK, OK, he says, his voice celebrating the moment, calling again for the cameras. His friends, too, appear to be as pleased as he is, bringing forward their cameras as we pose before the story can be told later. Now we're taking pictures.

Han Shan, I say. Han Shan.

Jim Bodeen
18 de noviembre--24 November 2010

Getting off the boat, men ask, "Where are we?"


Bish a tan
Matin a ta catan
U yu tan
Yucca tan

Jim Bodeen
16 de noviembre 2010



They wear t-shirts with words--
Basta de hechos--Queremos palabras--
Enough of your good deeds and information--
We want words!
Queremos palabras.
And they spray-paint garbage cans
with words that make the gangstas appear
as children of an innocent world.
They are ascendant, though, not cherubs,
asking tough questions with fresh mischievous smiles.
Their questions like Neruda's Book of Questions,
written surreally on columns of paper the size of trees unfolding
beneath the cathedral of sky.
God, they are beautiful! In their visions may they inhabit our bodies,
so we might be confused into growing diversely
in one grand imitation of their fresh word in the street.

Jim Bodeen
23 November 2010


Mi padre se llama Emmanuel
Dios con nosotros
Sí, Sí, Sí,
Dios con nosotros

Jim Bodeen
16 November 2010

Berries from shade grown trees
Warm salt sea floats back stroke
White bike wheeling light

Coconut buoys
Toes in coral sand
Waking with Karen


On smallest keyboard
Karen types with her two thumbs
Haiku from Grandma

Jim Bodeen
13 November 2010


42 years of marriage
15,340 days--

Add 1460 days of knowing
before the ceremony

16,880 days of knowing Karen

19 years old when we met

6,935 days BK
Before Karen
Some of those days have been recorded by others
I was not conscious

Jim Bodeen
23 November 2010

Poets leave campfire circles
knowing something else
is out there looking for them.

They must listen for this thing
that can't be seen. Not a time
for the queasy. Trust the voice
that says, "If you're going to be
funny, make me laugh."

Jim Bodeen
December 2010



En la antigüedad, los mayas llamaban al matrimonio Kamnikte, que significa "el recibo de la flor." / In the old times the Mayans called marriage Kamnikte, which means "the receiving of the flower." La Bendicion maya

Corn exchange in the land of corn, golden,
filled with light and beauty. Two lovers in the light,
are light. In sunshine, they are sunshine,
and in sunshine they bring what they have become
in the long nurturing: corn's beauty.

The taxi stops at the market for fresh tortillas.
Corn and corn tortillas.
The people in the land of corn.
Giving corn to his bride he becomes the husband.
Giving corn tortillas to her husband she becomes the wife.
In the exchange of corn they become corn over time.
Corn becoming corn.
Each one seated before them at table
plays this out at the wedding meal,
bride and groom exchanging corn
in the becoming of the corn.

All watch husband and bride, participating in ancient ceremony.
All follow the corn to the eyes of husband and bride in the sun spell.
All hands at all tables follow the exchange of the corn
creating them in their becoming.
All gathered here becoming corn, golden, light-filled,
forms of beauty mirrored by this food come from the land,
arrived from this first harvest, ritual meal of the great beginning.

All gather in the Municipality of Solidarity, Quintana Roo.
Each one anointed, witness to many cycles circling.

Jim Bodeen
12-21 November 2010


Etched in sunshine and sand

For now,
For the remainder,
For all was and is

Jim Bodeen
12 November 2010



--for Kelli and Tyler

The wedding on the Mayan beach
brings together marriage and marriages.
News says it's dying out,
but you can't tell it by us
dressed in color
standing shoeless in sand.
Or those trying to get in.
This one marriage, minutes old.
Ours, 15,329 days.
The priest's question from 40 years ago:
When does marriage begin?
The Stage Manager asking,
Do I believe in it?
The marriage that isn't here--
more present than the ones that are.
That's not true either,
but that one standing before us
in its great absence, that shortest of marriages,
the one with the miracle birth,
that one, that's true, that's here.

Jim Bodeen
20 November 2010


Laugh even when you don't feel it
is what he says. It sounded so stupid.
I went into the bathroom and cried.
Couldn't do it. No laughter from me.
When I told my wife
I laughed until tears came.
I felt so dumb. It felt so good.

Jim Bodeen
9 November 2010



Glass in the alley, my alley
Back up and take a look
Too many broken beer bottles
Glass shards turn me around

Grafitti, Ramón, and Javier--not theirs mind you--
None of this work theirs--be clear on that

I'm in a gang but this isn't from a gang,
Ramón tells me. There's no sign.
They had a girl, Solita. See that?
Pointing. That garage door, there--signed.
See the Sureños?

I write songs.
You don't write songs with that bandage.
That's funny.
I'd like to see your songs. Do you write poems?
You want to write poems--songs, with me?

I want to paint that wall. That ain't right. It makes me mad.
Those guys had no right to do this.
Javier wants to paint this for you.
This is my community too, Javier says.
Javier--my neighbor--we have each other's back.
Backs of artists and writers.

What's up with this bandage?
I got hurt.
I see that. What happened?
I hit a wall. It hurts.
It looks like it.
I was mad.
Tell me about the anger.
I hit a wall.
It looks like it.
I put out my hand.
He give me his, still looking in my eyes.
My fingers feel the soft flesh
that never grew into fingers.
The guy was making fun of my burns.
Tell me about the burns.

I was six.
I was in this garage with another kid.
He poured gasoline and lit it.
I couldn't get out.
I had to run through fire.
I was on fire running through broken glass.
When I woke up I was in Harborview in Seattle.
I was there for months.
When I got out my Mom
had been sent back. No papers.
I was in foster then.

Yeah, I was born here.
Schools? Oh, I went to lots of them.
Seven, including Juvie.

We'll paint that wall. Javier says we'll paint that wall.

Multiple voices from my neighbors in the alley. Good kids in gangs. Gangs gone bad. Bad things. Bad things going on. But Javier. I can holler out to him in summertime from my bed. Turn it down a bit. OK, Jim, Always the accompanying apology. Politeness and manners. No estamos mal educado. Javier's place. The small rental beside our house. Alley entrance. I'm a recluse. Javier, the artist. Javier who put one poem on the Poetry Pole. Is that the original, I'd asked him. Always make a copy, keep the original, I'd said. giving him copies I'd made. "I belong to this community too." "I'm a recluse." "Jim, this is my P.O." "Jim, can we borrow some charcoal starter?" The one-way book exchange. Poems, Chicano literature. "What did you do with my poem? Do you still have my poem?" in crossings, saying good morning. Crossing. Passing.

This kind of relationship for two years. Always touching and skirting the real. The real right there, below the surface.

And now Ramón with this bandaged hand and the hand that never quite arrived in the world. Ramón with the burns and the seven schools in foster with mother gone writing songs--but not writing songs now. Ramón forgetting himself looking into my eyes and offering his hand the way it arrived from his mother's womb. Ramón who walks through fire.

Just a minute, I say, I'll be right back.

I'm not looking for a paint brush. Not yet.

Luis J. Rodríguez' poem, The Calling, is always close in Xeroxed copies. I can reach for it like I reach for my toothbrush in the morning.

The calling came to me
while I languished
in my room, while I
whittled away my youth
in jail cells
and damp barrio fields.

I carry the poem like I carry my wallet, close to my body, back pocket.

It brought me to life,
out of captivity,
in a street-scarred
and tattooed place
I called body.

Here it is again, laid out on a green plastic garbage dumpster in the alley I've known for 38 years in this neighborhood. Chest high dumpster, my kind of altar.

A few poems alongside The Calling, including a half-page from an unpublished manuscript by my friend Inés Hernández, her "Alchemy of Erasure." Somos tan invisibles que somos visibles. Parece que es un contradicción, pero no lo es. When a woman has to be made invisible, it is because she is powerful and her presence reverberates, touching everything in its path.

Shadowlands. Right here. Common neighborhood. The commons. Where I've been given a life.

My young neighbors. Naked honesty coupled with an equally fierce guardedness promising to look at things later. Ramón's hands that can neither hold a paint brush nor write songs. We'll get the paint. And they do.

Then it came.
The calling.
It brought me out of my room.

When we arrive. Cuano llegamos. We never arrive. We're always getting there.

Jim Bodeen
2 November--10 November 2010
A Common Neighborhood



Looking at your photos,
all of the primary colors
of Mexico enter the faces
of those who travel with you.
Color in our cheeks returns.
You make a joy market
on the kitchen table
for grandchildren. The dog,
who's been walking stairs
of sadness like Dante
for three weeks, whacks
her tail so hard seeing you,
she opens a wound,
throwing blood on every wall in the house,
creating a crime scene of happiness.
Your breathing at night,
what I missed most, returns.
Your life sustaining mine and ours,
too great to ask for,
too great to see, before us,
two jumping pups.

Jim Bodeen
9 November 2010


--for Barry at 64

The point is to make intimate contact with the real world, the real self. The sacred is that which  takes us out of our little selves into the whole mountains-and-rivers mandala universe...nature is not a place to visit, it is home.  --Gary Snyder

Snyder permits a peek.
A glimpse.
How come it takes so long? in Turtle Island.
His head in his hands in New Yorker.
With Harrison, looking into brushlands alongside freeway.
With Harrison tramping off trail,
Maybe I've had too many mountains.

Saying grace, always good.
Grace of some kind.
For this coffee. This morning.
The many hands that brought us here.

Jim Bodeen
8 November 2010


--for kjm

O God of Baseball and Poetry,
grant me the poem that arrives easy,
over the plate, offering itself
to the fat part of the bat
allowing other poets to make contact
and say forbidden things
unsayable in ordinary discourse.
Let me be witness and participant
in the outrage. Let me throw
pitch after pitch enabling chaos.

Jim Bodeen
8 November 2010


Your imagination's in that other place,
Be the image in the clearing.

Jim Bodeen
7 November 2010


Watering young Sweet Gums
with a bucket on a Saturday afternoon
in November, Wilma comes around
the corner in her walker--walking

in the street. "I'm not supposed
to be out," she says. "My son
doesn't want me out." I ask
a few questions. We talk around.

Her son's working. "Don't tell him
I told you," she says. We talk
about other things. I can't tell
from our talk what going on.

This common block.
Neighbors of wonder. Wilma's tears.
She didn't want her son to go to the Marines.
and he didn't go, didn't lose the weight. Wilma,

the woman who takes you shopping,
have you told her? Good. And the woman
from social and health services? Good.
You have to tell us what's happening.

No, I won't tell your son, but you must.
You must keep telling us, though.
I don't like you walking in streets either.
I'll knock on your door if you don't walk by my house.

Jim Bodeen
6 November 2010


Waiting is waiting.
Waiting for Karen.
Waiting and walking.

Where ever we go.
It doesn't matter who stays.
The dog walks the stairs at night
looking for you. I can't hear you
sleeping from here. The quiet narrator
starts with colored thread
turning back the clock before she leaves.
Time confuses me like police dramas
on tv. Waiting is waiting.
I can't keep up with plots
and stare at an empty screen.
Let me find a way to serve you
while you're not here.
Being your cheerleader
helps when you are gone.
Whose life am I breathing into?
I don't want to tell you how many times
I've cleaned toilets. One can enjoy
oneself, it's true. I have, and I've tried.
Too much of me is you.
Too much of what works in me is you.
And even though I walk with you
in the markets looking at what's been made
by artists' hands, my imagination and empathy fail,
or show me what's not here after 45 years of knowing.
It's always your hands on the loom.

Part of walking is not knowing.
The white bowl sparkles.
Come home, now.
Show me your pictures.
Tell me what it's like.
Part of walking is not walking.

Jim Bodeen
7 November 2010


It was still during my first winter as Two Dog.
Sister Sadie Sadie came to us in that year of heavy snows.
I didn't learn as fast as she grew.
Lacy Dreamwalker didn't like me giving her attention.
Still, I didn't think of giving her up for adoption
until after the first year. Sister Sadie Sadie.
She kept jumping the back gate.
I had to have a custom one made.
It snowed the day I put it on, and carrying in groceries
Sadie jumped in her joy and I slammed
my little finger against upstairs steps, smashing it.
Lost the fingernail. Still not right.
That same day she jumped for Karen's red fingernail polish
on the dresser. Chewed the top off
working that polish into the carpet by the bedroom door.
Sadie had eyes for things besides frisbees.
Dreamwalker wouldn't let her in the pickup
after we'd go to the park, and I had to get
a Jeep to carry the three of us. It still didn't work,
even with that Jeep. Sadie wouldn't work,
wanted to play. Dreamwalker jealous.
And, as Two Dog, well, I was a joke.

Around this time I first called Lisa,
to start adoption proceedings.
She told me what I had to do.
The day we set out to say goodbye
we ended up in the Lower Valley
where a man trains hunting dogs.
I told this trainer of champions,
"She doesn't have to be like Dreamwalker,
but I want her to get the ball, and kennel
when I say, Kennel. I want a spirit companion
to go with Lacy Dreamwalker and some respect
for my name, which is Two Dog, which was given to me
by the one beyond us who gives us our names."

When he didn't laugh I said he could keep her for one month.
He said, "You have to stay away until I call." I said,
"I don't want a hunting dog," and we shook hands.
He was good that trainer. And Sadie was still Sadie.
It's never been the way it's supposed to be.
I must have called Lisa three or four more times.
I'd call and say, Lisa, you still got a home for this dog?
We're coming out. I'd tell Karen where we were going,
and then we'd come back from the park
and I'd call Lisa to tell her we didn't make it.
We wouldn't come home until after Karen left
to run errands.
                         We lost Lacy Dreamwalker
to cancer. She went after the frisbee right up
until her last day. She went down going up
for that frisbee. Right at ten years old.
Too early. Sadie turned eight last month.
She eats Senior Food like me.
She kennels like that trainer said she would,
but she never grew up. 80 pounds of Black Lab pup.
Sleeps in my chair more than I do.
Scares grandkids with her kisses.
Not a trained bone in her body.
She was just good enough and so was I.
Both of us, just barely. She does a hell of a lot
more for me than I ever did for her.

JIm Bodeen
1-6 November 2010