This is my life
This is not my life

Rained off one mountain
Drive home to another one

Dried out my tent
All dry on the inside

Spring and all
Garden popping

Snow and Bachelor Buttons
out my window, skis waxed

Jim Bodeen
1 April 2011


Big rain on the mothership
all night, hammering the snowpack.
Snow bombs fall from great firs
bouncing off the cloud roof
and tent in random bursts.

Winter Solstice to Spring Equinox.
My old friend, the Lutheran pastor,
Harald Sigmar, wakes without Ethel
for the first time in 60 years.
He summons what's left of a howl.

Time to break camp. The mountain
that makes me strong, puts me to sleep.
Wonder of it, walking. Waking on skis.
Sleeping, dreaming, and his great beyonds.
Story of my old friend. Time and custom

shattered before the unseen new.
So quiet in High Forest Camp.
The unwritten poem surrounds the page.
Beyond sanity and reason and religion.
His big book between us rising.

Jim Bodeen
30 March 2011
High Forest Camp


Overflowing with people
Just the right number of beds.

Jim Bodeen
29 March 2011



"He crossed the border at Portal,
and ended up on our doorstep,
and Mama always gave him something,
a sandwich or a piece of bread,"

Mom told me, and that's how
the word itinerant came into my life
when I was a child, born
into North Dakota extremes

looking out the car window
for Northern Lights.
Itinerant labor. Traveling workers
during the Great Depression. Slowly

collecting what the word held as I grew.
The Great Depression no longer defined
the word. No fixed home. From late 16th Century,
from the verb itinerari, from Latin,

itiner--journey, road. With types--
drifters, rogues, rovers, vagabonds, vagrants.
Including perpetual travelers,
including illegal aliens, migrants

nomads--including hunter-gatherers
and gypsies. Hobos, including tramps,
bums, derelicts, refugees and displaced persons.
Including street people, street children,

paupers, squatters, waifs, schnorrers,
and world citizens. Throughout history
and today: Freight Train Riders of America,
Romani, uncontacted peoples. Afar

people in Horn of Africa, Bajau of Philippines,
Banjara of India, Bedouin desert people,
Beja of North Africa, Bushmen of Southern Africa,
Dorn people in North Africa,

 Eurasian nomads of Eurasian Steppe,
Ghilzai in South-Central Asia,
Indigenous Australians,
Indigenous Norwegian Travellers

of the Americas, Irish Travellers,
Kuchi people of Afghanistan,
Nomads of India, Pygmy peoples in Equatorial Africa,
Quinqui in northern Spain,

Scottish Travellers, Yeniche people of Europe,
Carnies, Hippies, Jossers,
Kobzari--musicians of Ukraine,
Lighterman--bargees in England,

Peredvizhinki--realist artists of Russia,
Swagman, Circuit riders, Gyrovagues,
Bhikkus, Mendicants of Christianity,
Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism,

Pilgrims, and Sadhus. The notables:
Alexander Supertramp, Kinga Freespirit,
Albert Einstein, Democritus,
Diogenes of Sinope, Friedrich Nietzsche,

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mohandas Karamanchand Gandhi,
Paul Erdos, Guatama Buddha, Historical Jesus.
See Jack Keruoac. Because he asked me,
I said, Yes, I do identify with the word,

itinerant. Thank you. It was lunch time
and I was kindergarten teacher for a day,
filling in for my daughter, who was ill.
I was dressed up in slacks. And sitting in

with Christian ministers at a lunch meeting,
when asked. Yes, I think so. They're my people.
The Blind Girl, 1856, depicting two vagrants,
is a painting by John Everett Millais--

two sisters, a blind musician, concertina
on her lap, resting by road after a rainstorm,
travelling. An allegory of the senses,
blind and sighted, before a double rainbow.

A tortoise shell butterfly rests
on the blind girl's shawl. The sheet around
her neck, captioned. Pity the Blind.
Spared, chosen, never worthy, graced.

Jim Bodeen
March 28, 2011


Do you want to be on the mountain?
I ask my son when he gets up to pee.
I am on the mountain, the man says.
Husband, father, even grandpa's job--

keep stepping back. Don't lose courage.
Fragments of the story.
Fragments of the poem.
Cover-up and exposure in snow

Wind sweeps the mountain.
Old Man's Beard blows from fir
catching its green tail in its mouth
and wheels over snow, snow-bound,

life already over and done.
A fire for someone already lost.
Men and women surround the table
talking about the immigrant. One,

an acquaintance with a collar
from the mountain church years ago,
looks at me when I come in.
Jim, he says, when I introduce myself,

You look like a transcient.
Where have you been? I remember you
with the Mexicans, carrying poems.
But you? I thank him for his eyes.

Jim Bodeen
24 March 2011


Cut steps on snow.
Others join on us on the mountain.
The avalanche shovel
is the favorite toy of children.

Stronger than children, just their size,
and light enough to dig tunnels.
Karen walks to us on snowshoes
and our story returns. Off skis,

the child's work, too, is done.
Snow piles beyond their reach
asking for nothing in return,
a playing field in a short season.

Jim Bodeen
20 March 2011


--for Ethel and Pastor Harald Sigmar family

Will there be bunnies?
In Heaven? the granddaughter asks.
Bunnies feel our love when we hold them.
We feel theirs. I would guess so--all that is love

will be in Heaven. Nothing that isn't.
Heaven is only love where ever love is.
What do you think? My friend in the pulpit
talks about the darkness of Easter morning.

Theories of testimony and art
surface on skis. My dog wants to ride, too.
The mothership carries us. On the chairlift
I tell the grandson about the pastor

who knows his name, who took off his clothes
to show his Superman shirt, asking about Superheroes.
The grandson says,  Superman is real
because the fact is, I saw his picture

in the newspaper. The Sermon on the Mount
could be one of the Upanishads.
The spoon never knows the taste
of the soup, but the tongue does.

Juan Mascaro translates The Dhammapada,
John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila in his ear,
walking the Extremadura in ecstasy.
My friends, holy men all, poets

and collared, so many Bodhis.
Karen and Carole. And what of these children?
At my old friend's funeral,
the sermon coming from  Harvey Blomberg

who took me to Glide Memorial in the City
35 years ago, who showed me street people
singing Jesus' praise, saying this morning,
Those of Easter faith know

that nothing is packaged.
We don't have clean houses.
Ethel said, That's what candles are for.
That first Easter, dark and confused--

Women doing what they were told.
What to do--following rules.
And following rules, told that rules
don't exist anymore. Women, first to hear.

Jim Bodeen
19 March 2011


And so on days like these, we learn
what our friend carried those years,
determining her decisions
to walk with us, chin up, laughing,

Lang Amma, great grandmother
in Icelandic. The daughter talks.
"Mom never desired a clone,
or a child conforming."  No natural

border separating Saskatchewan
and Dakota--tight weave of rooted grass
holding against losses
on the day of remembering

on the mountain. A man skiing
with grandchildren. In the poorest
countries, families give their youngest
child to grandparents in old age

to keep them from loneliness.
The boy says, "Mama doesn't like
me to whistle. She says it hurts her throat."
He scoops a handful of snow

between his skis. It's hard to ski
the steeps and eat snow at the same time.
News reports from Japan, all bad.
49-year old Kyoko Nambu

stands on a hillside overlooking
her ruined town of Soma,
"Our house is gone, and now
they're telling us to stay indoors."

Some say that I must come down
from the mountain. Zev asks me again,
because I ask him, "What is a mountain?"
The Jewish poet writes me in response,

"Does the dirt inside a mountain
know how high up it is?
If you asked it, wouldn't it say,
'What on earth do you mean?'"

At night I play the song over and over.
Leonard Cohen's, The Traitor.
The dreamers ride against the men of action,
Oh see the men of action falling back.

Our century is not through with us yet.
The granddaughter looks down
at her skis, and across the terrain park
where snowboarders ride rails

somersaulting in snow. "Grandpa,"
she asks, "Are you
going to get me long skis?
Or can I get a snowboard?

Jim Bodeen
17 March 2011



Mom recovers. Rest, penicillin, sutures. From agitation and anxiety resulting from a urinary tract infection, from a fall. From a long night in ER when the previous 72 hours triggered the river-run spilling into delirium that took away her ability to reach us, as well as our ability to communicate with her. Walking with my mother is part of my life work. What my mother gives me in this walk is the blessed life.

Many years ago--more than 30--my friend David Lovins began talking with me about Arnie Mindell and the Dreambody--coma states, and the inner work the elderly do in their last days. Ideas reaching me as immediate, true, and practical. Ideas, too, that coincided with a series of family deaths where I had roles that brought Mindell's presence to the beds of the dying. I felt that my acquaintance with these ideas made a difference in my interactions with those making the crossing, as well as with family members, sometimes much closer in relationship to the dying than was I.

A decade or so later, 20 years ago, at my request, my friend and I renewed our discussion of Arnie Mindell's work, and this time I began reading his books and listening to tapes. We were hiking in the North Cascades and my own inner work--working with the self alone, also reached into the fabric of Mindell's work. In these years I also began seeing a Jungian therapist on a weekly basis. Our early work together led us into the dreamworld, and this soon became my primary focus of attention.

I carried one seminal idea of Mindell's Dreambody through this time: that elderly and dying people in comas states often do some of the most important inner work of their lives during their final days. These ideas took on a new urgency, and became one of my primary operating principles in daily living. It seemed a redeeming truth that arrives as immediately working and in play: observable and hopeful.

Dream studies became an education for me. My therapist opened up symbols in my own area of literature. I read words and events in new ways. My therapist, whom I called the waterman, gently chided me, too, saying that I was more interested in what dreams gave to the creative process and writing poems, than I was in my own personal growth. His point remains another sign post always on my map, if neither embraced or rejected outright.

Five years ago I walked through another door leading me closer to my mother that coincided with Mom moving to our community in Yakima. I became part of a team of people working with week-long workshops creating an Eldervillage in the retreat center of Holden Village in the Cascade Mountains. Mom moved into assisted living quarters, and later, into assisted living for those with Sundowner's Syndrome requiring locks on the doors. And finally, I spent four days with Arnie and Amy Mindell on the Oregon Coast, as a participant in dreaming, Dreambody, and deep democracy training. I slept in a tent on the ocean, calling it the dream canoe.

I bring this background to the daily work with my Mom. Arnie Mindell's work is as important to my relationship with Mom as is the love she receives from our family members, and the caregivers in assisted living who bathe her, dress her, and put her to bed at night. Arnie Mindell considers this work as making contact with the divine.

I am my mother's biographer, with her permission. I have been writing her story all of my life.

Arnie Mindell helps all of us on this journey to see the divine nature of the walk. During the past four years, Mindell's ideas, along with others trained in process work have been primary guides for me, as our family walks with Mom. We're talking here about deep listening, being present to those in coma states, and differing coma states at different times. Family members, not hospice workers.

Mom's life, her personality, her humor--and anger too-- remains available to me, partly because of Mindell. Mom's journey continues, her life's meaning--including her mission and ministry as one who walks and suffers with dementia, remains. She carries the disease and diagnosis. The Dreambody looks for her in other places. And finds her. Her toughness, and what she struggles to communicate is observable, and changes those present to her. Mother does the hard, frustrating work. Being close to her walk is one of the life-altering experiences of my life, adding to, and changing, her full story. Mom is the teacher. Mom as guide and muse. It is her ministry. She shows others. It remains my job to witness, and correct, the diagnosis where I can, where necessary.

Mom remains. We're walking through new doors.

Jim Bodeen
6 March--14 March 2011


In Memory of Ethel Sigmar

One day your oldest friend's wife dies.
They had been married longer than you've been alive.
You say her name and you hear her laugh.
When your friend laughs, you hear her laugh again.

It is like that with oldest friends.
They carry the threads of your life
that saved you. The very way she served
your coffee clarifies your vision

of all that distills itself in her.
She, too, was a subversive, as all teachers
are subversive. She used to scare
street kids with her presence.

She taught them penmanship,
and made them copy down sentences
from the board that would later
change their lives. She never

asked about their lives,
only about the way they made the letters
and held the pencil. That's what I carry,
that, and the way she laughed at all of us.

Jim Bodeen
13 March 2011

'WHAT IS A MOUNTAIN?' MY POET FRIEND ASKS AGAIN question to question, until we reach the stage where we question without questioning and without questioning we keep questioning. We keep questioning until we finally find an answer, until delusion comes to an end, until we can swallow the world, all its rivers and mountains, everything, but the world can't swallow us...--Bill Porter, Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits

It is with almost a shock that one recognizes
What supposedly one had known always:
That it is, in fact, a mountain; not merely
This restrictive sense of nothing level, of never
Being able to go anywhere
But up or down, until it seems probable
Sometimes that the slope, to be so elusive
And yet so inescapable, must be nothing
but ourselves; that we have grown with one
Foot shorter than the other...
--W. S. Merwin, The Mountain

And the poem begins, just like that,
my wife coming through the door, saying,
I'm home. The poem is the mountain
we give our lives to. I step into my skis.
Marriage is a mountain, and so is the music in my car.

Hogback is the mountain that takes my grandson
to superheroes. Talk to him about transformation.
He'll show you. The pharmacy has my prescription.
My granddaughter brings down the mountain with her prayers.
M.S. is the mountain of resistance as it falls.

It is presumptuous to say I made the mountain,
sleeping in its bed. Call sleep sleep if you can.
It is the divorce we believe in and fight for.
The mountain is where I wait for news.
Making movies, the camera must be in your hand.

You don't know what will happen on the mountain.
So it goes entering the Temple of Light.
What holds you to your skis is a sharp edge.
Eyes have nothing to do with it. Snow changes like laughter.
Snow doesn't train, neither does your mother.

Jim Bodeen
12 March 2011

Winter Prayer


The mountain it is snows me
That it's all mountain graces the town below
One comes down to it,
nearly, nearly,
reaching for the grandpa thumb

Such a word in our tender throats,
Grandpa, graspable in our aging fingers,
but false cognate, nonetheless,
having nothing to do,
no roots to old ones,
big trees we call Grandfather.

Jim Bodeen
8 March 2011


The word follows me
like my good dog Sadie

My fingers remain uncalloused
The sliver festers on the wheel

Pahtoo in rear view mirror
Going to Mom in Selah

She eats all of her oatmeal
What a mountain it is

She skis

Jim Bodeen
6-7 March 2011


Wonder thread
Eye of wonder

Color, texture, stipple

Karen's fingers following, threading

Spooled possibilities
Thread bare

Wound, winding

Red thread
Gold thread
Green thread

Jim Bodeen
6 March 2011


Mom is in the snow
She is every small step exaggerated
Mom is the State of North Dakota closely monitored
She is the telephone I answer to

Mom is testimony and testimonial
She is the poem starting small and everyday
She is epic, confusing literary genre
Mom is form changing, a proof

Jim Bodeen
4 March 2011


Wondering at his return,
the nurse looks up
as he holds his hands before her,
whispers into her ear,
Mom's teeth.

Jim Bodeen
3 March 2011


Our agitation, Grandfather, is going nowhere.
Grandfather, in Our Father-short world,
You have made us Grandfather rich.
Help us do our work with Our Mother
in her great perseverance and anger.
Her daily work exhausts her beyond her body's
ability to feed itself through bread alone.

The furnace comes on at night
and we are warmed and reminded
that we have slept and we are grateful.
Let Our Mother rest.
We are all grandsons and granddaughters
and sometimes we don't know what to do,
or what's under all that snow.

It is so hard to talk to Our Father.
Our Mother in her great perseverance perseveres.
She has given us Great Work in this world
but she is so tired tonight from cleaning His floors.
You make it so easy, Grandfather, for all of us.
You have given us Karen who listens
as it was promised to us in the Great Prayer.

Help Our Mother get out of here.
which she wants so badly, even laughing at herself,
walking floors with no exits or doors.
I'm so crabby I'm not going to get very far.
Our Father has left the coop
while our mothers have been given more than they need.
Be with our sons and daughters in Our Father poor world.

Be with our living anger attaching itself
to all that is electric and inert
in our futile attempts to be misled and mislead.
Allow us to put handles back on the doors and unlock the locks.
Let Our Mother walk out of her work.
She has worked every day of her life.
Let Our Mother be at rest.

Jim Bodeen
1 March 2011