Bonhoeffer, Alone with the Others


I.                         A thousand years may be beyond me,
                   but I can turn this morning into forever.
                   T’ao Chíen
Name the belief poem about belief in a manner
that opens belief to its ambiguities.
It's snowing at High Camp
and there's honey in my peanut butter.

Bonhoeffer looked to the other from his beginnings.

These are lines from High Camp on Monday
in January. T’ao Ch’ien in my backcountry backpack.
Rain. Wet and windy, but everybody’s back
at work and the notebook’s open. I work
my way here on skis. Remind myself,

Skiing’s only partly about powder snow
and sunshine. Skiing’s only partly about skiing.
Bring five meatballs in a baggy from home.
Heat in the microwave oven. Pine table
to myself, an office desk. Windows
are temples of light to the wild. A ski patrolman
and his girl friend before me, along with luxuries
of notebooks and Parker pens. The monks I’ve loved
are the monks I love. Johnny asks,
"Did you come up here to write?" So much

music coming at me. David Hinton tells me
T’ao Ch’ien lived during the time of the great
transformation, earth’s process of whatever occurs
coming from itself. I leave Bonhoeffer behind
in the passenger seat of the car, knowing
any page can trigger my pride. I wouldn’t
be here without a broken heart. Twenty-two
years ago today I renounced the world
to follow the seizure that arrested me.
This wild time given, no questions asked.

II.   ...your cause committing to stronger hands…
      Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Stations on the Road to Freedom”

Ski to the office, bag of Satsumi's in my hand
for lift operators. At Hogback, exchanging greetings,
I hand two small oranges to patrolman,
shouting into wind, Snow Sculpture,
and he responds, Sustrugi, a Russian word
learned from Bulgarians: snow feature,
condensed layers of snow dusted with powder.
Bonhoeffer or his biographer in my head.
My old pastor, 95, hands me his copy
of the German theologian and says,

"Mark it up. Underline it so I can read it."
Here I am in snow again. Sigmar,
a light for 45 years. When I’d shout down
his church as a young man, he gave me
Bonhoeffer’s Black Church in America,
Soulful, other, up against the wall of America,
like me, cost of discipleship. And later,
another pastor, liver cut out for the cost
of his ministry, hands me Our Life Together,
If you can’t live alone, you’ll never live in community.

Ron Moen gives me Sittler, Brueggeman & Bonhoeffer.
Says, "Poetry never gave me a thing," and walks me
into County Jail, to talk to young men
who’ve lost their wife and kids. Eric Metaxas
has this part right. On his last journey, Bonhoeffer’s

loaded into a wood-fueled man with prisoners
and guards, taken from Buchenwald.
I find no certainty in Bonhoeffer. None.
Bonhoeffer. Who knows what young men know:
It’s got to be different this time, who looks

at the other and finds it there: African-Americans,
blues, England. A community of solitaries.         
Subversive only in this. Along with a mother
who won’t let her son’s back be broken
by schools or military. Radical in his root search.

III.             “There are no ready-made answers, or ready-made indulgences, prepackaged and       ready to use. And the answers themselves are traps: give up your freedom in order to gain tranquility. God’s name is tranquility. But the tranquility will dissipate and freedom will be wasted.  What then?” 
             Jews & Words, Amos & Fania Oz

Driving into Ish River Country. Myth rivers
of Robert Sund: “Be the one walking/ for whom the trail turns/
revealing/the grand vista.” Our friend Ann guides us
on the water, Karen piloting. Embracing his blessing,
Sund says, “I own nothing,” And the entire world 

courses through him becoming text. Turning around,
Back on land, I step into mud with a camera
that leads me to a graveyard of boats, one—
partially revealing itself, ish, named Prophecy
true shack, never to disappear in its vision.

My old friend, in his mid-90s, hands me Kierkegaard’s
biography. “Mark it up, Jim. Write in the margins
the places you want me to find and know. I’ll never
get through it any other way.” Writing this from prison,
“Nothing that happens to me is meaningless,”
Bonhoeffer talks down death in letters.
“Pain is a holy angel, God is in the facts themselves,
this is the uninterrupted richness of experience,
time belongs to death and the devil,
what we don’t thank God for, we reproach him for."

I click into my skis too,  an old man
given children and mountains and wilderness,
one given only to the listening, given holy men
for friends. “Bonhoeffer thrives on what the rest
of us finds burdensome…  are we enamored with him

wanting to finding commonality…
find him in ourselves, our own egos, and needs?”
Alongside the pastor sending me Kierkegaard,
“Keep me unsure,…fear and trembling of unsureness,
save me from deceiving any other person…”

Bonhoeffer sits in the wood-fueled van, choking
on fumes, guards and prisoners alike. A mixed-up bunch,
coughing together, traveling hungry
from Buchenwald to Flossenburg, beauty of woods,
last pastoral scene from Achilleus’s shield.
My granddaughter, age 5, asks me again,
“Why do we have to be human.” She is the one I follow,
turning on the mountain. Her brother, 7, shows me
how to stick a straw up my nose. Nothing is level.
I listen as children repeat river sounds the body makes.

Jim Bodeen
January-February, 2013







Little People, Big Mountain


Why do they call it, Booger King?
my grandson asks. Let’s write it out,
I say, taking out the notebook,
handing him the pen.
Spell it like the sign says,
Now cross out the “R”
X it out.
Whatcha got?

Jim Bodeen


families often leave
the youngest child
with grandparents
in old age,
for their loneliness.

Jim Bodeen
17 February 2013


Sammie's taking pictures trying to make me smile.
I show her how to keep fingers from lens and off flash.
"The lens is the eye. It helps focus, too.
Sometimes the camera's eye is better than the eye in my head.
It can see things your eye can't see."

"Yeah," Josh says, listening from bed, "like earwax."

Jim Bodeen


God made the snow we ski on.
He made the snow
and he made the mountain
below the snow.
He made Hogback Mountain.
But he made the snow too.
He made the earth below the snow.
He made the sky and the sun and the moon.
But how did he put them there
in the same time during the day?
He made our skis and our helmets.
He didn't make snow yellow,
that's our pee.
But did he make our pee?
God made us,
but our papa helped him
when we grew with God
in our mommies' tummies.
But we grew in God's tummy first.

Jim Bodeen, listening
February, 2013


Called out by the barista
at Starbucks, I hear the sound
of my green tea frappuccino
coming up from the bottom 

of the glass, going through the straw.
"You're making more noise
than those kids, Grandpa," she says.
We're just done ice skating,

and the kids want hot chocolate.
Her follow-up, which I ask her to repeat,
shows generational condescension.
"Young at heart?" or, "Young in fact?"

I ask, to which Sammie laughs
repeating to her mother
getting into the car.
"The lady said Grandpa's

young in fat, Mama."
I pull out my notebook,
writing "fact" and "fat"
for Sammie to see, asking

if she can hear the difference.
We're in a movie now, back in Starbucks,
Grandpa's causing a scene, a ruckus,
old sucker with his straw.

13 February 2013


Which tree is the Mama Tree, Grandpa?
Sammie asks looking at a family of trees
on the drive up the mountain.
Is the Earth a girl or a boy?

Jim Bodeen
16 February 2013


Two months now
on the mountain

with little people
on little skis, each day

newly spectacular
as they master themselves

by the moment, sculpting
sandwiches around bread crusts

with their mouths,
mountains in peanut butter,

I stay home, close to the couch,
eyes closed.

Jim Bodeen
12 February 2013


In the car, on the chairlift,
clicking into their skis,

calling for you, calling at you,
and even then skiing away

from you as you want them to.
Their language clicking in too.

Songs you haven't heard
in decades. Songs you haven't

heard since your own children
were young. You also,

so young. Then.
Writing it all down.

Trying so hard
to be poet.

Jim Bodeen
11 February 2013





Josh, my grandson, is seven,
and today we sweep the mountain
with Ski Patrol at White Pass.
What is sweeping, Grandpa?
Josh asks. You know, what a broom does.
That's what we do. Sweep, looking for anyone
lost, stuck, or just fooling around.
We help get the mountain ready for sleep.
But first, let's look at this light.

Josh is the unexpected gift of solstice.
I know what time it is, and where we are.
White Pass is where I come on this day
to be in the light, with the light,
to watch it go, too, to be a silent part
of this mountain returning to mountain.

With grandkids, our first job is to get to High Camp,
one of the backcountry treasures permitted
in the wilderness, what Goat Rocks gave us
when we promised consciousness.
Josh loves to say, Let's go to Hogback.
Taken by skis and lifts, through Doug Firs
with long hanging strands of Old Man's Beard,
where I first packed in 40 years ago.
We make waffles, loading them with berries and cream.
We take each other's pictures with our phones.
We call and tell parents where we are,
that we're here, and we're all right, at High Camp.

Sweeping the mountain, the work of Ski Patrol,
ends the day in ritual and security.
Working our way back to Pigtail,
we kick off our skis beside toboggans.
Red toboggans, ambulances on the mountain
stacked in readiness by a metal-hatched hut
where black & white crosses huddle in warmth.
So you're Josh, the crew captain says.
You and your Grandpa are going to help us sweep?
Your job will be on Paradise.
Can you ski that run?
Look in the trees, ski slow, look for anything
that doesn't look like it belongs in wilderness.
If you meet any skiers, be nice, but encourage them
to get off the mountain now, and go home.
We'll meet up again at the second pole
above Chair Four and say Good night.

The mountain is the temple in contemplation.
May we open the season closing us down in darkness.
Each one in the mountain hut feeling something new.
Joshua's soft face sweeping the room in quiet smiles.
Craggy faces suggest rescues made, rescues attempted.
Walkie Talkies communicate unimagined trails.
Maybe there is too much tobacco.
For the men in this hut, Joshua is every child at seven.
This hut contains the dangers brought up from town.
A child's joy-face frozen at Solstice.

Jim Bodeen
14 December-22 December, 2012

The Presidential Interview



I did have to borrow threads,
being in the mountains.

Was I surprised?

I asked Barack about the drones.

He asked me about mileage in the Mothership.

The President loved the Dirt Bag Gallery.
One skier in Carhartt overalls
suggested naming two parallel ski runs,
Fiscal Cliff and Donald Trump's Hair--
having them designated
Double Black Diamonds.
A young woman shouts out,
No, they're both Green--
green for beginners.

The President slapped both thighs laughing.

That place,
neither pastoral or political.
Even in uniform I'm not in uniform.
Not really.
I insisted on tying my own tie.
My knot is not his knot.
He didn't say anything, but he noticed.
It was like he glimpsed that part I give away.
That part that says,
I'm from somewhere else.
He saw that place, for a second.
He didn't know what it was,
but he trusted it.

Jim Bodeen
High Camp
January, 2013

News of the World, Lines Talking to my Mother


Mama, we moved. Karen and I.
After you were gone and out of reach.
After 39 years in that house. We moved.
I’m on a boat, now, Mama, Lady of the Lake.
Crossing water on Lake Chelan.
This house is gone. We’re in a new place,
so new it doesn’t have any trees.
I remember your words when we moved you.
I’m planting trees. You’re gone.
I’ve been in mountains talking with men.
Talking about you. Talking like men talk
looking into fire. Sometimes it doesn’t seem
like very much. I’m on my way up lake
to Holden Village, that mining camp
turned temple that first foretold your crossing
years ago. This time you left for good,
like you said, Going to look for Wayne,
Going to find him, too. And just like that,
last breath breathing out, you’re there, together,
the crossroads of eternity where all bills get paid,
and nobody owes. All debts settled.
You left me Dad’s love letters, as promised.
As close to a final word as anyone gets.
So much news, so good to hear,
both of you delivered by your own way
of touching each other into new morning.


Still looking into your story and ways to tell it, Mama.
Still carrying each responsive storm of beauty
from your lips—ways you found to speak truth
to me, no back burner with you, I'm
turned again towards you—and
your line in the sand,
One doesn’t need to go to El Salvador
to find God, although El Salvador
remains a good place for pilgrims
of all persuasions to turn again
towards that, like you, that redeems.

Love, Jim
11 September, 2011, Lady of the Lake—27 October 2012, 2010 House, West Valley