Crow beak snow buried
Brings out Japanese Orange
Lifts off flying east

Jim Bodeen
29 December 2014


Shedding tears on snow
for the end of snow.

Jim Bodeen
28 December 2014

AFTERNOON OF BIG SNOW, in the time of no snow. Deep forest camp. Drying clothes where ever I can hang them. Dry winter camping. Little Buddy, the propane heater in the small shower. Lift windshield wipers from windshield. Climb to roof of Mothership, wipe snow from solar panels. Covered again as soon as I finish. Snowing too hard for burgers. Left-over Mac-n-Cheese. Children building snow fort. Tunneling the snow from the bank above.

Did we ski yesterday? Is that what we did? We skied? Really? And Sammie turned wide out of bounds in one sweeping turn. She crossed that creek beneath her skis? She hit that log? She hit that log and was ok. That was yesterday, too? And we ate those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at High Camp Lodge. We did all that?

Jim Bodeen 
28 December, 2014

One Time It Happened This Way

Writing, drawing, not a final word by any means. It held no interest for the one walking with me. It didn't take long. Breathing into the camera was one of the surprises.

North on the Island, Off Map in the Mothership


       —for Anton Nijhuis

This wasn’t the original trunk,
he told me. Look here.
Animal hoof, maybe

100 years ago, maybe more,
causing this change of direction.

Jim Bodeen
14 December 2014


Putting on those slipper shoes of movement
moving into coffee beans,
illusions, and the aroma of movement,

slipperiness of it all in our hands
moving like flax seeds.
High Mountain Hemlock,

the name of a tree in a book,
and one day—
a death in the family

and we couldn’t go
we had to leave those tree dreams behind
and we also died.

We were driving north, later,
lost in the Mothership, riding across
the spine of Vancouver Island,

telling ourselves we were looking for stones.
Trees disappeared but not desire,
not the stubborn commitment to justice.

Mountain Hemlock, native of  NW, Canada.
Desire itself, northern also, pursuit of the old way.
Riding high-spined bedrock

up-Island.  A telephone call
stops us at Campbell River.
Tree vision voices ask many things

in obscure song word. When the tree
presents itself, it must be taken.
High Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana,

If you’re for justice, what are you doing,
in these here trees? In 1852, John Jeffries,
Scottish explorer and botanist, sends

Western Hemlock to the East Coast,
and disappears. Tsuga is the common
Japanese name for Hemlock. mertensiana,

for Karl Heinrich Mertens. German
botanist, plant and animal collector,
mertensiana honors his father.

Great botanical 19th Century explorations,
heyday of American Slavery, the Civil War,
century of genocide, first wave of holocaust—

living time, now,  two trees given to me
by Anton Nijhuis at Campbell River on the Island.
These trees don’t get their bark

until they’re 100 years old.
Making them witnesses, I add. Yes,
for the past 150, probably 200 years.

Buried under 30 feet of snow in winter,
they’re not protected from everything.
War’s pollutants reached them decades past,

and sentient or not, changed them,
witnesses to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln,
part of the continent, separated by the border

Chief Joseph reached for that winter.
These trees, two of them, now in my care.
Man in elder age, younger than any tree.

Hope and suffering exist as one root.
Trees taken from their soil must pass through customs
giving themselves up like salmon,

a prophet’s life begins in exile.
To be blessed is to be first bloodied.
Carbon traffic crossing in moonlight.

Two mountain hemlocks, trunk the size
of a man’s fist, not reaching a man’s waist
at 200 years, new risks. A root cutting,

and Chinese pot, in exchange
for daily attention over decades.
Stones and trees collaborating.

As elders of earth’s children die off,
better counsel in elder ancestors may be found.
How is that collectors of trees

have entered my life? Anton Nijhuis
says, No I can’t take you.
It’s too dangerous. Bear, Mountain lion

for starters. It’s too wild.
Besides, I’d have to blindfold you.
You smell like the city.

Jim Bodeen
12 November—13 December 2014



Glass washed blue
beach, ground down green
star broke sand shard

Jim Bodeen
18 December 2014


            --for j.r.

The holy woman
holds her tea cup
to December light
at the kitchen table

She has the word
but no house

She says,
I am a wild horse

She says,
Others are Clydesdales
Clydesdales sleep
in high-ceilinged barns

My question wasn’t clear
but she understood

Speaking to me
after she had gone

She says,

The wild horse dies of hunger
The Clydesdale dies of old age

Jim Bodeen
15 December 2014


            for Ana, for Jimmy Greene

My wife has written
her name with her sewing machine
in gold thread,
and here’s her father
playing saxophone
with her songbook

Jim Bodeen
14 December 2014


High Mountain Hemlock
Gets bark at 100 years
Buried under snow

Jim Bodeen
6 December 2014


Trees in accompaniment
with the man,
surpassing him,
even while endangered themselves—

Jim Bodeen
7 December 2014


Owl time, suddenly.
Owl as nagual, the other self.
Owl as Ultima’s nagual.
As the owl goes, so goes the shaman.

Beginnings, and big ears.

The color of her eyes.
Their orangeness.

Georgio Morandi, his minimalism.
His still lifes, his best friends.

What do the deep eyes of your heart think?
The captain said he’d fly us away from all this cold.
The Costa Rican owl wants more than a contract.
This is not the Perfume River we’re running.
No, no, no. Fogman-Painter.
Give me fog-on-snow-breeze, unbutton the mask.

Why no IV? Fogman, Why no IV?

My first understanding of fog, oh man.
You mean the first time?
I can’t answer that. It can’t be answered.
It goes against the nature of fog .

Fog is the curtain call for the loaded brush.

Less is not more. Less is less. Let’s be fog-clear on that.
Dawn suddenly before sleep, yes.
But let’s not pretend. Nights are long.
Nights long and longer fogey man-eyed one.
This is the waiting that comes from waiting.
Quiet was the promise that broke the world.

Owl of worship and wonder
hiding in a pear tart, come out here.
Bell in sugar syrup baked in sweet bread.
Yellow leaves under Blue Sparrow Bridge.
The nourishing road of Not-Having.
Less delivering its less is less on time again and again.

Owl feathers in the hand and no owl
coming up from no ravine.
The ravine dream of the pop charts.
Tart pop, that one in free fall fast fade.

Prey light pray and pounce. Ah, thee, there.

In Spain they know nothing,
but in Mexico, where the owl mates
with Aztec birds, there is born a new thing.

It is a heavy brush in a loaded man’s man hand.

Jim Bodeen
6 December 2014


Voice of intimacy
Protocols of vernacular
Deep penetration

Jim Bodeen
6 December 2014


Finishing a letter
out of gas, I say,
This, the best I can do.
Nothing like it, even shuffled off
in a paperless world. Not skimming

to get deep, here: Dante’s great
gift turning up, leaving sounds
down below. Those friends
in Denmark, here or there,
so many traveling songs

calling us to sing and breathe.
I ask my doctor,
Where do all the proper nouns go?
I’ve got a lead on Parkinson’s,
a new word, apophy,

not recognized by Scrabble,
reality that eludes words,
that can be re-searched
online, images included.
Actual books on said subject,

ours and astronomers,
the apophatic darkness,
coming all the way back
to small talk, sit down dinners.
Walks away, looking

for a song coming back
to itself in the old voice,
in letters all along. Alone
with the other listening
or not, reaching that far.

Jim Bodeen
5 December 2014


The score brought me back.
Perhaps the whistle in my ear.

The score was 34 to 4
with two minutes remaining,

when the short guys
on the basketball court

surrounded their big guy
in the corner, a defensive surprise

for everyone in the gym—
surprise for all but the coach

stalking the sidelines
directing young officials

with their whistles, 
his team leading by 28 points.

He was ready, this
Bobby Knight of nine-year olds,

signaling time out
with his karate chop

before his player is called
for the 5-second rule.

And this is how
I lost my non-violence,

approaching the coach
after the game

in his moment of victory.
It’s ok, I said, to coach aggressively,

(ignoring my belief that any coach
of children coaches

all kids), but that timeout
you called, well, there are words

for people like that,
I know you’ve heard them.

He tracked me down.
My daughter separated us.

My granddaughter looked at me
and asked, Grandpa is this a fight?

Jim Bodeen
2 December 2014

Letters and Poems for Marilynne Robinson


“…because I have observed that, in the way people grow strange…she would have remained untransfigured…but she left us and broke the family and the sorrow was released…”

All of the ones who moved me
have been moved inside. The aunts
and all those who live in elsewhere,
distracted. Once you’ve moved
in those waters, those waters
become the bed of wonder
and wander. “It seemed to me,
that what perished need not
also be lost,” that’s what she said
early, not too far from Sand Point.

“Sylvie I knew felt the life of perished things.”

Our mother, too, had mastered
the life of itinerancy,
uncertainty feeding her
on her long walk.
Ruth in the corn.
Ruth in the boat.
Ruth walking railroad tracks.
Wrapped in Sylvie’s coat.

Listening for her in story.
Listening to her.
Ears for the one at the door,
until I could hear our mother
breathing in every one
bringing forth the other
in whatever form.
Beatitude be word
under our feet. Be at it
in the waking and the walking,
and in the water dreaming.

And so for me.
I had to come at it from another inside.
Keeping house, feeding the dog.
Lost here in vigil, erratic,
our mother come and go,
while others in shopping lives
stringing Christmas lights…

Jim Bodeen
29 November 2014


After taking a breather I can pick up Lila again.
Karen says, I’ll give it to you
but don’t lose my place. One of the joys
I had to shut down this month was talk
about how to read these, getting to know
this family. It gets irksome to others.
John Ames as the old man in Lila,
John Ames through Lila’s eyes,
and then, through her eyes looking at myself
as old man, wincing, one of the piercing moments,
almost trumping Lila herself, Lila and Doll,
Doll visceral for any,
Lila in the cabin with the boy.

Lila, Gilead, Home, Housekeeping.
Ames and Boughton.
Re-reading. I’ve put down
Housekeeping, morning to myself, blessed,
bloodied. I love that old Grandpa more than,
well, dropping into the realm of the apophatic,
(a new word from you from Imagination & Community),
more than words can wield the matter.
Coming that way, from you, does it work?
Is it God there in the dark, not Shakespeare?
Does that old man, that Grandpa,
first one, founder/abolitionist, is he in Lila?
Or does that all come from Gilead?
Like Sylvie bringing treasures!
Reading like that, wonder-filled.

Blessed will never be the same,
and I check its beginnings, 1280 CE,
already risk wearing it out, wearing
it on my sleeve, coming out of my shirt
a tiny pistol with a lethal bullet,
with friends, who else but the blessed?
All that history in our language
and yet, not Biblical.
A word for Moses. Blessed and bloodied.

Walking North Dakota railroad tracks
among my early memories.

A way to be a man.

Lila talking, inside, outside,
Who else would go to the trouble?
Maybe I can teach him a new kind of sadness.
Words tested at the extremities.
Confrontations in any living room.
Words your body hears.
Fish don’t clean themselves,
and that knife, you’ve been using it
to pare apples? Old man.
The old man stands, too, a man
and a way to be, way for me,
getting ready to make the best
from the what’s given. Those last pages
where she’s trying to say
what can’t be said
maybe better than it’s been said.
Loving this story better and best,
loving the orphans in ourselves.
Orphans loving us back,
loving us into ourselves.

And going back to Gilead, that town.
A boy in the 50s with baseball cards,
cutting Mantle and Mays from teammates
gluing them onto cigar box covers
shaped into family crests
Everything worthy of being lifted,
everything worthy, free of context.
More cherished selves
And more humor:
I didn’t expect him to be so old.
Worn sheen on cardboard image.

I need to talk about Jack,
can we do it elsewhere?
Small talk is the problem.
Enough to get one on that train to nowhere.
You give it to Jack to say.
Prodigal as prophet,
teasing Gilead out of yourself
diving back in to story.
These other, better, selves—
more cherished sons and daughters,
reminding me how I love this life.

Jim Bodeen
October/November, 2014


Carrying fragments of one day
and all days, but this day
all the fragments coalesce
to make one, one in the notebook.

To make one. What I look for
in my discipline, what I try
to look for and how it calls me,
here, surrounded as I am
in this tire shop,
by all the prophets
rising from page and tool box,

to me, apostate,
listening for it all again
between the day
and day’s attempt,
the war novel
as much deployment as art
fragments of battle notes
beginning, Once
there was a rich man.

Marilynne Robinson’s Lila before me
among the tires, rows of them stacked high
and clean, rich from earth and factory.
Lila writes in her ledger
trying to get it smaller and neater,
the notebook ledger a binding,
John Ames, too, lost among us,
also writing, forgetting who
he is writing to, the loveliness of that.

Asking myself, How do I read these books?
And what does she do now, Marilynne Robinson?
How can one read slow enough?
How can one move to the next paragraph?
How long can one remain in one sentence?

It was much like returning from war,
reading Gilead, and the same thing again
with Home—putting the book down
as an act of completion—closing the book
on that one, never to mention it again. Again?
Not once to anyone, but this time
for beauty’s sake, carrying it all
as John Keats, as if it were the thing itself
we carried home. Thinking then, or did it come up
in a dream, Beauty, too, brings seizures.
“Present bewilderments,” a kind of praise.

Each time I turn the page.
I get up and walk away, only to return to the sentence
I’d just left, talking to myself,
I’ve never read this sentence before, never.
Not once.
Asking myself, What have I remembered?
Asking myself, What have I forgotten?

“Well,” she writes, Marilynne Robinson writes,
“We didn’t ask the question, so the question was just taken from us.”

And I find notes like this
on the inside cover, in the margins of pages,
During the reading,
I found sometimes
that I had to live my life
while reading, that I had
to live my life
while re-reading
and sometimes it ate me up
and I couldn’t tell
which was which.

“Hope deferred is still hope.”
re-writes Langston Hughes,
but it does not replace him,
it only adds to what he’s given.
This tire shop is filling up fast.
What does hope have to say now?
The question brought back
blows up the poem,
stardust falling on each of us
in the waiting room.

Jim Bodeen
8 November-29 November 2014

Canada's Remembrance Day 2014, Victoria, B.C.

Tree Island Sky Clearing North in the Mothership

Traveling North from Victoria, B.C. on Vancouver Island, the Mothership encounters salmon spawning at Goldstream and Mountain Hemlock at Campbell River.

Storypath/Cuentocamino. The practice.:


Carrying all this music.
We didn’t see these fish

coming up river.
Ride the spine

of the island north.
Rumors of stones emerging

the only story.
The eye doctor

has a new camera.
Those nasty floaters

can be seen. Keep an eye out.
The tree man picks up his phone,

the mothership turns around.
The woman walks up to me,

her hands full of shells
from the beach. I hold her hands

red from cold weather.         
How to read this book?

The old coffee percolator
resurrects language becoming itself.

Who to talk with
is a brewer’s question.

The tree gets its bark
on its 100th birthday

staying warm under
thirty feet of snow.

These rough cuts
accompany the woman

sitting beside me.
We are the lucky ones

bringing trees across the border
with papers.

Jim Bodeen
20 November 2014

Star Dust On My Fingertips: Letter to Cynthia Moe-Lobeda


            —for my brother, Chuck, and his wife, Lena Bodeen

“We, as every other thing, living and nonliving, are offspring of the same parent that flared forth some 13.7 billion years ago in the cosmic event known as the ‘big bang.’”
       —Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological Economic Vocation

1.      The Ministering Women

A little gold dust falls on us all.

This is the medicine of the women.
This is the medicine of the ministering women.
The medicine belongs to the vision quest of Crazy Horse
and the disappearance of his medicine bag.
The women are caring for one of their own.
They have taken on the cancer.
Ministers and distant cousins of the stars, sisters to all,
they know what it is, the cancer.
This is their medicine.
They do not ask how it all turns out.
This, too, is their medicine, their practice.
They ask for no guarantees.

Who will accompany me to the river root
where rivers coalesce,
where fabric takes on texture,
where the singular disappears
in collective beginnings.

Medicine and the earth.
To whom does the earth turn for justice?
She is my sister, too, the dying woman.
This bowl of soup.
This inclusive medicine of the ministering women.
This single portion.
Help the man to the counter, to the stool.
Point to the spoon.

In the emergency room, family gathers around the bed.
This is the portion of the witness.
One of the gathered leaves the huddled talk
and goes to the dying woman,
and whispers, I love you.
The woman whispers back,
I love you, too.
This is the voice in the medicine bag,
confirmation and validation.
This is the understanding witness.
Hearing is the last sense to abandon the dying.

    2.  Healing and Resisting— Moe-Lobeda Books as Bookends

Bookending a decade.
Globalization and God. Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation.
Holding up your new book in the basement room,
the immigrant woman points, hand over her mouth,
and my wife exclaims, Kristen Gilje, the tree woman
on the cross from Holden Village. The painting hanging
in the isolated North Cascade Mountains blesses your words,
makes you an intimate with the women. Subversives
dressed in art to wear. Ben Shahn’s Red Stairway
goes up and down, in and out of Hell
while women carry water in clay pots in cycles of invisibility.
To abstract is to draw out the essence of a matter.
Separate fundamentals from irrelevant material.
The mayor says, Water for all.
The women say, Show us the faucets.
Democracy disabled. Be. Know. Do.
What happens when transnational corporations
are more powerful than your government.

The poem is the place where people may speak the unspeakable.

You’re so good with Luther in the broken world.
Christ may be received only after the person
has utterly despaired of ability to justify self.
I’d forgotten your work with Luther and sin—
se incurvatus in se—self turned in upon self—
talk about rusty tools! So sweet to read,
such heat from hot rocks. I carried you
in the blue book back to El Salvador,
carrying too, rural North Dakota roots,
invisible, still connected to the power source.

Hegemony is more Minnesota than North Dakota
as far as language goes, how one talks over coffee,
but we know what you’re talking about
when evils starts dressing up to look good.
I’d have to say, I’m part of that one.
Complicit? I love that part where you quote
Aida Hurtado and the good guys
having the gift of infinite goodness
because they never have to be personally bad.

That image of you at fourteen in Luther League
watching sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic,
the best. If there’s a thread of greater vision
than America’s young, aghast, horrified,
watching a film, I’ve not seen it.
Sustaining, sustainable.
Here’s one back. A fourteen year-old girl
in our town, takes her laptop computer,
calls Alan Storey in Capetown,
brings him to Yakima two months later.

We have this room in the church basement.
We talk some. A listening place.
I’ve been talking about you for ten years.
The fourteen year-old’s mother says,
Cynthia is coming to Yakima.
Advance invitation, I guess, or warning.

       3. Q&A, Prójimo, Grammar: The Loving Resistors

The young man sits opposite me
writing in his notebook, as I am writing in mine.
Maybe he’s in his 20s, here with questions,
as you wind up your mud-song, earth-chant, economic love vocation,
a program with urgency ,
when his question arrives,
which you ask him to repeat.

            What is repentance?

            Bless your heart, you say, Bless your heart
for that beautiful question. Hold on.

If you’re not suffering it’s difficult to see.
It operates regardless—even when only the good are involved.
This is structural evil.

Love makers—Our God is at play in the world. Making love.

There are 25 million climate refugees in the world.

What does it mean for the people here gathered?
Heeding our call to love requires high stakes.
Step with me in courage.
Through climate change we are doing un-creating.
We are a dangerous species.
Resistance is one of the doorways to moral power.
Failure to repent is our failure to see.
Repentance is the other doorway.

[At this point the question arrives.]

            What is repentance?

Beautiful, beautiful question.

A reduced understanding of sin means a truncated vision of salvation.
It’s ability to hide confirms its wickedness.
Repentance calls for fields of literacy in that sin.
Lifestyle changes in housing and eating and travel.
Responsible buying and investing.
Alternative sources for news.
Whose vision of the world is to be told?

These are some of the tools of the unraveling.

None of us is primarily an I.
We are, in fact, first, we.
Thank all of those who enable you to be here now.
All of those living inside your tear ducts.
We are a cloud of witnesses,
wide-spread, burgeoning.  A movement.
These, your forms of action, loving resistors.

Thirty years ago I sat with a young man on my porch.
Usted es mi prójimo, he said.
Mi prójimo.
Para nosotros, para los mexicanos no hay palabra más grande,
más fuerte, más importante. Prójimo.

His description and eloquence,
the openness and depth of his heart
made it too large for me to see.
I was his teacher at the time.
A young man, too.
He was a wrestler, a luchador,
another word he taught me to see and to know.
He would teach me about the asparagus fields.
Already a teacher cutting asparagus.
He put the asparagus knife in my hand.
He would exceed his own dreams
stepping out of strawberry fields
into multiple worlds of many languages.
But that day he walked me next door,
and knocked. When my neighbor came to the door,
he said, Aquí, Él es su prójimo.
Here is your neighbor.

The beautiful question stands before two doorways.

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda will say all is neighbor, including otherkind.
Sort that one out for yourself.

One can’t know what the young man heard.
What went into his notebook.
Because the question is mine, too,
I don’t get it all.
The surprise seeds itself—into the indicative,
away from the imperative. No world of shoulds
in the mouth of Jesus.

You write in the coffee shop,
one of the ministering women.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Agapao.
Finishing like this:
You have the power. You’re not being told to.
Already part of your divinity.

Jim Bodeen
25 September—21 October 2014
Pacific Lutheran University/Yakima, WA



“I do not say loveable or admirable. 
I say sympathetic, sentimental, mediocre, 
wasted….He symbolized those to whom 
we refer in daily conversation 
with the expression, ‘the poor devil.’ 
However let us not forget that these guileless 
men, exactly because they are ‘easy’, 
are often the best carriers of an evil 
which has its source elsewhere.” 
    --George Seferis on Elpenor.

[Elpenor, drunk from wine, fell from roof and broke his neck. Young and foolish, first among the dead, and first one Odysseus sees in Hades.]

This is a room in a house nobody knows,
so how could they take it? This afternoon
I must return your books to libraries
where they’ve found homes; California
and Oregon, inter-library loans.
Your diaries quicken my heart; Lines

from your poems fill my notebooks.
The first thing God made, the long journey.
Memory hurts wherever you touch it.
Like that, over and over. Front to back,
and then back to front. So many guides
Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard,

lovely Anvil edition. A Poet’s Journal:
1945-51, Athan Anagnostopoulos,
my favorite, and over time
Sam Hamill opens doors three decades past.
So I come to know Stratis Thalassinos,
How can you walk with the dead?

Flowers are in heaven, Chris Smart says.
And you? We are the seed that dies.
And I entered my empty house. Now?
Blessed be your inability to see. 
Exiled arms witness against torpor 
in tattooed words. Your Banquet Speech

for the Nobel, Poetry has its roots
in human breath – and what would we be
if our breath were diminished?  
You speak for the sailor in our souls,
unearthing us, scouring words new.
Poetry is an act of confidence,

and who knows,..our unease
…not due to a lack of confidence?
Images in ocean waves clear out
careerist collars clinging neck-tight,
false calls secure in abstract dis-belief.
You’ll get used to it, little by little.

Coming home. They don’t live in the poem.
What Neruda called La muerte pequeña.
The little death. Both of you, Mr. Seferis,
humble at the banquet table, Neruda,
most local of local poets, You:
We are lost because we have been unjust.

I was in high school when you spoke.
50 years later, building home in a poem,
I type your words and pin them to a wall
made of words. Fated archers, diplomats
miss target after target. In my time
TV sport never ends. Elpenor cheering.

Forgettable whistles furthering holocaust.
You stand with Rex Warner in the stadium,
understanding. Coded language of love
before the horror. Steadfast in sympathy
for Elpenor, who we can no longer name.
My poor, foolish Elpenor. Oh, Help us!

You instruct in diary and anecdote,
one day going for a swim, coming on
the sunken wreck. Surrounded
in water and light, the poem, Thrush,
born here—close the curtains
to bring what’s been hidden to the surface.

Jim Bodeen
1 September-15 October 2014

This Ineffable Thing


So this is my work, undertaker.
Walking with you and my brother,
delivering the spirit body,
soul house, from the land of illusion
to the otherness in the air.
The otherness in soil,
body in a treasure box,
my granddaughter’s language.
Williams said it first,
I will teach you my people,
and I’ve only done it once, well,
only once,
when Mom died, that time.
You were both present,
with work to do yourselves.

So this is my work, too.
Talking like this. This airy talk.
The undertaker, the one 
who rides with the bodies,
is my friend. He says to me,
It’s getting harder and harder.
We talk about the grave diggers
in Hamlet. Try and give him
some encouragement. Hold on now.
My son-in-law remembers
the man in Moxee used to dig graves,
called him Digger. Grandchildren
climb the Japanese Cherry by the grave
where my sister-in-law’s casket rests.
Hamlet’s been gone. Doesn’t 
know his girlfriend
drowned herself in the pond.
Comes in the back way,
finds himself listening to the two digging,
finds himself catching up, stunned
by their irreverence
which in many ways matches his own,
and then the procession comes,
court ceremony and all, Queen Mother
on the King’s arm,
his girl friend’s brother, Laertes,
the one he’s been fighting with,
everybody grieving, his world
collapsing before his eyes.
I’m getting into it, but my friend,
working the ceremony,
gets distracted. And my brother,
with his grief in his hands.
Did you know Our Town?
I say to the undertaker, when he returns.
I’ll get it for you,
we’ll read it together. I’ll order copies,
one for him, one for my brother
whose wife’s body is in the casket
beneath the Japanese Cherry
where the children climb, and the third one
for me, in case they ask me 
to sit with them,
reading graveside. The undertaker’s been
the stage manager most of his adult life,
but never got to read his own lines.
My brother can sit here in Act III
and hear Emily say to Simon Stimson,
Live people don’t understand, do they?
Maybe the three of us 
can drive to Anacortes,
sit on the bench by Ray Carver’s grave
and read together, weeping and laughing.
I’d like that. People with other lives
than in books get cheated this way,
living in the commerce of things,
even in my brother’s case, a baseball game.
The baseball coach and the undertaker
with this play at Ray Carver’s grave.
What we talk about when we talk about love.
What we don’t talk about, you know?
My loneliness comes from those books.
I know that. I’m trying to learn
to be quiet for my wife’s sake.
Once more talking to myself.
A husband’s 50-year grief talk.
But the undertaker, and my brother.
What might connect them
more fully to themselves is my life. What
establishes my solitude is my work.
I’m reading George Seferis’
Journal from 1945-51. The librarian found
it for me in an Oregon Library. June, 1946,
he writes, The mountains, 
each inside the other,
are bodies hugging each other, flowing
into each other; they complete you.
Someone has taken a number #2 pencil
with a sharp point and made a small dot
in the margin crossing time and distance.
On the next page, where Seferis wrote,
But to say what you want to say 
you must create another language 
and nourish it for years
with what you have loved, 
with what you have lost,
with what you will never find again.
And the same dot 
with the same sharp pencil.
This goes on and I begin
writing the passages in my notebook,
The days are stones.
Realizing slowly,
The pencil marks are mine,
from decades ago. Same book,
same library, the exile
still trying to find his way home.
I recall the poet who led me to Seferis,
the many things I learned from him.
I recall ordering this book before.
The way of being a poet. 
And this same book.
Long apprenticeship and ancient way.
What can and cannot be said. This same,
worn and lovely book, warm in my hands.
Seferis himself, reading again, 
The Odyssey from the beginning. 
This ineffable thing—
words barely scratch its surface.
These beautiful children 
climbing this one tree.
The chance of us all being here.
The poet saying, Just being here.
The falling. 
The falling is about to begin.
My brother and the undertaker.
The Stage Manager asking 
himself about marriage.
Hamlet returning to Elsinore 
through the back gate.
All gates open. 

Jim Bodeen 
8 October 2014

Ways You Try And Reach Me, Lord


I've been stepping in dog shit all morning.
I do not name the dog.

Jim Bodeen
5 October 2014



Dear Chuck, sweet brother. 
These songs,the only thing I know. 
Lena and I talked music,
she liked jazz, here’s my list 
with no Miles. Lena liked Miles. 
Be sure, his back is turned,
and Lena’s smiling. How these songs 
got here, what I want you to listen for.
Gretchen wanted Amazing Grace. 
I get to pick the recording. 
Charles Lloyd has a 2-hour set 
for his mother crossing,
Lift Every Voice and Sing. Gretchen
will track her mother to paradise
if she finds all of it, 
and gives six months
to nothing but You’re So Beautiful.
Not here. What is here? Lena’s listening.
Listen, when your girls finished 
writing the obituary 
we took out every reference
to here, as in not here, substituting
earth for here, believing, in fact,
Lena’s presence. What a privilege
being in the room with your daughters,
fully adult, as they wrote,
Megan saying at one point, 
This seems like Dad’s paragraph—
the one detailing how Lena
kept football pools quarter by quarter
with prizes to keep up her own interest.
Dad’s paragraph, his call.
They wrote Glioblastoma out of our world.
Chuck, sweet brother, Coach of Our Valley,
good husband, best Dad, and Papa,
I’m getting warmed up, 
under the influence
of Megan and the way she 
led the gospel songfest
around Lena’s bedside. 
Cottage in the Meadow-hospice, 
blessed place for family.
When Megan and Julia led us  
singing Blessed Assurance,
everyone in the room became believers.
Iris DeMent learned 
the song from her mother,
who believed like Megan. Like you.
Iris DeMent comes from deep river country.
She sings from, and crossing, riverbanks
most of us have never seen. 
She’s here, twice.
Just because, just because. And for Megan.
Chuck, these lines aren’t testimony,
but a kind of code. When you hear 
Archie Shepp’s clarinet 
on My Lord, What a Mornin’
picture Julia taking out her violin,
playing for Nana’s crossing. Note, too,
there are two versions 
of What A Morning.
These, the most beautiful 
ever recorded. Charlie Haden, 
Hank Jones, Archie Shepp, Horace Parlan.
Hank Jones had this bone disease capable
of shattering the bones in both hands
simply by laying them on piano keys.
And Elvis? Aren’t we Justified
by our listening? I’m just about done,
but Marsalis and Clapton carry on
with Just A Closer Walk with Thee
for over 12 minutes. It’s here
for that drum solo. Those are kids
banging on pails and garbage lids.
They’re at the ball park 
watching you coach
during the closest of games. 
You’re on third base, working praise songs,
coaching Lena on the Bridge to Heaven.
You’re really coaching. 
As you said, I was.
There was never any doubt in the outcome.
Thanks for that walk, for permitting us
to be present, to be 
in the room with you and Lena.
The rest is easy. Gretchen reminded me
of Mavis Staples, how we listened 
one day on our way up the mountain.
42 years of marriage. 
Jackie Robinson’s number. 42 years. 
40 Days in the Wilderness. 16 Songs.
Chuck, I’ve always had to go  
through the City of No, 
to get to the Paradise in Yes.
Leonard Cohen sings through fire,
he’s King David creating 
the Psalter of Our Days.
The women in our lives, 
Karen and Lena,
like Ruth in the corn.
Wherever thou goest, turning tables on us.
Where they go, we go too.

Your brother,

22 August—1 October, 2014