Two Birthday Poems


You’re in Med School with that damn left hand
and it’s not the class on knot-tying and sutures
but the unruliness and independence
of the vision. The calling to be a physician,
that’s what you promised.
You didn’t mention the shaman dream

at the threshold. Standing in doorways.
You’ve chosen the grander, larger than life-size God
and now you have to live with love.
You’re one of the crossover people.
Mary Oliver surrounds you. Bring up Alan Storey.
Could we bring him here?

I had to go to South Africa to see if he was real.
Alan calls you out, and just like that you’re a doctor.
Open door, open womb. Hold out your hand to strangers,
Yours is the only hand I get to hold today.
Every hand will have a hand to hold.
Echoes of Alan. Step into silence,

your words now. Leaving the house
remember the physician.
You’re only going to have 12 minutes with each patient.
You’re surprised you have so much time.
We sat there and didn’t say a thing.
What is inside me is inside you.

Everything swings and I can love anyone in the room.
Your daughter picks up the phone
and calls Cape Town. Alan clicks on his computer
and walks into the library. Daughters all over the world
learn languages in sentences forever new.
The shaman’s work. Neither man nor woman.

The work that important.
What about those babies being born?
They’re waiting. Like God,
not coming to you, through you.
Above tree line, 50, like Alan says,
In love, by love, for love.

Happy Birthday, Karen

April 23, 2014


If you’re scoring this play,
these numbers, 6-3, it reads like a routine
infield out, shortstop to first base.
You’ve shown me, Chuck,

the sacred in routine, how it holds
and how it comes apart—and why
the game must be slowed sometimes,
to one pitch, one swing of a bat.

63. These two numbers
bounce between even and odd,
divisible always by the odd 3,
even into the sixth decade,

where pitching changes get made.
Karen and I bring pizza thinking
your girls play three games today.
I have the date wrong. It’s practice,

and you call your team to the fence
and talk to them about the two of us
throwing ground balls on the street.
Ground balls and passion. This

is a coaching moment for the coach,
my brother. It’s two days after Easter
and I’ve read every note your ball players
put into your Easter basket. If you’re scoring

this one, you have to have someone
like you for a brother, or be on your team
to know what it means to play for a coach
like you to see this moment isn’t about baseball.

Your brother in the stands,
Love, Jim
April 23, 2014

God Is in the House


Gobi-Rattler Room early morning. Sister Sadie Sadie, and music. Thinking of socks, piling up in this room, warm, light, the knee-high socks made for winter sports, made from material so new it’s not in anyone’s vocabulary. Socks from the four directions. For 28 city kids in a country town, going up the mountain on snowboards. Thinking of socks, then, and the poems of Wendell Berry. A letter yesterday from K. A good one. Fear. Faith. Buddha and Jesus. Books. Working on the document for J. Young pastor leaving town. For Pennsylvania. K’s letter talking of the passing of families. The turns each family takes in transfer of roles as individuals age and unfold. I stop here, inside letter and notebook, long enough to get lost. We’re there. Karen and I. Sig and Ethel. Last week. Their five kids. Death of the beloved son. Birth of the special daughter. The four elegant sisters. The aging patriarch. Gobi-Rattler room in low light. Stunningly beautiful.


Holiday songs in dentist office with grandkids. Happy songs. Sitting in a brown leather couch holding Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems Holding his words on what’s domestic and what’s wild, and who, yes, Berry making his case for critter domesticity and the wildness in the human. Berry vowing not to use the words again. These two, and one more word, spirit. Berry unable to see it in conventional use while on his daily walks, hearing the content with matter, spirit winning most of the time. What about matter? Here I sit on the morning of Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Cold in Yakima, cars on 40th Avenue drive by with their lights on, the men and women on their way to work, either in front of, or behind the yellow school bus. This Day, the title of Berry’s poems. He’s the lowdown poet of river lands in the opening poems. The mad farmer of my youth. The contrarian farmer-poet. Obama and the world gathered in Johannesburg. A tree for us all. Afterwards, returning the kids to school, I stop by L’s house, my jeweler, and check on the shield he’s been making in his studio for the past month, the film we’re making of the process. We talk about balsa wood and tissue paper, inexpensive materials. We talk, too, about the mountain, spiritual protection of the shields. The shield of art. He asks me what skiing is. Sticks or animal bones wrapped around the foot with branches? Cave paintings in Russia would suggest animal bones. L notices the tire in my old Subaru going flat. Hurry, he said, hurry.


The friend on Facebook starting it. I had a dream last night and the question everyone was asking was this, What would Jesus wear? haha. It was a fashion question.

Army uniform in a war zone.

Viet Nam and the Evacuation Hospital. 85th Evac. The hat and the mustache. 1968. Tet. Med Evac NCO. Him. Me. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. First Sergeant. All right you fist fuckers get out of bed. Top. Too many stereotypes. Beer belly, beer belly. Clichés. Did First Sergeant ever have a real age? Was he real? And where had that hat come from? The non-issue hat. Where did I get that? It had appeared in his duffel bag?? Appeared? Like a conductor’s cap on the railroad. Aonngside the baseball cap. Like he was being directed. Rolling up the sleeves on the uniform. Only one stripe visible. I did this on my own. How did I do that? You’re out of uniform Sgt. Bodeen. Even then they knew. The psychedelic SP4 taking the hat and painting it competition orange in multiple layers, turning it into a sculpture, freezing it, as he’d worn it on his head. An attitude.  And the accompanying sign painted in the multiple colors and style as the lettering on the Beetles Sergeant Pepper album, hung psychedelically, orange hat over the top, sign reading: Sgt. Bodeen, Medevac/This Way Home. How he loved that sign, that hat. The redemption of me in all of it. It turns up in a box as I pull things from the crawl space in the basement during our move. The orange hat. Part of my uniform. That and the mustache. The Fu Man Chu mustache growing down both sides of the chin. Two full bird colonels running the hospital. One, an administrator, the other, chief of orthopedics. A doctor. In a hospital full of shot-up bones. After Tet the uniform changed for everybody. The hospital overrun with wounded bodies. From all sides. Did we call them sides? In a hospital? There were wards. The NVA were separated from our soldiers and civilians. NVA soldiers hit by so many B52 bombs they disappeared under yards and yards of gauze. 18-year old kids in and out of the country in less than two weeks. I was 22, belonging already to literature. Two days of orientation and dropped from helicopters into Phu Bai, Hue, the next day. Familiarization of the DMZ. Picked up as soon as a medevac chopper could get them out. Short of choppers, they started coming in on C-130s. Out of our place and to Japan or the States as soon as we could locate beds. My job. Get the right diagnosis to the right hospital. Tell the soldier what was happening. If he was conscious. Around the clock. Get the right soldier to the right place. The administrative colonel stopping by the sign, This Way Home, looking at it.We’re trying to get a plane loaded with wounded GIs. Sergeant Bodeen, that mustache is out of uniform. Not to be below the chin. New travels fast even when you’re trying to catch a plane. Colonel of orthopedics running interference. Bodeen, you will not cut that mustache. This is bone wax. What we use to stop the bleeding in bones. It will stand that mustache to your eyeballs until you drop from exhaustion. You will not cut that mustache. You will wear it. Indeed, it did. Curled right around the eyes. Bone wax validating the uniform. Get it from your local orthopedic surgeon.

Other uniforms, too. So many of them. Army chaplains with captain’s bars. Good morning, Captain, Sir. Call me chaplain. Sir, yes sir. Captain. Those captain bars were one more trigger. That Lutheran captain during Basic Training where he went each week, where he made his confession, I can’t do this. The Lutheran chaplain listening each week, nodding, telling him that last week, We believe in this war. We’re Lutheran. Being thrown in with the medics saved him, but it didn’t resolve his guilt. The question was never resolved. He wore it every day of his life. Part skin. Part clothing. Like the Spiderman poem he found in the little magazine years later. Spiderman as Tweety Bird. He memorized it to the last line. Comedy in his head. Maybe none of us can burn our suits.

What would Jesus wear?

He missed Jody. When Jody was on the earth, she used epigraphs as sign posts, much like early Spaniards walking north to Aztlán walking up the llano into North America with rope and stakes. El llano estacado. So they wouldn’t lose their way walking into a landscape with no markers. The visiting poet says her work is about emotional courage. Jody Aliesan. Jody who changed her name. Aliesan…to loosen. Jody who left the empire and went to Canada.  Jody was a visiting poet. Jody came from another world. Jody embodied emotional courage. Leave it at that. Jody used epigraphs, not as decoration, or a way into the poem, but as the poem, serving poem and poet at the same time. Now there was this book. Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp. And Jody wasn’t here to talk to. She had moved on. He was in the doctor’s office waiting to get his leg wound washed out and the dressing changed. He had been gardening at the home he was putting on the market, trying to attract a family and not an investor for a rental house. Sweeping through the yard as he had done for four decades, he picked up the hose to move the sprinkler, and running to the bulkhead, as he had been doing for nearly as long, he jumped, and his body didn’t jump with him, resulting in the bodily fall against the concrete corner, his shin absorbing the shock, tearing flesh to the bone. Sitting in the waiting room like this, he was trying to write to Jody. The nurse says to him, “You just sit there a minute, writing in your little diary.” Jennifer Percy:

“Historically hysteria was considered a distinctly female problem.”

“No one wanted to imagine a world in which male soldiers were vulnerable to hysteria.”

“What does America give you?”
“America gives you pain killers.”

“God’s going on in there.”

Four from Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp:  A Soldier’s Exorcism. Percy’s courage matched Jody’s. Jody left the country for Canada in 2004. Percy moved into the demon itself. Of PTSD: this. General George C. Marshall blamed it on the American educational system. She notes that more than 80 names have been given for PTSD in the past 100 years alone. Four of my favorites: hysteria, soldier’s heart and disorderly conduct of the heart (a tie), Vietnam Syndrome (from my war), and, from Napolean’s warring, nostalgia. We have read the same books and filed them in nearly the same places on our book shelves: Phillip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers, (see the essay on Momism), Julian Jayne’s Origin of Consciousness in the Bi-Cameral Mind, and Jonathan Shay’s two books, Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America. And Tim O’Brien who called evil evil, and madness madness. The others, historians and journalists among them, distorted war, as George Packer writes, making it more intelligible than it really is. Our grandfather, William Stafford, meanwhile, never gets the credit he deserves for his no during the good war. Ask Stafford why anyone would leave the mountain when the answers are there. Ask him about rivers. If there are any rules they come through the practice.

We were on a panel together in 1981. Jody and I. Didn’t know each other. Literature of Conscience, Seattle. Bumbershoot. Jody took notes. Kept them. Later, in her book, True North/Nord Vrai, I published them. She had gone to Canada by then. She went to etymology and ethics. She quotes an old Irish fragment. The fragment: The poet is the wick in the lamp of the community. Not the oil, and not the flame, but the simple piece of cloth connecting them so the people can see their own light.

Jody from an early poem: …there is something beneath the cloth/ it is what you hide from yourself/ you know what it is// it is time to uncover it

Jody quoting Yeats: When did we ever promise safety?


In the lift line at the Great White, a helmeted man on a snowboard, hops in front of us, cutting across my granddaughter’s ski. One leg attached to his board, the other free, awkwardly aggressive, I watch, trying to figure out if he’s cutting in front of the children in line, or trying to catch up with companions. In between states myself,  two grandkids looking up at me for direction, I ask if he’s alone or would like to ride the lift with us. “Sir?” he asks, looking back at me, “Are you addressing me, Sir?” The double, sir, I recognize, but again, it takes me a moment to recognize. He’s a soldier, I say to myself. Present to me for the past decade. The soldier of our modern wars. Trained to be on duty even when on leave, addressing every person he sees in the civilian world as a commanding officer. Respect with an edge. Misplaced formality. The veteran following orders, deferring to the civilian world that disgusts him as it betrays him, an awareness I find difficult to argue with. The new soldier. Betrayed in new ways just like the old ways. Privatization of war. Jody had shown him this. Corporations. Corporate civilians paying men and women like themselves. Former soldiers. Paying them buckets full of money for the replaced MOS. Replaced patriotism too. This was greed. Halliburton and the 10,000 others like them. The new security industry of private companies moving large quantities of weapons and military equipment. Mercenaries as we understand the word. Getting around the technicality of language and national agreements. Carrying and using weapons, interrogating prisoners, loading bombs, driving military trucks and fulfilling essential military functions. Those who are arms switching roles as the moment calls for it, shadow dancers, commiting human rights violations and destabilizing governments. The civilian world with their yellow ribbons on the trunks of their cars blind and ignorant, their gas tanks full, angry only at the price of gas, and isn’t that the government’s fault?

Call everybody Sir. He carried those images himself, even standing in a lift line on a mountain with grandchildren. The phoniness of it all. Those young Mormons singing to them in Basic Training. Up, up with people. People wherever you go. Smiling. Dancing. Bright futures. No problems. If more people like your people…the uplifting seminar before being sent to Viet Nam. Song stuck in his head for half a century. He remembered the former student, back from Iraq, a marine. Good writer. He’d tried to talk to him about PTSD. What the Viet Nam writers had discovered, “…Tim O’Brien…anyone who’s been divorced knows about PTSD…” and the laughter he’d received in response to military training. New ways of cover-up. The new writers of war. Veterans. The poet Kevin Powers, “…everyone wants to slap you on the back and you start to want to burn the whole god-damned country down.” “Sir?” “Did you say something, Sir?” Nobody could say it like an enlisted man. I remember my own every time I hear the word. “Yes. I asked if you wanted to ride the chairlift with me and the kids.”

The answer is yes.
The answer is no.

Jim Bodeen
December, 2013—23 April 2014



Walking the garden yesterday, your voice emerging from notebooks,
and that trial in Pretoria. Blake teaches us innocence's opposite—
not guilt but experience. Doesn’t my own guilt double up
every time I plead innocent? Doesn’t your slow walk demand
we leave innocence behind? I plead guilty to all.
Finding myself with Babylonians brings me to my knees. 
Blake suggests our experience re-connects us
to ascendant innocence. What you give us, coming into our village,
pure duende from Lorca—a power, not a work,
a struggle, not a thought: the singer saying—
On days I sing with duende, no one can touch me.
Ann said later, I’ve never been more comfortable,
being uncomfortable. We were cut, and bled, not cleansed.
Americans like closure, healing resembling coverup,
lies with ambition. Behind the grand SUV
at the light with grandkids buckled in the back,
this message in block letters on the rear window:
No context needed. Sometimes context scrambles itself.

You write me on Civil Rights Day in South Africa,
21 March 2014, inviting us to remember the Sharpeville Massacre,
courageous ones who burnt pass books in 1960.
We’ve come a long way since then.
21 March 1960. Jo’burg police open fire
on gathered crowd at Sharpeville Station,
69 unarmed people dead, 180 injured.
Under reviled pass laws, Africans
required to carry books to be produced on request.
Racist laws enforcing segregation, the massacre,
a turning point in the struggle.
Day consecrated at the end of apartheid.
On that day, 1960, I’m 14 years old,
North Dakota refugee in Seattle, lost in a city school
with more students than the corner of the State I come from.
Tie these dates together: I come home from Viet Nam
in 1968 the year you were born. My question to all:
Where were you in 1968? I worked med evac
from the ground during Tet, the year you were born.
Evac hospital with full beds for all sides.
I had no enemies but myself.
You’re here just in time. 
My wife took me back for our anniversary four years ago.
I swam in the Gulf of Tonkin, and we walked
streets of Hanoi as lovers on Sunday.

God is in the house. Karen and her four daughters.
The crisis of how you met. Turning dark, rich soil
into this harvest in Yakima. In Chinese,
the ideograph for crisis, two parallel lines,
one line indicating danger, opportunity in the other.
Karen finds an empty chair next to you,
gives you a piece of her mind.
Your listening picks up the phone.

And that day we had on skis. Manna and Mercy.
Snow holding. You confusing the two Washingtons.
Dan Erlander showing up in D.C. greeting you.
Thanks for teaching me about my book. The snow holds
and we ski into a backcountry lodge in the Goat Rocks.
Eat sandwiches and warm our hands.
We talk Chile and El Salvador.
Allende, Pinochet, The Chicago Boys.
Jon Sobrino and Ellacuria, Sobrino asking,
Where is God? Answering, I don’t know,
but he’s not in the Empire. You on Milton Friedman:
Economic plans ready to be installed in unsuspecting
nations after the shock has been administered
by the empire. Pastors trained to go to meetings
and raise money, your words, I don’t raise money.
This living in two worlds. Joy eclipsing suffering.
Becoming hyphenated people.

Let me wrap this up in your words. Grace for me, too.
When Gospel writers put it down, they know Jesus as divine event.
When you have the whole event,
when you have the whole Nelson Mandela,
You know it’s divine.

21 March—21 April 2014

P.S. Alan. This letter, a month in the works.
I could have had it to you sooner, but didn’t want the time to end.



The reason he’s so young
is that his fears are so old.
The poet from his village
worked like this—
first he’d write the story
and then he’d put leftovers
into poems, saying,
Use it up. Another way
of looking at it.
He’d get the story
out of the way
to get to the poem.
Stories were the detritus
that made him famous.
He would smile
whenever someone
referred to him
as Chekhov.

Jim Bodeen

16 April 2014



Part One: Early Listening:

My colleagues are ordained to meetings, not the word of God.
We’re going to look at the word. I do not 
promise a comfortable weekend.
The Bible calls itself a double-edged sword. We’re going to get cut.

If you’re going to get Jesus, you’re going to get him in community.
Add the metaphors of the past, to get meaning
from the word in the now.
Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with daily bread.
Praying the first echoes of what was already there.
Manna and mercy, what Jesus put at the core.

I grew up in apartheid South Africa, born in 1968.
The people who administered apartheid knew
the Bible backwards and forwards.
…nearly a million people killed in Rwanda.
How is it, people dropping drones across the world claim the Book?
This Book is the most bloody book in the world.
To enable us to read the book meant to bring light to the world,
while bringing death and destruction needs to be stopped—
and if we can’t, let’s stop reading the book at all.

My greatest distance from you is my greatest gift.
May we ask to grow, not argue to win.
Receive my assertions as questions.

One of the words for God is impossible to pronounce.

How not to be able to use Scripture for death and destruction…

The Jesus story
The Christ event
The interpretive lens
through which
we read Scripture

Would Jesus say Amen to that interpretation?
Which Jesus?

Some Jesus’ drop bombs quite easily.
Paul says we teach Christ and Christ crucified.
Would your Jesus give one any reason to crucify Jesus?
Where your Jesus challenges hierarchy gets people edgy,
but none of those Jesus’ warrant crucifixion.

If I were to go to Pharaoh, who owns all the gas in the world,
I want to go before him with a fuel 
that doesn’t come from Pharaoh’s world.

When you’ve lost everything,
you don’t give a damn how the world was made.
Love breaks out of the facts.
Lives, stories, make believe.
I don’t know if it happened
that way or not,
but I know this story is true.

The snake represents anything and everything in the world
which raises questions about where our salvation is found.
We have to have a story to take us to the truth.
…then you’re Babylonian. That’s what Babylonians believe.
To give your heart to love…to believe
in the assassin’s bullet or the cross.
It doesn’t fill churches.

Death on a cross in a rubbish dump outside of Jerusalem—
that’s what we have to look forward to—
the world sees it as failure.
                                             But you can’t see
resurrection until you’ve been to the cross.

Much of Scripture looks and feels like modern Christianity.

If God is not loving I’m not interested in God.
My still point, here. My immovable…
I am born in love, by love, and for love.

Freedom not to love…in order to have freedom to love.

I don’t know anything about you,
but I know the deepest thing about you.

Our own Scriptures contest the still point.

Because the stories of Mandela were so many,
and so consistently the same, it’s beyond doubt true of Mandela.
But the agenda…this is what we can learn from him now.
You cannot follow Christ as a pastor of only one tribe.
Where is the other? That is my agenda.
Natural born killers? Or natural born lovers—
with the choice to be killers.

Through the lens of Jesus.

What is the real, real, reality?
That’s my immovable point.
I question everything from that point.
I am born in love, by love, and for love.

When we move towards truth
we knock against power.
How we change the narrative.

Jim Bodeen, Listening/Listener
January—April, 2014
Yakima, Wa


Part II: Through the Lens of Jesus: The Still Point

I am born in love, by love, and for love.
In Hebrew,  African languages speak plural.

When we really nail Jesus down
we’ve probably nailed him to the cross.

There is no such thing as out of God.
That whole thing of backsliding. No.

When we can absorb that truth, we’re liberated.
Freedom or death…when you get to that place.

You’re free because nobody can rule you.

God wants to come through you.
When he shows up, he’s not just coming to you.
Salvation for some is not good news to all.

I live in Cape Town, a hot tourist place.
Security will keep you safe
and you won’t even know it’s there.

There is no such thing as private salvation
because sin is democratic.
Sin is personal, but it is also social.

Where have you been, God asks,
with those dirty hands? We’ve even

dirtied the culture of change.
No such thing as privatizing.

Reading Scriptures
with a wide angle
and a zoom lens
bumping into fertility

Can institutions be redeemed
I am addicted to my position

                                    I don’t want to give it up
                                    How do I get out
                                    of the swimming pool
                                    without slipping

I am addicted to a way of life that kills people. I am a killer. Jim is a killer. Destroying this miraculous land, I am like a slave driver 300-400 years ago. Where is your 12-Step Program for economic analysis.

                                    How are we doing
                                    I eat before I am hungry
                                    Can we say, Amen

                                    Take a break

Moses, a redeemed murderer
            Prejudice makes you stupid
Midwives bring forth lives
            In all oppressive states

If you have been present at the birth of a child,
you know pharaoh is not God.
Put the child on the river, not in the river.
God works behind enemy lines. Don’t paint the enemy with one brush.

Moses grows up
He has no male friends
as a child
living with survivor guilt
in surround sound
of privilege

God doesn’t forsake
even in a God-forsaken place

Moses, David, Saul,
with blood on their hands
What God can do with murderers

Imagine being a teacher
in the wilderness school

We work so we have something to share with the needy. Not an earning but a giving. Earn a giving. I grew up in a Jewish area.What Christians call the Preamble to the Ten Commandments, the Jews include. The Lord is embedded in grace.

Lovers have sacred language
The only way out I know
Find someone you trust
to bring your story to light
If someone comes to you
with their story of division

Shared, a privilege,
a sacred space

In our deepest darkness
we feel a bright light

Enjoy being engaged
in moral courage

When I am in the presence
of people who have too little
then I have too much

We buy houses with people
who have pretty much
what we have

This is the pain of living in two worlds. Fighting Zulu warriors, the few beat the many, giving God the glory (actually it was gunpowder). Hit me as an equal or don’t hit me at all. One thing greater than being naked is causing nakedness. In the doorpost of the kitchen, particularly in the U.S…

God can only play one music
the music of love

Can you imagine Jesus
sending someone to eternal fire?
He didn’t do that to Pilate.
God doesn’t send motor vehicles
to run us down.
Jesus is God’s answer
to a bad reputation.
For love to stop loving
is for love to stop being.
Shalom. Justice.
Hebrew means
the crossover people

People will come
from miles around
when they know
they are not being healed
as they should be.

God honors those who love
across division
more than he loves Scripture.

Jesus must have learned
lots about grace from his Dad.

God comes into the world
through the underground.
Mary names the future.

What is this silence?
What does it mean?
Born in love,
by love, for love

Let’s be quiet.

Jim Bodeen, Listener, Listening.
Central Lutheran Church, Yakima, WA
In the Notebooks, From the Notebooks
26 January—16 April 2014



In the land of injustice and division there lived a group of people who trusted in God’s promises. They were sometimes called the Anawim. Under the heavy weight of their oppression they cried out to God…to send a prophet like Elijah and then a king Like David…who would liberate them and establish justice and mercy—a manna society… Daniel Erlander Manna and Mercy

I.  He sits with the children
and talks his story in hand-written words
eyes following along, children’s eyes,
recognizing letters, knowing
words one at a time,
calling them out as he writes,
full of wonder for what comes next.

Using language their teacher uses
at school, he calls it a booklet,
what he’s making,
drawing pictures like the children,
making fun of the same things,
working on the same lessons.
Share the crayons. Everyone gets a snack.
We can wait until we’re all getting along.

II.  He takes on the Big Deals
with color crayons. His time
is after-exile, finds himself shaped
by the magic eye of art
uncovering unseen worlds.
The seen world’s mischief seems
to be in control, he muses,
exhuming exile’s memory.

His booklet is for grownups, too.
He’s hoping for parents even though he suspects
his booklet will go on painted shelves
in the children’s room.

I find him in the End Notes
at the back of the book
where he talks to grownups
after they’ve put the kids to bed.

Be careful what you say
about outsiders, he says here.
They witness to an alternative vision.
The Bible subverts the Bible.
Then it subverts you.
You’ll stand straight if you get this.

And walk with women.
I portray, he says, Miriam
as equal partner with Moses and Aaron,
her two brothers. Phyllis Trible says
Miriam led, then got covered up by those
who passed on tradition. The whole
Song of Moses, Exodus 15, probably hers,
not just the refrain. Says, too,
she was crucified in Numbers 12,
later resurrected in New Testament stories
which bear her name, Mary,
Mary, the mother of Jesus and the other Marys.
Miriam is Greek for Mary.

He’s been patient with me. He has.
Dan Erlander, man of bread enough and mercy.
He waited twenty years for me to get it.
This is the way it is making things new,
putting things back, waiting for  Big Deals
to pick up their crayons and color.

Mary is always singing this song.

Jim Bodeen
25 January—15 April 2014

A Witness To An Alternative Vision


Jesus hides himself in the common. Daniel Erlander

Partnering with children
to mend the universe,
a winsome prairie dog

Jim Bodeen
15 April 2014


Four turns with the pliers
says the master,
Go make the staples.

The bullet behind the bullet. Bang Bang.

The bison in the brain, charging,
with 10,000 years of built up speed.
The failure to place the arrow in the bow.

Measure the hole on the bottom of the pot.
Right turn at 90 degree angle
away from the hole
and back across the diameter of the hole.
Back again, that quarter of an inch.

The left hand that has made all the difference
signals, sign saying, I didn’t bring you this far
for this, you’re on your own.

The master on the turn table with his tree says,
Go make two thousand of these
and come back and see me.
Make your measurements as clean
as the bends with your pliers.
The screen must be tight for the life of the tree.

Master and muse before me.
One visible, one invisible.
Where is the source of the great terrors?

Poetry is one of the ancient ways.
Nearing again, an intersection with no signposts,
pliers in your pocket for the sober and practical,
perhaps both ways go to the other side of the mountain.
No one at the intersection is talking.

Jim Bodeen
23 March 2014



Which is the man?
Which is the woman?



Laughing at my fears
The oldest part of who I am
10,000 years old



I look at my trees
every day, checking their health

looking at each bud each day,
sometimes more than a year like this

seeing new growth
on a dead tree


We gave up lots
in order to get less

Jim Bodeen
8 April 2014

Holden Evening Prayer Around the World Central Lutheran (+playlist)

Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer was sung, and celebrated around the world on 5 April 2014. This version was performed at Central Lutheran Church, Yakima, Washington, along with liturgical dancing and the Grace Creek Band. Holden Village, a former copper mine, is an ecumenical Lutheran retreat center located in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

Holden Village is sanctuary and fermentation. A water crossing promising and delivering what transpires crossing water. For the itinerant and for the settled. Glocal. Global/local.



            for the poet Kathleene West rejoining her twin sister

You, my poet friend,  Kathleene (with an e) West died July 7, 2013.

I knew you first from your poems and then in your person.
When we were young and later.
Best in letters and poems where there could be no pretense.
But this is my favorite from four decades past.
I was a young poet and a giddy father of twin daughters.

You wrote that poem that broke my heart,
To My Twin Sister Who Died At Birth.
"I’m a father of twins," I said.
"Oh, Jim, I made that poem up", you said.

It is August and April at the same time, Kathleene.
Today you’ve been with your sister for nine months.
I’ve been looking for you all day in four different notebooks.
With your poems, twin survivors.

Jim Bodeen

August, 2013--4 April 2014


Ski to office with Katleene’s plains
poems. Taking her test,
the test inside her poem,
Answering with two thumbs.
Not doing very well at all.
Have I cut the cane?
In-deed. Cortaba maize
por mano. This is to determine
if I’m a tourist of the Revolution.
Have I skipped the temple of Poetry
in favor of the museum of war.
One tough poem.
One loving poet.
My office at High Camp sits at 6,000 feet.
I just finished a left-over Luna
nutrition bar for women.
Minutes earlier in snow storm
handing Satsuma orange
to the ski patroller coming from snow hut
I yell, Sculpted snow!
And he thanks me for the orange
with the word, Sustrugi, he learned
the Russian word from Bulgarians.

Jim Bodeen

12 December 2012

Journey to the Hyphenated Name


Skiing with children I’m almost free.
Cursed with the blood of Justice in the DNA,
seminal gift from my mother
Sometimes rolling over moguls with no care
shit-for-brains no more than shit-for-brains

It’s always there, though, fully present, lurking
ice sheets just beneath fresh powder light like baby’s breath
reachable by my high-tech skis.

April Fool’s Day on the mountain
laughing with two eight year old boys
calling each other clowns in two languages
changing grandpa’s gender, laughing,
the discontinued language program
turns into the trigger

Alone in my office at High Camp
reaching for light in snow crystals
This is the journey to the hyphenated name

This is the journey to the hyphenated name
It turns out that empty space is not empty but full of stars
Skiing with children I turn into a changing fall line
greeted by trees, loyal ancestors permitting one like me
to enter them, path of ecstasy

Work so the tree won’t have to find its way again
This is the tree where the heart is nourished
The tree will orient you to the sun

Apprenticed to my mother all these years,
it was she who ruined me for life,
but Dean Brackley, S.J. in El Salvador
who gave me the image, Come to El Salvador
and be ruined for life, who would have imagined
these shapes on the mountain, Ellacuria and Sobrino
among them, God bless, as city children say

Skiing with children I’m almost free.
Cursed with the blood of Justice in the DNA,
seminal gift from my mother
Sometimes rolling over moguls with no care
shit-for-brains no more than shit-for-brains

It’s always there, though, fully present, lurking
ice sheets just beneath fresh powder light like baby’s breath
reachable by my high-tech skis.

April Fool’s Day on the mountain
laughing with two eight year old boys
calling each other clowns in two languages
changing grandpa’s gender, laughing,
the discontinued language program
turns into the trigger

Alone in my office at High Camp
reaching for light in snow crystals
This is the journey to the hyphenated name

This is the journey to the hyphenated name
It turns out that empty space is not empty but full of stars
Skiing with children I turn into a changing fall line
greeted by trees, loyal ancestors permitting one like me
to enter them, path of ecstasy

Work so the tree won’t have to find its way again
This is the tree where the heart is nourished
The tree will orient you to the sun

Apprenticed to my mother all these years,
it was she who ruined me for life,
but Dean Brackley, S.J. in El Salvador
who gave me the image, Come to El Salvador
and be ruined for life, who would have imagined
these shapes on the mountain, Ellacuria and Sobrino
among them, God bless, as city children say


He called it his office, High Camp,
abutting the Goat Rocks, where he took children
on weekends with sandwiches in his backpack.
He’d sit on the second floor, 40-feet of windows,
where he wrote his frontier poems,
where he was going there were only strangers

Jim Bodeen
February-March-4 April 2014

Los Payasos de Nieve

Porque los payasos son los lideres del mundo. Porque el tema de esquiar no es solamente esquiando. Con dos jovenes de la montana y un abuelito en el primer dia de abril. Los diablitos de la nieve.