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.