Tiny Leaves, Small Petals


—In memory of Sharon Muth, bonsai instructor

“Jim, how long have you had that wire
on that Shimpaku Juniper?”

“A couple of weeks.”

“Take it all off.”

Jim Bodeen
30 April 2015


It wasn’t uniform, hospital CO said.
Get that hat off your head, Sergeant.
A colonel, but not a doctor, the CO.
And keep it off. That was how trouble

surfaced. MASH hospitals
couldn’t handle the number of casualties.
Two evac hospitals in Qui Nhon
over-run with our own wounded.

Fresh from the field. Choppers, 123s
coming in loaded, all hours. Kids
who arrived incountry last week, going out
now in body bags, evac’d to Japan

or straight to States, telling them
as they came out of surgery,
Tomorrow you’re going home, GI.
Home was a war zone, too.

Then his mustache was out of uniform.
A month into disaster.
No hair below the lip,
Cut it off, Sergeant, clean it up.

Chief of Surgery is a colonel, too. A doctor.
You will not cut that mustache, Sergeant.
You will continue to locate hospital beds.
You will let it grow. Curl it around your eyes.

Bone wax stopped bleeding in femur bones.
It saved legs taken out by AK-47s.
Keep that mustache above your lip.
That was enough for Spec 4 Lebonski.

This was after Private Dudley moved
into the ville to live with prostitutes. When First Sergeant
found out his pipe smoke was full of dope
mixed with cherry blend tobacco—

All right you fist fuckers, open those footlockers!
Hand over your dope! Give me that hat,
Lebonski said. He took it, Utility Cap
Cotton Poplin, Olive green, DSA-1-4962,

with earflaps, worn with creased front
mimicking the French Beret, painting it
competition orange, freezing its shape
as it was worn, in multiple layers of paint.

Spec 4 Lebonski returned it with a sign,
hand-lettered in style and colors of the Beatles
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
He hung the sign reading,

Sgt. Bodeen, Med Evac—This way home.
He tilted the hat on the sign
the way the hat was worn. Home would take
longer than it took jets to cross the ocean,

bone wax would stop buku bullshit.
The hat, issued and outlawed,
became a guide helping him walk through doors,
showing him how to dress for the rest of his life.

Jim Bodeen
21 April 2015


It surfaced again after they moved,
when they left that house
after four decades. How had he been issued
that hat, anyway? In his duffel bag

from Basic, stuffed unseen
in Panama where he turned 21,
where he learned, too,
he could conjugate verbs,

and make real talk, after those years
as a half-assed student, agreeing every day
with the teacher that this Spanish
was a very stupid thing for him to try.

He looked at 70 now, looking at this hat.
50 years together. Living with immigrants.
It appeared in Viet Nam,
1968, after the Tet offensive. He’d been

on R&R, skiing in Japan. Zao.
Flying back into Tan Son Nhut,
airport under fire, he couldn’t get out,
back to the hospital at Qui Nhon,

where he ran the Evac unit.
Sergeant now. He was 22.
Six months of those kids
from the 82d Airborne, Fourth Division

First Cav. He remembered them as 18.
In and out of the country in two weeks.
Dumped from Helicopters at Khe Sanh,
Phu Bai, An Khe, Pleiku. Ashau Valley.

The two week tour. From Detroit and back.
Round the clock evacuation for six months.
For each GI, frag wounds to lost eyes,
these dates: DEROS, Date Estimated

Return, alongside the day of the bullet.
The shortest tour.
Hat he wears.
He put the hat on then.

Jim Bodeen
20 April 2015.


Number 9 on my granddaughter’s
soccer team is Amazing.
Amazing, drop back,
our coach calls.
Amazing, redirect.

That’s her name, my wife says,
and all I can see
is clarity,
and the faces of her parents,
word that moment
coming from their mouths.

Jim Bodeen
19 April 2015


I wear the hat stranger,
but I am not a conductor.

I am the man stepping
into the car

to where

essential seats
have no numbers.

Jim Bodeen
16 April 2015


In the mountain shop
where souvenirs wait
to be rescued, this one,
Like the man helping
you get on the train,
my wife says. That’s it,
not a baseball cap,
uniformed, non-descript.
required of angels

Jim Bodeen
15 April 2015