Ending in narrative

#102 Who knows what they mean

His life's last stories
Why not return to poems
Rain, ice in mountains

29 December 2018

Beyond Itself

#101 Have I sought thee in my songs

Thought I had a date
with my wife, she went shopping
with her daughters

Jim Bodeen
28 December 2018

Apocalypse in Song


practice for what’s coming.
Music for non-participants
in a participating family.
This is music: Lower lights,
Los Lonely Boys. Silent
Night, nothing else, all bright.

High Camp Winter Solstice.
One could almost forget
why one comes. Hoarfrost
outgrowing fir needles
they came from. Yesterday’s
rain what we had then. Shine

your light on a mountain,
Song coming first, shine your light,
from Bi-lingual Aretha--
English and Latin in her Daddy’s
Detroit church, stone-cold,
arriving in car stereo, elevating

sensibility. Adore,
adorare, speaking formally.   
Asking in prayer. To call to,
from orare. Ritual in song,
O come let us adore him,
Songs in a dark time—

voiced memories, mixed.
Boys from North Dakota summers
in choir gowns. We Three Kings—
boys becoming, jack knives
in pockets beneath robes, tried to smoke
a rubber cigar—it was loaded

it exploded –if they could
hold it now—following yonder star
director and congregation alike
might think it wasn’t what
they heard—but they can’t,
and once you’ve heard,

seen, ejaculate dripping from nostrils,
song gone forever, like the boys
who will try again and again.
The little shits. Shine all your light
on them. Go on, reclaim
the music, tonal response

to the friend, his gift of song.
What child is this?
Laying in a manger. Jesus.
Little Lord, cooing, not
offended in the least, preferring
even then, those boys

with jackknives, their tricks
sticking in grass beyond
and between outstretched
fingers. Spaces between notes
all is calm, calm down, calming
cold and dark. Solstice itself,

sun down Aretha’s excelsis deo
Motown mine, more of this,
boys watching fire, Star River,
we might not have been so hard,
lower lights ourselves, not kings,
that song our guide.

[for Rob Prout]

Jim Bodeen
22 December 2018

Yo--Dad! Is that you?


when we sing carols in church,
that one line in the one song
I've been singing nearly all
of my 73 years, O come,
O come, Emmanuel,
plain chant antiphons
antiphons attached to Magnificat
at Vespers, like singing six
notes for four syllables, holding
that word, your name
folded into the middle,
Emmanuel, God Amongst Us,
that has me calling you, remembering
too, the photos, and your passing
from a disappeared town
in rural North Dakota, all that
I've looked for, the country cemetery
with its grasses and mosquitoes,
that strange man, my grandfather
Victor who named you, I
have lived more than half my life
without you. Text from a century
gone, each of five verses opening
a name for Messiah, each day
of the week leading to Christmas.
I shall be with you tomorrow.
Ero cras, from original Latin text,
reverse acrostic, each chant
including an Old Testament--
Hebrew Bible name. Dad,
Father Emmanuel, walking around
in my dreams after all these years,
Tomorrow, then, old man,
tomorrow, yesterday and today.

24 December 2018

Wrapping the Light


            for Rob & Jackie

Set to leave for the mountain
on Solstice, doorbell rings—
my friend with music
and solstice candle—sit,

tell me about these songs.
His search begins in desert
heat of summer. He listens
for spaces, what came before

and has roots in Texas,
making it possible
to reach across borders.
He calls on Aretha

our own me too
Lady Day and Ella
packed to travel
Motown Christ

crossing out of Pharaoh.
Aretha—our Moses.
Star river crossings
in Solstice Song.

Winter light in darkness,
visible and moonish silver.
Music wrapped
in First Nation Mountain Wool,

parfleche for the soul.
Gathered songs,
Flash-back Wipe Out
stopping time vibration

living time. I hold
his voice as we light this candle
of salvation that carries
him each year

from here to here.
I carry his song
and the songs of others
on my way to the mountain

temple at High Camp
in the Goat Rocks
where I sit listening
on this waiting day.

Waiting is what we do
to discover time.
Setting out, never knowing
what I carry, what will surface,

restlessness itself
a form of hope and hoped-for
sufficiency already present
in the ringing doorbell.

Jim Bodeen
23 December 2018

3 am Notebook

#90 What will thou offer

But I have been dreamed
But for my great toe throbbing
Coffee tucked in boat sleeve

How completely did I die
Where did I leave from leaving
Indian oars red canoe

17 December 2018

#91 One final glance flowed


Looking at this page
A deer crosses the highway
breaks rear view mirror

Jim Bodeen
18December 2018

Meng Hao-jan at High Camp


"...perfecting that deathless way"
            Meng Hao-jan

wandering in your poems, Meng,
I've brought pickled herring in onions,

common bowl, sandwiches of fresh ground
peanut butter and wild clover honey. Crackers

for the herring, two oranges, an apple.
Instead of high mountain green tea

I've brought micro ground coffee
for your pleasure. You can name it

while we shell peanuts, peel oranges
releasing pungent juices into our High Camp

Temple, opening our nostrils. Sky clearing,
temperature warming, bad for snow

and if rain comes, we'll stay inside,
read your poems, laugh at the President's

trouble with concubines in the Capitol.
Oh my! The sun just broke through on Mt. Rainier!

This is break-out day. New ski boots
for old feet. Last year's muscles, practicing

packing books and keeping them dry.
I need a new case for eye glasses, will bring

another cup from home to drink from.
When I come off the mountain, I'll write

to the Viet Nam vet, New Orleans
Bayou guide, who showed us alligators

when we went looking for British Petroleum
violations. Nostalgia for polluters

in the Capitol? Let's walk out
and see if Old Snowy opens from clouds.

Jim Bodeen
17 December 2018


Children get up early, cook noodles for lunch at High Camp. Winter snow dreaming. Five years from Sandy Hook. That winter, too, found us in mountains. Those cries reached us because of another fall. What shall we do? we asked ourselves. Cloth-Goddess Mother Quilt makes a child’s vest from Chief Joseph Blanket. Twice that now, these children, our children, snow-bound.


#86 Worship with tears, folded hands

American cans
Club members swallow weak selves
Swilling labeled beers

Jim Bodeen
14 December 2018


always surprises
her eye

to see




to the gate
of no gate

they’re tied
one way

on one side
on the fence

Japanese Gardens!
I failed

and for that reason alone

a scout

he surprising ways

Jim Bodeen
12 December 2018

CRADLE SONG from the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC Canada



Karen disappears again.
Something from another place
has called her. When I find her
maybe I will find
what she has found. This happens
when Karen wanders
partially lost—
I am learning to trust it.

Here she is in a cradle
by herself, listening
to singing from a cradle room.

Cradle of Language
the quiet sign says.

This is Karen
in the cradle by herself
listening to mothers sing
to their children, listening
to children sing
to their mothers
wrapped in song-love
                        Karen never heard
her mother sing to her. Karen,
mother and daughter. She had
a mother, but it wasn’t her mother—
that mother was taken from her.
These mothers sharing cradle songs
with Karen, with children,
are her sisters,
and they are the sisters of song.

Cradled as we are—
museum-cradled as it were,
receiving what has been taken away,
when I find Karen
I find the song others have lost
finding the song in Karen,
song in others, and she brings me
to song and to others gathered singing.
They are all here and they aren’t.
The mothers she listens to
mother her, as do the singing children
who are also her mother and sisters.

When I sit with them here
pulling a telephone from my pocket
they are singing to all of us.
We listen over and over
the singing mothers and daughters
singing to all of us.

Jim Bodeen
Royal Canadian Museum
Victoria, B.C.
Yakima, Washington
28 November--11 December 2018

MARGINALIZED / Los Otros Marginados

#79 If not my portion

Priests knew of poets
They just didn't matter--they
had been taken out

Jim Bodeen
9 December 2018

Jubilee at the Japanese Garden

Shishi Odoshi / Rocking Fountain

In Our Long Life Together
It Is A Short Time


In our long life together
it is a short time.
There are benches
in the garden, but there are no benches
by the rocking fountain,
Shishi Odoshi, but if you follow
the path around and above,
you can find a place to sit
and still hear the bamboo
hit the stone after it empties.

Shishi Odoshi at one time
scared away deer and wild boar.
That would give lovers a chance
to sit without fear. Bamboo
fills and empties every 12 seconds.
In my poem I’m trying to explore
time with my beloved. I’ve been
reading the love poem of Rabindranath Tagore
everyday, Gitanjali. Perhaps
you have heard of it. I was given
a very old copy from a man
from Bengal, his childhood book.

In our long life together a short time.
Words catch me by surprise.

What are your thoughts, Karen,
on water fountains? Rabindranath
would call you, Beloved,
using formal words, Thy and Thou.

What is a fountain for? And who?
These lines. What does it say?
Bells, fog. I want to hear, but I’m not
asking you to say a thing. Not really.
I’m sorry you’re here before they light the trees.
You wanted to see the lights
and I want to be here now, alone.
For me this is perfect, just us.
There are no busses here. No people.
We will have two hours to ourselves.

What experiences we bring.
They won’t all surface now from water.
But the pictures of our lives
will keep arriving.
Will this music help us to see,
or help us to remember?
What must happen for marriage to thrive?
Will song offerings be enough? Or needed?

You are the sounds of water song.
Your quietness is a sewn quilt .
Quietness of Karen.
Filling every 12 seconds.
Our long life together not very long at all.

Did marriage scare you, Karen?

Don’t be cowed by the fountain.

The jarring of the bamboo on stone.
Is this my voice entering your world?
How does the lover enter? And the old man?
How can a man enter the room as a song?
If this sound would scare a deer, what about the beloved?

What about all this quiet?
How does one sit in time?
Does it intimidate, cow, or scare the husband?
What does the man want from the woman?

Tell me about the time you were hypnotized.
Do you enjoy these steps, this path?
So many questions remain.
Is sitting an achievement?
Do you have hopes for yourself?

Harmony doesn’t mean sameness.
You created that landscape for me in marriage.
A stone cairn bringing us home.
You are beauty surrounding the beauty
you brought into my life. Here
with nothing to do. Or say,
if I could be quiet. Time is short.
This repeating fountain is a temporary machine.
Your love bests time testing mine.                       
Look around. I’m staying put.
I’ll be right here until the bus leaves.

Jim Bodeen 
7 December 2018