would words add
What would words
to my love

Jim Bodeen
24-29 August 2018

This clear


Mis-directed missile
of the uncertain subjunctive

Jim Bodeen
August 2018



Every joy awry
walking in from the world

in the center of the room
Moss Girl, flocked

green feathered
ancient-placed future

one, with birdhouse
on her back

[for Kim Simonsson, after sitting with Moss Girl
at Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington]

Jim Bodeen
27 August 2018

Slow-brewed epiphany


Later friends

gassed imperative

misdirected missile
of the uncertain subjunctive

private prisons
jail cells, unnamed

poisons, reconciling
big loves, residing

extremities lined up
bending breath

Jim Bodeen
24 August 2018



Here earlier
the poem,

stable, present
on page,

in margins,

fast then

Jim Bodeen
23 August 2018



The character visits
the young woman

brings one to father
I want him

to tell me
what to do,

how, and maybe
even to be

what being
has to do, when

I knew he simply
couldn't, angry

pillory locks

Jim Bodeen
23 August 2018

Strong in Wind, Stronger in the Trunk

Strong in wind, stronger in trunk,
he goes back and forth,
distance helps him see
his experience
altered as well as true
his old teacher
still in his garden
and his hand by hand
spots of time
he catches his breath


The tree in its ancestral beauty
retains its majesty even in death,
its bark, often not appearing
until it reaches 150 years of age,
becomes something other
than root or branch, the wild
mountain ancestor
collected before me,
less than two feet in height
slow-grown over two centuries
of short-seasoned climate

Re-creating salvaged beauty,
then, sharp-bladed tools, deep
clean before cut and prune
Cool this morning, outside
shirtless with knives, poems,
the tree and a novel by Ondaatje,
poet inside a story enabling
sentences like the following,
The mother was often away,
but his absence, like his presence,
rarely mattered, out of this,
the morning, a way towards

               This past week marks
the 50th anniversary of his return
from the war in SE Asia, where
he worked as sergeant in an evac
unit of an evacuation hospital
during a time of chaos and casualties
threatening to overwhelm
the system's capacity, heavy casualties
on all sides, and his return
to the States came after air bombs
were stopped and all sides
exhausted and spent,
                                    a return
after his 23d birthday,
at jet-speed with no room
for reflection, continued immersion,
a wedding and college campus
Married at the end of that year,
1968, confronting 1919 itself,
for polarities and violence
A jubilee year, 2018,
marked by our children
for celebration, amnesty
and cancellation of debts,
the prayer of my wife and I

Could we just have family
Extended family, I ask,
feeling anxiety tightening
my body My wife
looks up, asking,
Who do you have in mind

Returning to the yard
by way of my study, my lap
full of tiny branches
and decades of dirt grown
into its bark, I've retrieved
a bright yellow cotton rope
about 1/4 inch thick
and wind it around yucca
canes already wound
in black leather last summer
Canes with their spiny tops
left after producing tiny
promontories for white petals,
prickly and tensile, barbed
prototypes for the wire

The wound canes calling to him
during garden walks, soft yellow
cords will not interfere
with the natural lines,
which of these trees
know how welcoming
they are, greeting them,
feeling a return after this
long human passage of time

Yusef Komunyakaa observes
President Barack Obama reading
Derek Walcott's Collected Poems
in a similar manner to Walt Whitman
in muddy boots outside the White House
looking in the window at Abraham Lincoln,
separated only by glass. Knowing this,
holding possibility at this level
lights up the White House
putting a bit of swagger in his garden steps.

I was given to Ray Charles at 15
at the paper shack where I carried
The Seattle Times to Lake Washington
beach front homes seven days a week
on my bicycle, walking the bike
the mile up the hill after my route.
The boy who introduced me to race
radio in Seattle was the older brother
of a paper carrier who belonged to Demolay,
the premier developer of moral behavior
in young men between the ages of 12-21.
Once I found the station
I never saw him again. Me, a boy
from North Dakota, had embraced
the night vision, neither exile, nor outlaw,
but one who didn't fit anywhere,
including clothes, becoming part of each,
towards the illegal, no access, no return,
all applied to one like me, with books
telling about the lives of poets,
I didn't know anyone, who else
were they written for, you win again,
who was Ray singing for if not for me

These small trees collected for character
and thick trunks in Bonsai pots
surviving cold winters, withered
under blistering temperatures
of desert sunshine, baking in Chinese pots
I would remember them
in desert beauty landscapes, stones
older than anything I knew
witnessing in prophet-boxed grandeur.

Jim Bodeen
16-20 August 2018

Isn't that the way it is


He  wakes
just after 2 am
(Isn't that the way it is?)
and when his wife
gets up to pee,
he feels her moving,
hears the urine
in the bowl.
He is already missing her,
the absence of her
at his side

Smaller than the buttons
on his pajamas, the weight
on his chest is her light way,
her quiet being with him
over half a century,
the living in his wonder
of her with all of his questions

On returning to bed,
she coughs and he moves
into her arms, he is still
thinking about his question
of last night about orphans
prompted by the novel
carrying him through the week,
Do you feel like an orphan
Yes and no, Oh, I don't know
He asks her the time
and because she hadn't looked
when in the bathroom
she looks for him now,
Just after two, he asks one
more thing and she squeezes
his arm, No more talk
she says, he weighs
her direction altered
again by tentative re-assurance.

Jim Bodeen
20 August 2018

TWIN 44s


             for K. on her birthday

like the one she's made for students
by the sign proclaiming their gifts,
she sees herself this way, too--
Oh my God! I had no idea!

Love, Dad
19 August 2018


New school for you, new school
for your kids. All these new beginnings.
You're wearing red, no riddles,
and it's your birthday.

Love, Dad
19 August 2018


The day our daughters were born,
I handed out copies of Dr. Williams'
poem, The Gift, to people
driving by. Hard gold to love,
a mother's milk. That miracle
from my wife. The three wise
men are in that poem, too.
Where have the wise men gone,
you ask. Ones I know
continue loving women,
writing poems. Men I know
know what's going on
and though bewildered, remain.

Jim Bodeen
20 August 2018

Mercy, mercy, mercy


Cousins planning the night clock
for morning ride, last days of the tens,
requiem for childhood, pump those tires
with air Grandpa, find the right pump
we have to leave when it's still cool,
all the bread in bread drawer
backpacked, we must feed the geese

Sun-smoked Randall Park
Dheezus and Sammie!
on bikes through pear orchards
and ponds, Garden Poems
by Everyman's Pocket Library
and the Emperor of Water Clocks
lifting the air in my tires. Oh, yusef,
John Hollander say it, This
was all there was to keep,
and there was nothing to lose,
Hang on to the morning, Grandpa--

yusef counting times, all the time,
between one divine spirit
and the next detour, he wants
to fly home through doubt
talking about rise and fall
knowing the two Hopkins'
which makes him the soloist
in my notes of breathing angels

I'm on a picnic bench
green paint flaking to pine boards,
about 50-50 I'd guess, my eye
rests on the exposed knot
shaped a bit like a cyclone,
asking, How could that
ever have been a branch of tree

It's mid-August, West Coast
on fire, including White Pass,
Miriam Fire uncontained along
Crest Trail, one drainage
from Shoe Lake, where our
young family hiked before
a storm, and Goat Rocks
out of McCall Basin, that old man,
that one time before us, the Goat Rocks!
Grandpa! the girls cry, We're going
out on the trail with bread,
the ducks following us listen
to the quacks and you know
where we are
                        Rock Me, Mercy,
yusef titles a poem for Newtown,
Cannonball Adderley alone
with that word, three times, coupled
with the spoken, adversity,

This morning I leave my wife
sleeping alone with two older grandkids
end of summer, sleeping in living room
on cots, the Mexican man coming down
the walk, grey workpants, huaraches,
long-sleeved turquoise dress shirt,
where he's been in orchards, a limp,
a hitch, a bad giddy-up, girls returning
breaking out food, a package of Oreos,
a banana, two nectarines, Dheezus asking,

Do you want to walk or bike,
these girls counting steps, cousins, 10 and 11,
at the end of this slipping time
bringing so much joy,
so much of the so much more,
Their mothers, my twin daughters,
teaching children in two languages,
Matthew Arnold writing
from Kensington Gardens, any line
would fit on this page, Mercy
arriving like three cannonballs

Jim Bodeen
15-16 August 2018



"Come, let an idle man, Antoine, explain"
            Nicolaus Boileau (1636-1711), trans John Hollander

Smoky August mornings
Black Butte Dark Sisters Cup
Season the chicken, check out the stones,
keep stretching, count the times 
you walk the yard
until you don't,
these are the garden poems
and you are the you
in all of Aretha's songs
you were born by the times
you turned to listen

This is the hardware store
this is the sand paper
here is the wood

Jim Bodeen
14-15 August 2018

Abriendo Caminos * Yakima * 2018

Abriendo Caminos * From Holden Village in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State, to Yakima, Washington, in the Central area of the State:

Holden Village, ecumenical Lutheran Retreat Center, hosted a week-long annual multi-cultural retreat with West Coast Hispanic families from 2003-2012. The Latino/a community of Yakima re-creates the experience during August, 2018. The dream to "Volver, volver, volver," remains very much alive.



So far, it's going slow,
this whittling   I haven't
whittled since I was
a boy in North Dakota
sitting in grass on my knees
Just whittling   It started
out watching a man
at a garden show   He
had reverence   and
for wood   I got that,
no fancy tools   Me
and my Old Timer's
knife   They went
out of business   Knives
come from China now
most steel does   but
I don't have any
artist gifts   except
my left hand   I have
ambitious notions   Take
myself out
of any story   Another
way to forget   General
Grant, Ulysses S., the President,
whittled every night
by campfire, whittled
sticks to nothing   That's
my aim   Like I say
it's slow go

Jim Bodeen
6-8 August 2018



She says
she's read
for whatever happens

I ask myself
how could anybody
be ready for that

Jim Bodeen
5 August 2018



There was this other book,
the year I met Karen,
seminal, early, on my own,
but how did I find it,
and I thought I was still
at home, and in high school--
but the publication date
doesn't lie--which means
I was breathing it
even on that first date,
that I carried it too,
with those other books
into the army, basic training,
Panama, and Viet Nam,
that I was that determined
when I met her
that determined
to live like this
another stone
leading me into that
other water,
that oxygen lake

how could either
of us have known

Jim Bodeen
2-4 August 2018

The 19 and the 81


I pray for the adventure and uncertainty of talk

I pray for the conversation

I pray for the 19, and I pray for the 81

I pray for stones in the American River

Lift the stones, feel their weight,
move them around, the one
most inaccessible may be the stone
the dry creek bed has been looking for
Put the others back in the river,
stunning and beautiful They
remain in their old stories,
distance and intimacy

Jim Bodeen
31 July 2018