--for Byron, Jim, Eliseo, Dean,

Time-release medicine
come through the Baptist's belt.
Cinturón de cuero. Life in the mountains.
Re-treat, renewal, another way
to the way. Jesus thought so.
Wild water, wild water crossing.
Getting out of town.
What's heard on the street,

getting here. Wild horses
couldn't keep me away.
Honey-dipped locusts,
camel-skin and dreadlocks,
straight to word and wilderness
coming out of the water.
What you've done
with your 40 days.

What I really want to ask you
is how you've come back from the wilds
after 40 days. Tell me about
your first 40 days of marriage.
Shaking off anesthesia after surgery
when you got the really bad news,
the news that took you out.
Where've you been?

That man in the woods,
the mountain guy, they took his head,
beheaded him. Didn't he baptize you,
something like that? Was that him?
Somebody's girl friend said,
Bring him to me on a plate?

Jesus never got over it, uh-uh.
Never did. Those temper tantrums,
family calling him out, You're crazy,
surly responses, taunting. Dead fig tree!
Ever hear Christians on that one?
Makes me cringe. Until I remember John.
Jesus never forgot him. The rest of us.
We're slow. We don't know
the all of it, but we know what he carried
on that walk towards power. Jesus
crossed that river walking into the land
of promise carrying John.

I'm still tangled up. Still reading
Mark. Coming right up to my own
40 days. Blue from cold mornings,
dark nights. My miner's light
reading in the tent, in the mothership.
Carrying my mother's story.
Went to war with it learning how
I might bring it to justice walking out.
I get how the back story tilts things,
turns responses to others
in the moment. Things come out.
Changes things. One storyteller--
Richard Swanson if you want names--says Jesus
became a leper after he touched the leper.
What do you think about that?
Jesus, now. Now. He didn't forget John
not for a minute. Uh-uh.
Think about that the next time
you ride into Seattle
in your Jackass SUV.

Este cinturón. El cinturón.
Cinturón de cuero.
Cinturón de Juan.
Compa de Jésus.

Tengo otro amigo. Eliseo.
Mexicano. Profeta. Profe.
Campesino. Campesino
en su camino. En sus palabras.
En su ser. Eliseo.
Hablaste, escribiste de Marcos.

Una  cosa rodear a otra

Asegúrate de que la cincha está bien ajustada
y de que la silla de montar no se bambolea.
Yo sé, Yo sé.
El orador debió ceñirse el tema sin divagar.

Eliseo in the mountains, too.
Where I meet him. Everybody laughing.
Because of his language.
Eliseo Pérez Álvarez:

Cuentas a las comunidades marginada de donde venimos.
Mercancia canibalesco contra pobres.
Marcos enfoca su mirada en la vida cotidiana del Nazareno,
en sus obras liberadoras y en la muert de cruz
de su estilo de vida a favor de las personas
intocable, destituidas y anónimas.

Jésus el artesano pobre, hijo natural, con acento pueblerino,
adulto, sin esposa e hijos, en una sociedad campesina,
exiliado en Egipto, sin hogar propio, descendiente
de una familia disfuncionales, ...necesitaba escuchar:

"Tú eres mi Hijo amado, en Ti tengo complacencia."

Jesus with John in his head.
Carrying the Baptist, walking.

The belt, el cinturón que el maestro me dió, was not a free gift.
The belt came through John, softened in the Baptist's water.
The belt came through the craftman's hands.
Se lleva la sabiduria de campesinos.
The belt is full of medicine.
Help me, friends, to buckle up.

Jim Bodeen
19 October-- 1 November 2018

Released into the Wild


Que paz en tierra
My hair set my shirt on fire
Assisi Heights grass land

100 wild dogs
Warmer rooms of homelessness
Man with fish bone hat

Feather light leaf song
Delayed departure promise
Keep your feet worm, bud

Jim Bodeen
25-26 October 2018

A Letter in the Mail


            Sailboat in the moonlight
                        Billie Holiday

That's how these lines arrive, Karen,
by slow mail with the dragon stamp.
Did you expect the rabbit
coming from the hat? That one's
for the philatelist grandchild
hopefully, some day, one willing
to fight for it. When you return
from your quilting workshop
I want to see what you've done.
You and Colleen. It's just before noon
in the butterscotch chair, Friday,
and I've gotten rid of leftovers
in the fridge--you've noticed by now,
but make certain you've seen
it's also stocked--green grapes,
strawberry smoothies, sliced ham
for crackers at lunch, and cooked
turkey breast for dinner. Four tiny
(and lean) round steaks you can fry
later in the week. And Tillamook
Old Fashioned Ice Cream.
We had little carrots,
I've counted them, be certain
to eat four every day.
I'm missing you already.
I ladled a cup of chile
before dumping the rest
and took out the garbage. I'm packing,
but I had to work on the poem
for the gift belt made for me
by the maestro from El Salvador.
I've lately discovered it's after
the fashion of John the Baptist's,
and is a girdle for justice.
Es muy peligro, también.
I should have known!

Karen, I love you longer
than our half-century road.
I'm taking some Yakima apples
on the plane for the Minnesotans
to help warm them to Kirsten's book.
Like the belt, it's beautiful, too,
beautiful, and dangerous.
She'll be great inside the pages
and in white water. I'll message you
from Rochester, remembering
James Wright's blessing.
These lines, too urgent, too full
of love for anything but the U.S.P.S.
In ten days, we'll catch up,
get our ballots filled out together
and seriously steady ourselves
for the anniversary celebrating
50 years of marriage. This,
a song offering of a trembling man.


19 October 2018

Time Walking


Founded July 4, 1776
            for Byron Barrera

Past the Coal Town Saloon
with its main entrance in back
I walk under the awning
below the paintings in two windows,
woman in pony tail
with bare arms on the window sill,
blond cat beside white curtains
and flower pot in the other.
I cross to the bronze sculpture
of George "Flicker" Marshall
in whose honor the Marshall Plan
is named, making economic recovery
in Europe possible after WWII.
I stop at New Beginnings,
Mental Health Counseling for veterans,
and after returning from the day,
am told the story of the soldier's
dedication to restore lives
of wounded vets suffering moral injuries.
I walk through City Hall
and County Courthouse,
clearing security, granted permission
to photograph. I've been walking
all morning, I'm bushed,
walking backward after a full day
recording early American history
on foot. Marquis de Lafayette
himself, carved from wood
drying and cracking 250 years later.

Marquis de Lafayette.
We studied him in grade school
in a small town in rural North Dakota.
There he is. I still remember that.
Here he is carved out of wood,
he's still drying out, cracking.
I don't remember a thing he did.

Look for the shoe repair
on your way into town
there it is. I found that shoe repair.
Something happened in that shop
that changed my life.
It involved a hand-made belt
that I'm wearing this morning.
The belt is full of medicine.
It tells a story of time and justice.
The belt strengthens one's resolve.
The belt turns on history,
it's time-release
and gets to what's important
about independence.

Jim Bodeen
10-19 October 2018

Itinerancy Dog


Soft mouth on forearm
Wind river cross bridge

Jim Bodeen
18 October 2018



So that Karen might sleep
Hearing Bob Marley sing us through the night
Hearing C. S. Lewis cautioning us over decades, reflecting
Reading now Richard Swanson ask

what the crushing weight of exile
felt like, I re-trieve my son's Bible
from first communion, signed by pastor,
broken spine, un-read, left behind,

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down

reaching out again for the Santa Biblia
bi-lingual and diverse

this time
Colgábamos nuestras arpas
We hung our harps

Let's see who stays around
for the blessing in Verse 9
Dichoso el que agarre a tus pequeños...

Jim Bodeen
17 October 2018

He Came Through Here


            for Pastor Ron Marshall

He visits the sick.
He visited me.

Jim Bodeen
11 October 2018



            --for B. B.


White circle of light
Open in red letters
phone number on sign mounted on roof.

In plaid shirt, maestro
works on a hat from inside his shop
looks up at me watching him remove
the worn leather band.
Neither of us talking, asking to be helped.
He returns to the leather band,
measures with a piece of leather
gauging its width. After cutting

to size, leather's too thick.
He attaches the leather
to a bladed gauge, pulls it
through, leather breaking once--
hide's not uniform--
gets it the second time,
circumambulates the hat with fingers,
rings around a far star.

This hat, a man's, originally
for dressing up, faded now,
wool, dirt-filled, inside-brim
sweat-soaked, this hat works outside,
hat that a man loves and works in,
brought here, for restoration,
original brown color
uncovered with the removal
of the original band.

Watching him work,
el maestro in his shop, taller,
for the better part of an hour,
I step back when a middle-aged woman
steps into the shop to see
if her sandals are ready.
But the button on the strap doesn't match perfectly
with the button she lost.
That can't be replaced
the craftsman explains, That button
doesn't exist anymore.
The strap is fine but I can't
wear them out, she says.
I guess I could wear them in the garden.

I'm looking at a full spool
of luminescent blue thread
set on the machine on the customer
side of the counter, trying to imagine
its journey from this shop and where
it might go when it leaves the store,
this thread created for beauty's practicality.

Maestro resumes work at his table
of tools, a mallet of wound leather,
a hand-made tool. He looks at me,
twice his age, picking up
a work in progress, a man's belt,
full two inches wide, leather-stitched
in two parallel columns
of luminescent blue thread.
Light radiating from the leather.
Cinturón, cincha.
El maestro debío ceñirse el tema sin divagar.

It doesn't happen very often.
Sometimes the button they're looking for
have been disappeared, like people,
lost in dreams, or worse. Tu sabes.
Hoping he'll tell me more about
the hat, he begins measuring holes
to match the belt's buckle,
and I see by his eyes
he's measuring this belt for me.
Asegúrate de que la cincha está bien ajustada
y de que las silla de montar no se bambolea.
You don't want the saddle to wobble
I'll be wearing a new belt when I leave,
I hope my wallet has a couple of twenty's.

Try it on, Maestro says, Here.

Honoring what is not deserved
isn't for the weak. How to respond
to what we're not ready for.
Carry gratitude as one can.
No merezco nada. Gracias se fue.
Asking what might be fair
makes one payaso, a fool.
The craftsman's eyes, justice-steady,
find mine before he speaks,
Not everything is about money.

Jim Bodeen
April-October, 2018

Trying on the Shield


            with and for K. B.

Building protections
with real nouns,
my friend Marty,
jeweler and shield maker
cut-carving soft shields
from onion skin tightening
around wood-frame
when breathed upon

The end of numbers
has something to do with sage-practice
Last thing we need
is a man in the road

From just-issued
Forever stamp from Postal Service
a woman dressed in white
inside a gold hoop, levitating
over a shadow marking
her place of departure

In apple picking September
barista brew, Sol y Sombra,
steeped in Lorca, not the arrival
any anticipated
and my friend Raúl wrapped
in brown-skin, his poems
spilling smoke from Mexican
cigarettes, incense of campesinos,
remembering dead ancestors
finishing their work among marigolds

Plain-style the only way
for one born in North Dakota
daily confrontation with immense
landscape antelope-interrupted
and bird sky brilliance

I knew from the beginning
I couldn't do this. No longer
taking my walk for granted
sometimes I measure time
by how long it's been since
someone mentioned Jack Gilbert
over coffee--Sorrow and slaughter
will not keep us
from Sunday morning joy

This morning I left my grandchildren
in a wooden pew facing my wife
ringing bells, ring the ones that can ring,
to be with you around a table
full of poems 

read to me

Jim Bodeen
30 September 2018



Here come the ones who want me
to say what I mean. This is the letter
Emily talked so much about.
Two Emilies, right, my God,

I loved them both. Aunt M?
Her too. Billy Budd, lost bud,
take me to where articulation
stops for the stutterer's truth. When

mail arrives I run to the box.
Last week I sent my wife a letter.
She brings it to me, asking,
What do I do with it?

As my friend leaves, this morning,
I say, Pick a stone from the garden.
Help me, he says, and I choose
a white cave-laden one from the Klamath,

given permission and direction
from the Yoruk couple where
Karen bought me the knit wool
cap with sturgeon pattern--

Hehlkeek 'We-Roy'
Yoruk call Klamath,
my recall unable to retrieve
the word for my friend gone. Non-

aligned, itinerant. Edge, release.
Notion setting out, eclipsed.
Time inside a shut door.
Talk about letters! God,

Almighty, hearing all,
you know. What a day!
Cave-whispering, extreme
and narrow in order for my

well-being. Up-ended
intimacy! With all this time,
Hardly enough for Mandela
not heard in life time letters,

to be unprotected. That
be it. Mandela writes,
I have been anxious to write,
but you wouldn't have been able

to reply, maybe too, his letters
were never sent out, or this,
From the way it is censored,
it is clear that you wanted

to keep me ignorant...
of essentially domestic affairs,
and to his daughter, I never forget
you were three months old

when I had to leave home.
Rilke wrote 14000 letters.
We must learn to die slowly,
...that is all of life...a death

where chance plays no part.
Heart transformed in preparation,
heart transformed in the practice.
1968 informs me this morning,

dear ones, as we talk. We, the lucky
ones, and here I am returning to chance.
at the Dodge dealer reading while
they change the oil in my truck--

and here, found in my notebook,
waiting, dark kernel from Zora Hurston,
Those who love us never leave us
alone in our grief. 1968, the most

harrowing years for Mandela
at Robben Island, political prison
from mid-1960s, desolate outcropping,
deep symbol of apartheid. So like you,

bestowing this unruly gift,
me the undeserving one before you.
I open the drawer where stamps
wait words tipping from the moon.

Jim Bodeen
Late September--8 October 2018

THE PRACTICE OF LETTERS begins with slow-stepping moves towards the ineffable. Mandela's letters over 27 years arrest one's way. Mandela's letters give you a chance. You revisit warrior chiefs who mentored you. Perhaps you believed you were in charge of the words. That your letters arrived. Maybe you didn't write letters. When you read the Psalms of King David, what comes up? Dear Ones, your letter begins. Now you swim in the waters of the unconscious.

THIS DAY FATHER/DAD, I call on you in behalf of my brother, your son, asking our Father/God, an intercession. Your son troubled by smoke and fire, believing troublesome words carried over time by family members, touching him in grieving loneliness. Untransformed. If you can reach him, I believe you complete your own unfinished work. Quiet father of us, I dreamed last night, missing you in the dream.


Blinded by the luminescent blue thread
I couldn't see the Cinturón de cuero
I wore the belt proud, in innocence

Ciego por lo luminescente hilu azul
No podía ver the leather belt
Llevaba el cinturón como inocente

La medicina oscurecido


It is an honor to walk with the suffering peoples of this world. This is the privilege of accompaniment. Blake teaches us the limitations of innocence, and then, through walking with the limitations of our knowing, we pass through our cynicism to a kind of ascended innocence, no longer completely blind. The caravan is on its way.


Hang anniversary photos. Get the ladder out. Grill tuna steak on hot coals for two minutes. All that you have been given, seared inside. Here. History. Story. Frederick Douglass himself: Not logic but Jubilee. That kind of grace. It is on the wires. Acorn squash! Oh, with honey and butter.


The horn sounds. Clipper underway. Two women raise their arms and shout, I'm so excited. Remembering my grand daughter's question, Why do we have to be human? I find three others. Here's one: What is truly human? I find this haiku: See things mountains hide/ Light where cold and heat are one/ One is cause of other. Like this, I walk into the street.


Mortal boat in sacred river
tied up on shore, one oar missing,
the other bow-crossed
with poems copied from manuscripts
of the old master Meng Hao-Jan
and carried all the way to my friend
who lives just off the Interstate
North of Seattle. These poems
written on this left-behind oar
can be read by any who pass

by these waters stopping for lunch.



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


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.


Before I knew the meanings of songs I fell into a basket of words. Lights of full wombs, Three rose windows on sunrise, the late waking in snow fields. All of the dancing heart in cadence. Big Rock Candy Mountain as child-song, child-play, there was only the singing and the words calling out to me at Christmas. Beyond the record player it was cold and dangerous. My lips cracked and bled in dry wind. Play in the music, the voice said, Play in the music.

Opening Leaves of Grass, looking for what chance brings, Song of the Banner at Daybreak finds me receptive. I copy the first line for two granddaughters, O a new song, a free song, and turn the page. Poet, pennant, father, child, having a good talk. The poet says, But I am that which comes and sings. The child says to the father, It is alive, full of people. The banner says, Speak to the child, Bard.


Through and out the back. When children are themselves, talking like adults, I want to be in earshot. These voices of young people reading to me, that too. All the way from Oakland. There there. We drive over the pass in snow, watching out for trucks. So much space to pray before the sound of each bell ringing.


Those Parker Pens, Again and Again


A way out, if not the way back.
Alone in the school library at 15,
opening Mark Schorer's biography
of Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
promises, what do they mean?
North Dakota backs
away from Minnesota still.
That day, on the library
table, someone leaves a pen,

Parker T-Ball Jotter ball point.
Picking it up and putting it
in my left hand, I never
put it down. Two years
later, Grandma Myra
and I drive the red
roadster to Alabama
to see my parents. We stop

in Sauk Center, me and Grandma,
take pictures of main street,
buy post cards. My eyes
out of focus, I can't steady
my hands. I never got to Paris,
looking instead down gopher
holes, rabbits on night prairie
highway, tracking movement

with the Parker T-Ball Jotter
across the page. First cool
feel that never let me go.
That adoption, more real
to me than Baptism,
carries me, Jotter pens
in black, blue and red,
clicked into river rhythm

in Levi pockets.
Three of them, always.
Giving them to others,
stone cairns on lonesome trails,
after written words change
more than any day's transactions.
This is a letter to Jim Hanlen
in Alaska, notebook entries, written

explorations of  letters
Nelson Mandela wrote
to the Commanding Officer
of Robbens Island prison,
asking that his silver
Parker T-Ball Jotter ball point
stolen from his cell, be returned
to him, along with the date

he can expect to see it.
The year of the letter was 1971,
47 years ago. Mandela
permitted to write and send
six letters a year.
The letters are censored,
and sometimes, sent.
What pens did those censors use, 

friend? Mandela's cell,
7 feet by 9 feet, locked-in
27-and-a- half years, censors
seizing words at whim until tiring,
Keep letters to a page-and-a-half.
Over-sized pieces of paper,
word wearying. Here we are
locked up, doing free time,

not hammering boulders
into pebbles or words, living small,
as dream instructs, flawed
lovers and writers, asked
for smiles by family for family
pictures, given multiple channels
to watch the same birds, straight-
faced, confident in only Jotter pens,

shellbound, separated
ink clarified. Peach branches,
Jim, peach branches scratching
full belly of the moon. Like
painters escaping subject
matter, content, flung-stroked
stoked. What says the magician
writing home to his mother?

Jim Bodeen
25 September-4 October 2018

I Hope You're Doing Well


Now that email writes
your own responses
for you friend,
what's up with
your free time?

Jim Bodeen
5 October 2018