Hard gold to love, the poem.

Oh! Mama!

Jim Bodeen

29 November 2021

Q & A


Q & A

      --for Karen

Is this what you washed

the floor with?

Karen asks,

coming into the room.

You put this in with my clean clothes?

Come here.

Put this in your ear,

I say, taking

one hearing aid

from mine.

Did you get it?


Nora Jones singing

to Charles Lloyd’s saxophone,

You are so beautiful.


20 November 2021





       When his only wish is to die,

       not until then, does Christianity begin.1

                 --Soren Kierkegaard


     Inter librar y loan got me these 2.

     Coe’s book helps me understand so much,

      and have Luther’s sermons—

      the 3 earmarked—Thks too

      for lifting them up.

      Got stuck on Hannay—

      will try again.

      4 more days before due.

Thks so much for reviews and earlier stuff. jb

                -- Email from my I-phone

You never got this! Punched out-thumb-written note,

and two days later, --the electronic letter from Nesvig

beginning after you’ve already gone, leaving with instructions:

Don’t Preach Yourself: Sermon Six—Nothing plausible,

but demonstration. Draw out the love, praise love.

Underlined notes from your Kierkegaard

for the Church, Essays and Sermons, mine.

Per your instructions found by parish secretary,

funeral begins at 3 pm, No other words to be spoken,

This funeral is my last will and testament.

By overcoming our separation with one another,

we’ll be honoring Christ’s mediation on the cross.

Your last words in Chapter Six, my signed copy,

open. Sitting with books, Marshall’s, Kierkegaard’s,

biographies, dissertations and reviews—some,

yours—a week to absorb this life, daily practice.

But your last reviews, mis-sent, wrong address,

arrived! Loyola Marymount University

sent brand un-opened, never-read, books,

and three weeks—between time, underlining,

Since it is faith that makes a work good, rather

than a specific work, a man with faith can perform

good works in any estate, vocation in which God

has ordained and called him—for me validating

notebook, poem, and poet. One line among 100s

I wanted to share with you. I love you for having

Luther and Kierkegaard quotes in your casket

for the taking. I love you, too, for your love

of the footnote, and for being a footnote

in your life. I’ve re-read Jelly for Kierkegaard

in the Jelly Poems believing God let them

come through me, Kierkegaard saying,

for you believed in the dangerous call

of the poet, “...for one who is not in danger

cannot be saved.” In this—my first letter to you,

Dear Ron, in Heaven, let me devote my praise

to the footnote, a high-water mark in your books,

footnotes, your sources say, ‘...are where the author

takes his reader into his confidence...what he really thinks…

two parties can both be reconciled without being wrong…

According to Luther, poetry, music, and humor

are better means to express God’s love of the sinner

in Christ than logic...the task of the religious poet

is to repel disciples while stirring movements of faith…

Yes, you suffer, but you must love your pain,

because it is Christ’s pain…’ I cite your footnotes,

Pastor, not your sources, and give pause:

silence to better hear your great laughter.

Best we go into the cloak room and pray.

No better end—but a better beginning?--

than a return to your funeral instructions:

I’ve witnessed so many horrid pastor’s funerals.

Don’t ruin mine too. Don’t preach yourself,

p. 280, the service is about to begin.

Sitting by fire, I open to Job 14:10:

Cada día de mi servicio obligatorio

(obligatorio over hard),

your service, Ron, delivered

with joy,--skipping to Verse 15

not included, You will call.

I will turn my ear to a proverb,

in Psalm 49. Paul on the body

in 1 Corinthians, ‘sown in dishonor,

debilidad, raised in glory.’ And John,

‘Not to condemn, but through him,

save, God gives the Spirit without limit.’2

Nothing else. No tributes. Nothing.

Sermon Six: Jesus, shield for God’s wrath.

Intercessor, advocate. Access to grace.

Not pleasure, but great common life.


   Down here, pushing page margin

   boundaries, it’s own borderland,

   we’re accustomed to smaller fonts,

   fewer type faces, form-checked

   over content, gate-keepers

   wave us through

   like we had passports

   It’s a good time, Bob’s

   here, inked, blues-fed

   basement boy-noise

   you ain’t goin, NO


   Sam Cooke, & Langston

   making trouble

   for the teacher

   who put us in these

   God-awful rows

   and rows of nothing

   but trombones

   bass-cleft women

   gathered around Jesus

   sitting real close

   to Coltrane

   who felt this

   Love Supreme

   before it came down

   any track, any drum4

Jim Bodeen

1Kierkegaard’s Jelly—for Ron Marshall, The Jelly Poems, Jim Bodeen

2“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”

3“I want to make a case for Kierkegaard’s place in the Church today.” Ron Marshall, Kierkegaard for the Church: Sermons and Essays, p. 2. Threshold, gate, way. Camino. Senda. Umbral. Poesía. Poetry and many voices. “An invisible listener, God in Heaven.” S.K. Ibid. p. 47. Many voices. Many ears. “Now more than ever seems it rich to die...Thou wast not born for Death, Immortal Bird.” John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale.

4Footnote’s Riff was inspired while walking the neighborhood during the third mile, and jotted on a piece of paper, following the funeral of Ron Marshall, 17 November 2021, and completed the morning of the 18th. Elvin Jones is the drummer for Coltrane on A Love Supreme. Poem and footnotes by Jim Bodeen






Turns out I was given erroneous, and extra,

unsupposed unfiltered light, your final sermon

doubled, twice delivered.

Don’t preach yourself, Don’t try to save yourself.

The poem reports before it happens,

trying to keep up with love doubled;

the second, simultaneously pulpit-breathed.

In the moment, Rage, rage, don’t, don’t don’t--

there is no gentle, Dylan Thomas. Can’t,

you just can’t do it, the end “will drive you

to Christ.”

Ron Marshall baptized into hope.

Simul justus et peccator. In the same moment.

Both back at you. Kierkegaard’s,

Love forth, last breath breathing,

Love forth the love that loves you.

Jim Bodeen

22 November 2021




       And holy loneliness...worn by the always changing shape…

             --Conrad Aiken, A Letter from Li Po

I. Outside on a plastic chair, late November

sun warming the notebook, lifting the poem

while the young man, on his back before me,

replaces the rusted-out generator muffler

on the mother-ship; mis-appropriated hope

that light holds off what’s dark and cold.

Morning travel from hospital bed to jail,

packed beauty of the poem yielding

harvest joy while receiving

all the news, all of it, hourly, infinitesimal,

and vast; the re-newable vow.

II. Arriving as Kierkegaard, all-ways

untimely. Temporal and eternal

encyclopedia of sin wound inside

the clock. Needed recognition

of the City of Stars, Star River-

Heaven-Milky Way, one of many.

Not a pleasant fast.

Sucking fish bones dry three times.

not to merit grace

carrying the word that carries me.

III. Marriage arrives as the last option.

And it must have been terror for Karen

to be the only, and absolute,

and I knew nothing of the husband.

Last option, early arrival.

Why me? to be so lucky.

IV. The cross again

In the August, 2021 issue of Harper’s Magazine, Wyatt Mason, in an article titled, ‘Seven Steps to Heaven,’ writes of Jon Fosse’s novel, Septology, published in three volumes, one available, still, only as an ebook. In the first person narrative, Asleik, a painter, looks at his painting on the easel which consists of two lines crossing, ‘the brown line and purple line cross.’ Of the dozen or so friends I send the article to, exclusively a painter, a jeweler, five poets, five pastors, (the five and five, here, a coincidence), the painter and jeweler, one person), two respond, one a poet, one a retired Lutheran pastor. Meanwhile, I have read Septology in its entirety, even Wyatt Mason, had only read the two published books, The Other Name, and I Is Another. I was as grateful to have access to the third, A New Name, as I had been by Wyatt Mason’s article. Mason has previously written of book criticism as ‘pablum.’

The poet who responded, brought the copy of the xeroxed Mason/Fosse essay listened while I talked on the front porch of places I thought Fosse had written particularly to him. He didn’t have much to say, forcing me into a kind of monologue. Here, listening to myself talk, I learned even more of the Saint Andrews Cross.

The pastor who responded, sent me a poem he’d written, unsigned, as his signature, (he believes nothing man does on his own without God is possible) ‘Joseph Sittler, Whacked.’ Even the title, a non-title, but the subject line in an email. But in his poem, ‘said the shape of the cross, the vertical line crossed by the horizontal line, symbolize being “whacked”: sweat, flesh and blood splattered in all directions. The cross is the symbol of human experience in this world.’ My old friend, my senior by a dozen years (I’m 76) had sent me this poem before, flattening me with Sittler’s words, further down in the poem, saying, ‘you need a bigger god.’ Years earlier, this same man, had lifted me up with one of Sittler’s essays, The View From Mount Nebo, demonstrating the clarity artists and outsiders have, and share, with Aaron and Moses, brothers, as Moses acutely focuses on the promised land from his point of view, without entering. Lifted up, did I just say? Ah, the experience of the summit. Fact of a crucified god. ‘Unless you have it,’ Sittler writes. He’s not big enough.

Another pastor, one who has not given up, and who hasn’t given up on me, but who has given up on my need for his communication, a generous silence on his part, a trust, really, is the rare still-practicing Lutheran pastor who reads Luther and Kierkegaard daily, daily and simultaneously, and who preaches what he practices, has just reviewed two new Kierkegaard studies investigating Luther’s Sermons and Kierkegaard’s journals. This is the backstory on how these two new books arrived for me through Inter-library Loan, one by David Lawrence Coe, the other by the Norwegian theologian, Alastair Hannay, Existence and Identity in a Post-Secular World. With a limited (and gifted) window, I have five more days (from a total of fourteen) to absorb these two volumes, brand new and unread, from the Loyola Marymount University Library.

My Navajo friend Lloyd Draper says that Hozho, the Blessingway, reveals God through thunder. He, too, is in this mix, and serves to introduce the fence-line cross that confronted me as my brother and I hiked to the top of Rocky Top, setting for another poem and a version of the painting in the Jon Fosse novel, The Other Name. The trail is full of crossing lines through circles of barbed wire. Professor Coe explores suffering, the sighs, resolved and resigned, in Kierkegaard and Luther. Sin, to Kierkegaard being time’s obstruction

of the eternal. While walking after worship on Sunday, I called my jeweler-painter friend, who brings me news of the Milky Way, only one of many, telling him, imploring, Don’t ever allow me to lose sight of how much we need to see this creation as a city of stars. He, too, listened, like my friend the poet listened. What did I hear myself saying? How did I get here? Where did I come from?

When asked about influenza, the Blessingway Singer looks off the question. No, we will have not of that. It is not our business, he says. The plague is not ours.

The Saint Andrews Cross and the cross of the fence-posts.

Joseph Sittler and Jon Fosse.

Whacked. My old friend. And the mail.

Mail-whacked. Gob-smacked.

VI. Karl Barth and the God of my North Dakota Childhood. We knew it was cold in winter, that mosquitoes used our arms for landing strips. We didn’t know we walked on the bottom of a shallow sea. The Lutheran Church was across the street from our house, and our house and yard mirrored the church in size, if not stature. Admittedly, the house and the fence around us had seen better days.



sucking blood

from the arms

of boys like me

The front porch

came together

at a point

warped, weathered boards

sprung free from nails

Nothing held together

like God

and he was

right across the street--

an old man, now,

reading the likes

of Barth and Tillich,

comfortable, thrilled words,

In this one man

God sees every man,

all of us, as

through a glass--

the possibility

Barth arrived

at my porch

early on

filtered into North Dakota

through seminaries

and country pastors!

Maybe Grandpa Charlie.

Who could have guessed!

Karl Barth, my teacher,

God in Him,

in this One,

I heard it, I did,

but all I could see

were little critters

carving out homes

in warped boards

after the nails

came out,

beginning point

for humiliation.

VII. Muffler Bandit

On my red bicycle in November, this review.

Yesterday, all afternoon at the muffler shop

sitting outside on a chair.

Muffler Bandit, family owned.

A life-time in mufflers.

Keep it quiet.

Tin man, rusted on a snow-board,

masked, rusted sculpture

beside me

while I read

Aiken’s Letter from Li Po.

Things are slow at the jail,

busy in the hospital,

I write in my notebook.

ER’s a circle of curtains,

revolving beds. Jail boring,

with a machine for money orders

upon entering. Fully bilingual, and producing.

Money orders while you do your time.

Fully holstered guards

will help you make it work.

Lots of jail staff

taking home food

from the kitchen for their families.

Stolen jail food can’t be all bad.

IX. Muffler Bandit grace.

Kierkegaard’s little while,

little while to the end,

echoing Navajo Blessingway—

this is the only thing one can do

until he dies. Sing like this.

Sing us whole, sing us back.

Saying, No to influenza—

No, that’s not our work, not our business.

This is a great house, it is.

This is a great house.

It is a great house, sacred, it is.

X. Letter from Li Po and Conrad Aiken

Banished immortal

and all the news,

and the poem that is never done.

This garden where I walk

among cairn, tree,

sheltered shade--

But only if by this,

we mean everything!

The young man repairing

my rusted-out muffler

on his back, sliding

around on a bed of wheels,

extracts rusted out screws

with the patience

of one who knows

the power of his tools,

who knows, too,

this is not about him.

Screws are like nails.

They take a little while.

They’ll come.

Rust, too.


Patina and the sound-volume song

from sun-filled November pipes.

Jim Bodeen

1-10 November 2021



        --Let’s go as far as that tree in the sun,

                 and then turn around.”

                    Jane Goodall, The Book of Hope:

                    A Survival Guide for Trying Times

When my brother walks through the door

I’m reading the book he brought last week,

and looking up, say to him, Let’s go

as far as that tree in the sun. He smiles

at the cover, Jane Goodall’s face is the sun,

he says, Let’s hike until we see her face.

Overcast and cold, we might be walking

the William O. Douglas Trail

until we get to Rainier.

Tahoma, he corrects me, Mt. Tahoma.

Out Summitview, we turn onto gravel,

Rocky Top Drive past dump grounds

on the right into the parking lot at trailhead.

My brother’s a coach. Women’s fastpitch,

baseball, half-century, retired. Atlanta

up 3 games to 1 against Astros, World Series.

Tell me about Color Analyst Jon Smoltz.

He wouldn’t get vaccinated,

Major League Baseball wouldn’t let him

in the booth. I like to hear him talk pitching.

Have you heard him talk about batters?

That guy likes to hit more than he wants

to get on base. Pitch him outside the strike zone.

Horse Trail’s wide and we walk side by side.

Trekking poles. My brother, 70, younger

by six years, asks about All Saints Day.

We’re walking fence lines, in and out of gates.

It’s rocky. His daughter, an elite runner

and mother of six kids, runs out here.

She got lost once, in the dark, he says.

She could turn an ankle. Her kids

won’t let her leave the house without

her phone. Back and forth talk,

wound wire draped over wood posts.

We’ll find a place at the top

and put down our jackets for a table cloth,

take out our sandwich and apple,

trail mix and shortbread cookie.

And water. We’ll ask Mom & Dad

to sit with us, Grandma and Charlie.

Then we’ll ask Lena (his wife),

and Tyler (our nephew) to the stone

we’ve made for a table. Maybe

we’ll light up our phones, pretending

they’re fireworks clearing the trail

for them to make the journey

through the night sky.

We’ll ask them to refresh themselves.

Lena and Tyler both died of glioblastomas.

We’ll ask all of our ancestors to gather.

This is the practice of complete inclusion.

This is memory gone past the act of remembering.

We talk North Dakota. We’ve traveled this road.

The two of us. Karen (my wife) just found out

that Victor, Dad’s Dad, remember when we looked

for him locked up somewhere in Crosby

half-mad and delirius, he was totally deaf

when he died. Did that big house

we lived in have an in-door toilet?

No, the privy was in the basement,

winding downstairs from the kitchen

around the cistern only partially covered

with boards, large as a room and deep, scary.

I remember the basement was scary,

Yes, the two-seater was there, beside the furnace,

and we had to shovel out clinkers

every morning. Dad did that.

We didn’t walk through the coal bin

to poop, but I can’t remember where

it was! We took baths in the kitchen

and the galvanized tub hung on the wall

going to the basement. The kitchen!

Oh my God! I’ve been counting doors 

as we’ve been hiking. The kitchen 

had four entrances. One door 

outside to the side of the yard,

one door to the basement. One door led

upstairs the bedrooms with the long hallway,

and the last door opened to the dining room

and the main entrance to the house.

There were sliding doors that disappeared

into the walls off Mom and Dad’s bedroom.

I don’t know when they tore it down

but it was a decaying Victorian mansion

built by Great Northern Railroad,

and we lived in it rent-free because Dad

ran the elevator until we left in 1955.

Voices at Rocky Top Summit

by the cell tower, and fences everywhere.

Voices from two women, mother and daughter?

Mother’s got to be our age, fit. Daughter

on her cell phone. Chuck stops to talk

and I keep walking. If we cross under

the fence we’ll see Tieton and Yakima

going down. We lift the wires for each

other, rolling under barbs to the other side.

Our table made, we don’t spend

too much time with anybody,

OK, Mom, we’ll all have to eat fast. So sorry--

light rain falling, not quite a drizzle.

We take selfies by the post

holding the barbed-wire heart,

two brothers. I ask Dad if he liked

that almond butter, frozen blackberry jam

sandwich, and eat what’s left.

Three elaborate cairns, temple-like

on the way down. We replace

a couple of fallen stones.

Chuck breaks the silence

as we descend. When

was the last time one of us spoke?

Hope is a disruptor, kind of,

I say. Is walking also a form of hope?

I like listening to this rain

my brother says,

as it falls onto my hat.

Jim Bodeen

1-4 November 2021




           --for Pastor Kathleen Anderson

She speaks silence for me

being interim myself

Jim Bodeen

29 October 2021




         --for Marty

Every night in the oven,

sweet meat, moistened seeds

split, spooned, buttered,

and dripping with honey.

Late October, and rain.

Leaf fall and cascading silence.

The sharp blade slicing

through all the bullshit.

We’re doing just fine

in our resistance.

Jim Bodeen

25 October 2021