With Mom in the Jeep, Our Last Morning
in Bowbells, North Dakota, Driving Out Towards Flaxton,
Mom at 82, First Time Back Together, Mom:

 
There’s Schoff’s Grove where we had picnics.

There’s Papa’s house.

People would pick me up before I got into town.

Not much left, but not torn down.
Look at the house in the grain without windows.
Eddie said he couldn’t bear to tear it out
For a few bushels of wheat.

Alice was born in that house.

There’s the road to my house.

Those trees. That’s where our house was.
Those groves of trees—that’s where I made
My mud cakes. The house is gone, of course.

If you don’t get turned around you’ll be in Canada.

Grandma—my Grandma Peterson—would feed
25 to 30 people in two shifts every Sunday.
Alice would have to clean up.

It’s great to see everybody.
It’s great to be here.

It gives me the chills.

I thought I could only have it in memory.

 

 

 

Grandpa Charley’s Thumb

 
He lost it in an auger hauling coal
In those North Dakota winters.
A stub, or nubbins, scabbed over
With ribbons of skin, never
Fully healed. A blind eye.
I was lost already. A boy
In a blizzard whiteout.
Weather was the house
I grew up in where
My young parents
Did all they could
To fight the cold.
Grandpa Charley’s thumb
Would reach for me then,
And bring me in by feel.
I would take it
And hold on,
Pure muscle
In the fist of a child.

 

 

 

Jim Bodeen’s Whole Houses Shaking, a story of his North Dakota childhood, was published by Empty Bowl Press, and translated into Spanish as Casas enteras temblando and published by the Instituto Cultural in Chihuahua, México. He is the founder of Blue Begonia Press, and keeps a blog, Storypath/Cuentocamino. His family left Bowbells, North Dakota, when he was ten. He was born in 1945.

Photo of abandoned North Dakota farmhouse courtesy Shutterstock.

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4 Responses

  1. Kevin Miller

    Thanks for these great poems. Clear to the heart.

  2. Bonny Buckley

    Wonderful. Thanks, Bodeen. In a twist of fate, many of my students now are older than you are, having come of age while Germany was being rebuilt, but old enough to remember the bombings, chaos and the hunger.

  3. Dave

    Thanks for posting these, Jim. It was great hearing read them!

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