Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview, Books and Reviews, Vietnam Docupoem information

 Mt. Hood in My Eyes
appears on the back covers
of Alla's iUniverse books.

Order any of Alla's titles through your favorite 
neighborhood or Online bookstore or as indicated 
in the specific book information section.

To go directly to the Interview, click
 To go directly to Books and Reviews, click
To go directly to the Vietnam Docupoem, click

Books and Reviews~
The subjects range from healing through grief, spirituality, 
biography, scholarly books, feminist theology and philosophy, 
love poems, poetry and painting collaboration and more.
To view book covers of Alla's prose and poetry books and 
audio cassettes, with excerpts or chapter headings and some 
reviews, scroll down past the Interview.

To view titles by Alla Renée Bozarth that have helped people 
navigate the journey through grievous loss, scroll down beyond 
the opening Interview until you see images of book covers and
highlighted text in chronological order of publication, oe click
here to navigate to a resource page: 

Books concerning the grieving process are Life is Goodbye/
Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss  
(seventh title) and its smaller, easy to read pocket book   
companion for when one is in raw grief and reading a larger 
book is impossible~  A Journey through Grief (ninth title).

Other helpful resources listed for spiritual and emotional recovery 
are Lifelines: Threads of Grace through Seasons of Change 
and Wisdom and Wonderment: 31 Feasts to Nourish Your Soul.

This Mortal Marriage: Poems of Love, Lament and Praise
is a comprehensive poetry collection with related sections on 
loss of loved ones and the mystery of the relationship between 
spirit and body and its healing after grievous loss. 

Other blog entries that may be helpful for gently moving 
through the process of reshaping one's heart and life around 
grievous loss, with blessing poems:

All Souls Day~ This is My Beloved

The Vietnam War
At the end of everything (Books and Reviews section) you can find a lengthy
docupoem about the history of the Vietnam War from the Paris Peace talks
after World War I to the election of President Obama and certain recent 

events in 2012 which demonstrate how history tends toward repetition.

To go directly to the docupoem go to

                               Blessings for the Journey 
Love Mantra for Letting Go 

I bless you
I release you
I set you free
I set me free
I let you be
I let me be

    Alla Renée Bozarth
From the books~

Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss                        A Journey through Grief
Lifelines: Threads of Grace through Seasons of Change
Love's Prism: Reflections from the Heart of a Woman                                                 This Mortal Marriage: Poems of Love, Lament and Praise
Dance for Me When I Die: Death as a Rite of Passage [audio cassette]

The Vietnam War
At the end of everything (Books and Reviews section) you can find a lengthy
docupoem about the history of the Vietnam War from the Paris Peace talks
after World War I to the election of President Obama and certain recent 

events in 2012 which demonstrate how history tends toward repetition.

To view only the poem itself, go to

Books and Authors Interview 
with Alla Renée Bozarth, 2004~
Edited and Revised June 6, 2010,
November 11, 2011 and March 2012

The introductory section below originally constituted the publisher’s biographical
note in Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss.  Both
the introduction and the interview itself have been edited by Alla, as indicated
in brackets.
The Rev. Alla Renée Bozarth, Ph.D., was the first woman ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal diocese of Oregon in l971, and one of the first eleven women to be ordained as priests in the Episcopal church. [That] ordination, which created a stir in ecclesiastical circles and drew international attention, took place in Philadelphia in 1974.

She prepared for ordination by reading for Holy Orders at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, while earning a Ph.D. in Interpretation (speech and drama) with a fellowship from Northwestern University, where she also received her M.A. and B.S.S. degrees. As recipient of a Bush Foundation Leaders Fellowship, she was trained and certified in Gestalt Therapy at the Gestalt Training Center in San Diego.

Since 1986, after thirteen years in Minneapolis, she practices [the liturgical, spiritual and healing arts of soul-mending and soul-tending as priest and counselor/consultant] at Wisdom House in Sandy, Oregon. Wisdom House with its small chapel is a center of serenity and creativity for friends, colleagues and those with whom she counsels or consults as a colleague mentor.

Alla Renée Bozarth was born in 1947 in Portland, Oregon. Her father was an Episcopal priest; her mother an artist and writer who had emigrated from Russia as a young woman in [1928.]  Brought up in the shadow of the Pacific Northwest’s majestic mountains, transplanted for a time to Minneapolis in the flatlands of the Midwest, Dr. Bozarth returned to her beloved mountains and now lives in the shadow of Mt. Hood.

She speaks and writes about the grief journey from personal experience, as one who has lost, among others, both of her parents and her husband. The Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, also an Episcopal priest, died suddenly in 1985 at the age of thirty-seven.

Alla experienced a cerebral hemorrhage while in an upside-down position immediately following her Caesarian birth, and from this one-minute old trauma she developed lifelong fibromyalgia with multiple complications. She claims the event as a stroke of lightning to her psyche, opening it up to the depth dimension of eternity. It left its visible mark in her drooping left eyelid, increasing the natural asymmetry of her face.

Facing the Lightning Stroke~ 
   Double-Sighted Mantra

I have a global,
one might say,
ecumenical face~

My nose is a bridge
between East and West.

   Alla Renée Bozarth

At the Foot of the Mountain
CompCare 1990, iUniverse 2000
My Blessed Misfortunes
Copyright 2012
The Interview  Where did you grow up, and were reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences, and why?

Alla Renée Bozarth:  I grew up near Portland, Oregon, with Mt. Hood always my focal point, along with the rugged Oregon Coastline. [When I was tiny and long before I could read or spell, my mother gave me her old Underwood typewriter to break me of the habit of “writing” all over the wallpaper in the rooms of our house with bright colored crayons, just above the baseboard where I could easily reach, imitating what I saw her doing on both paper with pen and easel with paints.

Mama put her hand to writing novels but painting was her great gift. I can’t paint or perform hand crafts, but I love color and admire all art forms.] Oregon grows writers and artists as prolifically as it does trees. It rains a lot. We read a lot.

As a child, I mostly watched old movies on television, and was introduced that way to history, drama and literature. I was home more often than most youngsters [because of illnesses and nine eye surgeries from eighteen months to eighteen years of age to correct left eye damage from a cerebral hemorrhage that occurred within seconds following my birth. Except for those times when my eyes would be bandaged,] this allowed me to read voraciously.

I raided my father’s library and read Freud and Jung when I was eleven and twelve, the Spanish mystics at thirteen, Greek mythology, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and so forth, but also and more importantly, the poets. [Poetry of America’s great, richly lyrical Walt Whitman and the sensuously beautiful divine love poems of sixteenth century] Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross ignited the first impulses toward poetry from me when I was thirteen. But I didn’t start writing free form poetry until I was eighteen. By then I had read Teilhard de Chardin and fallen in love with the green world of Nature.

I wrote what I consider to be my first real poem, [a series of three, really,] while sitting on a rock in the MacKenzie River [during a visit to a Dominican Retreat Center in Western Central Oregon. I think it was drawn out of me by the energy of light on brilliant green grass and  wet rocks and the river, and especially by the music and power of moving water.]  What is it about poetry you enjoy the most? How many poems have you written? What do you hope to share with your poetry?

Alla Renée Bozarth:  I enjoy the plunge into the Unknown that happens with poetry. The composing process is a little dangerous, risky, exciting. It makes me flush all over. It comes up from somewhere under the earth through my soles, or hits like lightning. I must be responding to it erotically, to the process itself, for I love the surrender to it, the tending of it, the engagement of all my experience and senses, thought and feeling, but also the need to stretch beyond myself all the time, open a door to my core being and say, “Yes, I’m here. Take me. I’m yours for as long as you need me.”

This is what I call an infinitely repeatable sacrament, with no sense of possession but free, mutual self-giving— it comes to me and I give myself to it. [Though I admit to sometimes asking the Muse for a vacation! The process can be like the river that first inspired it— it surges on and on relentlessly, and my mind and body get too tired to keep up.]

[I don’t know how many poems I’ve written, or have written themselves through me or tried to, but I’m guessing something like 6,000, more than half of which I’ve deleted or tossed into the recycle bin.

What is shared with others is simply what each poem presents of itself, and each one is different. Whatever that poem says, that’s what I hope is shared. Overall, I hope that the poems, or whatever they are, communicate one or more of these gifts to others, the gifts that I receive from them when I read them later—insight; pleasure or disturbance depending on the subject matter; information about historical events or people presented in a context of meaningful imagery or interesting relationships, or with striking thematic contrasts or resonance; encouragement, empowerment, comfort, inspiration; a demand for accuracy when it’s relevant, and an authenticity in myself, the text, and both the creative and interpretative processes. Though I always demand these things, I don’t know to what extent they are present.]  Stars in Your Bones: Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys, is a wonderful book— How did this book come to be? Tell us about this book and the people with whom you collaborated.

Alla Renée Bozarth:  Stars in Your Bones, was a collaboration that seemed to make itself, but was really the result of the idea and effort of Terri Hawthorne, our cultural historian and commentator, and the artist Julia Barkley. Terri was a feminist film maker in the Twin Cities where I lived at the time of the Philadelphia Ordinations in the seventies. She wanted to photograph and interview me. She also invited me to send her new poems regularly, for her personal use— empowerment, inspiration, I don’t know. I’m told that people pray my poems, which makes me happy because I think all true poetry and art are forms of prayer, ways of relating to and expressing the human essence to the Great Mystery. Meanwhile, Julia Barkley, a feminist painter in Minnesota, wrote to me and asked me to lead an invocation at her coming art show at the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota. The show was called “Energy of Miracles.”

Julia brought six powerful, exquisite paintings to my home in a furniture truck. We moved out some furniture and in they came. I sat down with them and the artist and pulled poems I’d written over the preceding decade before we’d met. There was a perfect match.

[Our first show was in three movements—the paintings alone, then a group of dancers expressing them in powerful human movement accompanied by music, and finally my performing poems that were the vocal twins of Julia’s large and vivid images on the surrounding walls.] After that, [paintings and poems] would spark each other back and forth.

Our second show was “Circle of Fire,” [which is the name of Julia’s painting that had inspired the poem by the same name, both shown in Stars in Your Bones, along with many paintings and poems from both shows and more recently.]

Even if we don’t visit for months on end, when we do we are still amazed to find that we unconsciously continue to create in parallel. Julia will be painting and I will be writing about the same theme, image or motif. It’s wonderful, this synergy between the forms of our art.

Terri met Julia and they also were mutually inspired by each other. Lasting friendships have endured. The book was Terri’s idea, [I believe, and she identified the themes and wove them together. Julia and Terri selected the poems to include in the book and decided on their placement.] The poem, “Transfiguration,” and some of Julia’s paintings from Stars in Your Bones, are in the permanent collection of the Peace Memorial Garden in Hiroshima. [“Transfiguration” was transliterated into Japanese, and together with Julia’s “Chinon” or “Dragons of Compassion for the Grief of the Soul” series, constituted the first works by foreign women artists to become part of the permanent collection in the Peace Memorial Garden.]  In your book At the Foot of the Mountain: Nature and the Art of Soul Healing, you say, “ . . . it has no plot. My life and soul have no plot—only themes.” Please explain.

Alla Renée Bozarth: When a human being is creating a life, there isn’t a sense of beginning, middle and end, because one can’t know where one is in the unfolding. My favorite movie, “Paint Your Wagon,” has a song whose lyrics are, “Where am I going? I don’t know. When will I get there? I ain’t certain. All that I know is, I am on my way.”

I can’t identify the whole design at any given phase of its development until I’ve moved on a little from where I am [to a place of reflection]. Even between times of reflection, I’m very aware of themes that I’m always moving through. These are basic themes of a human life—the conflicts [or balance and proportion] between solitude and intimacy, autonomy and limitation, eros toward places and eros toward persons— the balancing act we must achieve to fulfill goals or be happy [and healthy]. The soul has to learn how to respond when bad weather comes, as well as sudden bliss. I think all my books are about that, one way or another, even my scholarly book, The Word’s Body: An Incarnational Aesthetic of Interpretation, which is about embodying the word [whether in performance, simply reading aloud, or even as a silent reader, and how one interprets a text through one’s kinesthetic response to it]. You were one of the first eleven women to be ordained as Episcopal priests in 1974—Tell us about this journey and achievement. Your father and late husband were Episcopal priests as well?

Alla Renée Bozarth: As the only child of remarkable parents, my mother a painter, [designer,] actor, humanitarian and Russian emigrée , my father an aspiring artist and priest, I was immersed in adult culture from the beginning. Art and Spirit were my soul’s food, natural as breathing. As I matured, I continued to integrate them. The focus of my childhood combined humanitarian service, creativity and worship. I became a celebrant of the mysteries in my work as a poet, and I wanted to be a complete celebrant, a priest who offered the poetic structure of Thanks in the Divine Liturgy.

I’d been preparing for it since I was [four] years old and my father became a priest, with me often at his side throughout my childhood. Early in July, 1974 the invitation came to those of us women who were already ordained deacons and had been working politically for the legislative body of the Episcopal Church to approve the ordination of women to the priesthood. This was a tedious [and we believed it to be a persistently futile] process, which three bishops decided was unnecessary, since there was no actual written canon law prohibiting [the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate]. They decided simply to break with custom and do the right thing.

On July 29, 1974, eleven women were ordained priests at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia. [My beloved husband, ordained a deacon the summer of 1973 and a priest in March, 1974, and his mom, my brave mother-in-love, stood up for me as my priest and lay presenters. My own mother had died in March, 1972, six months after our wedding. The love and support of Phil and his family from the beginning made everything possible for me.]  What do you feel makes good poetry?

Alla Renée Bozarth:  Good poetry happens with practice, openness, playfulness, insight, and an ear for the natural music of language. Poetry that makes one respond physically, in a positive way, or hits like lightning with an Aha! of insight expressed in some surprising way— that’s the work of the inner daimon, the creating spirit beyond a particular human being, but needing that particular human being and no other in order to be born.

[The following are different ways of talking about writing and reading poetry.]

What is the Difference Between
          Poetry and Prose?

Galway Kinnell says
“Prose is walking,
poetry is flying.”
Flying or swimming.
Dreams allow these
ground-free elements,
and buoyancy above,

As dreaming to waking,
so poetry to prose.

As wisdom to knowledge,
so poetry to prose.

Prose is a green pasture,
poetry a wildflower field.

Anna Akhmatova, an exile
in her own country, sits
at a kitchen table in her
friend’s apartment — She writes
a line on a sheet of cigarette
paper, hands it to her friend.
They both memorize the line,
then roll a cigarette and smoke.
This is the hard way to get published —
blowing smoke rings out the window
printing poems in the air that people breathe.

Prose is Akhmatova standing in line
to visit her son at a Soviet prison.
Poetry is her saying “I can,” to another
mother who asks, “Can you write this?”
Prose is sending poets to prison.
Poetry is the poet in prison secretly
composing poems by heart,
going right  on with the truth.
Prose is noon, poetry dawn.
As singing to talking,
so poetry to prose.
Prose is walking, poetry is dance.
You can do it in the sky,
or in a cave under water.
You can do it lying down.
You can do it in loving arms
or any kind of prison cell,
in union or in solitude.
Poetry lets you walk through
all the walls.

Poetry moves.
It takes you
where prose cannot go
or dare not go.
            Alla Renée Bozarth
From Accidental Wisdom, iUniverse 2003

Or, to put it in prose language:

Poetry is a form of writing or speaking created to evoke emotion and illuminate perception

              through the concentrated use of language,
              combining sound
                                          (such as slant rhyme {assonance/consonance},
                                          certain rhythms and word juxtapositions~~
                                          and vocal-prompting, meaning-suggesting
                                          line divisions)
              and  imagery

         to produce a sensory, emotional or cognitive affect,
         and sometimes a stirring spiritual recognition
         or a heightening of awareness.

A relatively short narrative poem can sometimes capture the essence of an entire novel or history by these means, and a carefully constructed dialogue poem can express and summarize the meaning of a lengthy essay.

My poetry wants variously to delight, disturb, comfort, encourage, relieve and sometimes inform or inspire the reader, including myself as reader, which is less mysterious to me than being the writer. Sometimes, in a distillation of insight or inquiry, I am working to promote or provoke the insight or inquiry of others. Being visible and audible, the poem by its nature invites engagement. Poetry roves the gamut of lived experience, from lamentation to celebration, from outrage to affection, from a playful conversation to a solitary reflection. It can be purely sensual, it can be richly meaningful, or a combination. It is the language of the soul, music in the medium of words.
This is how it comes sometimes . . . Refer to to the photo and explanation following the biographical note above, "Facing the Lightning~ Double-Sighted Mantra."

Poems Like Lightning

One Easter night thirty years ago
after seeing the movies Becket, The Wizard of Oz
and Paint Your Wagon in sequence, the model
for how our individual lives can be mirrored
in art and clearly perceived came into my mind,
complete with metaphor: Good Dragons and Guide Dogs.

It came as a gift of illumination to unlock the story
of my life and family, making it clear how certain real people
came together to play certain roles. Once aware of being under
the spell of the director, they could decide for themselves whether
or not to play it out or resign. To recognize the presence of personal myths
is to be able to change them.

Others said I should write a book, but I was not called by Psyche
to write that one. Struggling to comply with publishers’ proddings,
I finally said, “No,” but did write the poem, which seemed to be
a concise way in which it all could be saved for the use of others.

Meanwhile, within a year fine books on personal myths were written
by other authors. To say No, Not Me, Not Now to a soul’s potential
creation in time frees it to find another source of entry.

On a January night 3 years earlier during a tell-a-vision commercial
two prose books about grief and love came to consciousness and
I quickly wrote down their names* with two short sentences each
to hold them together.

During another commercial a little later
a third book** about conflict and transformation
came with a name but no notes.

*Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss
and Love’s Prism: Reflections from the Heart of a Woman
** Originally, “Broken Light,” then “Biopoetics,” then published as
At the Foot of the Mountain with the subtitle given by my publisher:  
Discovering Images for Emotional Healing, and later with my own subtitle:  
Nature and the Art of Soul Healing 

Afterward, I wrote copious notes for the third book
because it was the shortest and least revealed, and
therefore elusive, of the sweet trio.

The few names and notes for the books
were the passwords that would open their files
in my mind when life let up on me long enough
to write them the following spring.

The first book was born over three weeks on three hundred
well-organized pages as I typed the dictation, and the second book
followed on a hundred pages in three days in June.

The third book, being the most concise and concentrated
and still deeper in my mind and less formed, needed more life
and time for experiences that would give it cohesive substance and form.
Six years later it was finally born. +  +  +
This week in present time
it is still happening like this
on a smaller scale.

Poems prefer water, the shimmering of air
in which visions and fairies and
wake-dreams appear.

There in the parking lot
under the open sky of rainy night
between the store and my car
came November lightning—
Strike! poem one

As my hand reaches
for the door handle
covered with water drops—
Strike! poem two

The door opens—
Strike! poem three

Oh no, not now,
this is no place
for water to break,
in a moving car
and me at the wheel . . .

By the time I’m at the light
in the parking lot waiting
for green to give me go ahead
for the highway to home,
only two poems are left—
for water is a slippery medium.

But then as soon as the car straightens on the road
and picks up speed going east—  Strike! Strike! Strike!
Three more makes six poems in all
with five to take home.

Twenty miles forward and
at the back door I try to say
all their names out loud, but now
the last three have flown or been pulled
by electromagnetism down into my primitive brain stem—
for water is a swift and transient medium.

Inside, I leap to the computer keyboard and play out their words,
saving two of five.

Swept up in the current
of the rest of the day’s demands,
I resume attending to the tasks of normal life
between the tasks of inspiration.

Meanwhile, over the next three
busy days, tucked down between
the layers of living and the folds
of substance and form stored
and shaping into themselves,
four forgotten poems break slowly
open from a slit of buried seed
and begin to germinate.
I work like a crow
on a narrow edged windowsill,
straddling two different dimensions,
a wing in each world, tending them both—
the inner and outer equally needing
my precise touch and surmising eye.

On the third day, unfolding wings shiver,
suggesting readiness.

Crow rises
while the human I
tends to the needs
of the human body.

Under hot water in a healing shower
where inspiration comes as in rain, inconveniently—
Strike! “Life is My Labyrinth”
Strike! “The Id Will Out”
Strike! “The Distortions of Night”
Strike! “Dancing in the Ruins”—

Then as I step out of the shower with wet skin
and hair raining on the purple prayer rug
beneath my feet, the bonus poem strikes in full bloom—
“Poems Like Lightning,” up from under the brain
and its body, from inside deep earth, in sequence
like lightning, thick from the electric soul, bolt for bolt—

and I boldly leap again to the electronic keyboard
to hear how the poems sound in living concert, wishing I had,
not the life or mind or job, but a staff of scribes such as that of
Catherine of Sienna who had two amanuenses take dictation for 
different letters to two popes written at the same time, or Napoleon 
who recited letters and notes while bathing, as five secretaries took dictation 
discreetly from behind a screen so he could compose five different documents 
at the same time from his non-sequential, luminous and adamantine mind—
so unlike mine except for an irresistible liking for water,
for water is a creative medium and pearl mine.

                                        Alla Renée Bozarth
                               My Blessed Misfortunes c. 2012  

This is the poem in lieu of the book that others urged me to write,
the distillation that came of the weekend movie experience:

                                 Good Dragons and Guide Dogs —
                                           The Inner Bestiary
1.      Prehistory: Parental Myths~
The Dinosaur in the Living Room

In the living room
of your soul
there is a dinosaur
standing dead center,
blocking your route
to anywhere.

It is so big
you underlook it.
It is each parent’s
personal myth
from his or her
own experience. 
It is not yours. 
It is theirs —
hers on one side,
his on the other.
Look.  Discern.  Decide.

Its left message
might be: Life is

Its right message
might be: Life is a misery or
reveal what’s inside and die.

Get this old, long-dead
thing out of your
life: Knock down
a wall and let it
move into the sunlight
and biodegrade.

Let in large light. 
Let the past naturally
disintegrate, return
to earth and take its
proper new form
to fertilize and fuel
the future.

Move freely
for the first time,
perhaps, in your life. 
You have at last . . .
breathing space.
Remodel and redecorate
your new and more
living room!

2.     Transference: Accepting Projections~
The Iguana in the Passageway
                                           In the hallway lurks
this cold-blooded descendant
of the dinosaur — iguana,
slippery but not so large,
straddling the thresholds,
cluttering the borders,
obscuring safe passages.

It is each parent’s
message to you
about yourself
as they make you
the blind mirror
of their projected myths:
You are untrustworthy.
You are a misery.
Tell your truth and die.

Open a door.
Let this current
slow-living creature follow
its extinct ancestor— out.

3.     The Soul Sickens: Ingesting the Lie~
The Chameleon in the Cereal Bowl

In the kitchen
hides the chameleon
in the cereal bowl.

It is the introjection
of your parents’ lives
which you translate to yourself:
I am untrustworthy.
I am a misery.
If I declare who I am I’ll die.

It is not true.
It is not your truth.

When you swallow it whole
every day, you might say serially,
you become your own
soul’s serial killer.

The Lie gets inside and
bites and scratches
and hurts and makes
you bleed because
it does not belong
there.  It is the message
you can never truly digest. 

It is shifty, changing colors. 
It makes you change colors
in ways you cannot understand. 

It is your disguise,
it devours your dreams
and destroys your loves. 

Cough it up and spit it

Tell your loved ones
to clean it out
of their cereal bowls,
for it has climbed
into them when no one
was looking, and
made them sick, too. 

Grow your own garden. 
Choose your own food. 
Share only what you
choose and know to be
good and pure to take in
to yourself and share
with others.

Invite them to help you
sometimes, in tending
the garden that will
give you glad abundance,
the feast you were born for. 

You must
get both hands and
your feet and knees
in the ground of
this good, good
garden. Other creatures
will help — ladybugs
and butterflies and
honeybees and hummingbirds
and the best healthy
fat worms and other
air-giving farmers.
Welcome them!

Promise them
they will not be
harmed by stray

4. Divine Intervention: Your Truth~
    The Good Guard Dragon Bows, 
    Honors You, Sees All

Your guard dragon,
the seer, will show you
the whole picture
in which your life

Your good dragon
will circle above
and give you perspective. 

Flying over and into far hidden
corners, your angel dragon,
the seer, will show you the patterns . . .

And help you to choose
what you can keep
from the past that will
enable you to live
a full-throttle life—

And also to give back
what cannot serve
your existence,
because it comes from
other realities,
and forcing a fit
causes harm.

Refuse what confuses.
This work is redemption. 

Your dragon will show you
where the weeds are
and the predators also. 


                                         5. Integration and Inner Authority:
    Coming to Your Senses Where All is Well~
    The Guide Dog

Your guide dog
will help you
while you open
your eyes and
return to your senses. 

Warm-blooded beast
with four sturdy feet
in the present,
it serves,
it follows
your need
and leads you
away from the damaging
past into your full
present reality,
and works beside you
to shape your future.

Your guide dog
loves you and
is faithful
and responds
to your friendship.

You are so well

Absolve the past
and resolve the present
in excellent partnership
with this inner bestiary. 
It is a way to trust your own life,
your own being here,
well come.
                                                               Alla Renée Bozarth
                                            Revised from Accidental Wisdom, iUniverse 2003      
A word on poetry as sound:

Poetry Appreciation

“Read it out loud,
if you please.”

“Why do that, then?”

“Because I’m sure
that the words will taste
as good in your mouth
as they sound in my ears.”

      Alla Renée Bozarth
The Frequencies of Sound c. 2012

Poetry Farm Charms

I meant to write “ farm chores”
but wrote about farm charms
instead. All the visits to the critters,
the privilege of offering them food,
not that they need it, but something extra,
a special treat on a daily basis,
as they offer me by allowing my presence.

Knowing any animal’s bond is the mouth,
I open mine to speak praise and affection
while they open theirs to accept my homage.

How I admire them, and wistfully wish I, too,
did not have to think about such things as health
insurance and Advance Directives, and whom to choose
to be my medical representative in the event of need.
One by one, I check off the answers~~
no intubation, no invasion, no resuscitation.
No more diminished capacity. Let Nature have its way with me.
After all, the question is really~~
At what cost to my life and soul
am I willing to keep my body alive?

God forbid it will ever be a relevant question.
Out here, it is not.

The other animals and also the trees and flowers
and so-called weeds and the very mountains
ask one simple question of me each day,
sometimes articulated by the river or wind,
or the water falling over rock in my backyard~~
Friend, it says~~ What does Life ask of you today?

      Alla Renée Bozarth
Purgatory Papers c. 2012

Poetry that Doesn’t Rhyme
    Rhymes a Little
         to Explain Itself

This is the only song I can sing,
this is the only joke I can tell,
this is the only play I can act,
this is my only chance for a spell,
to tell of the world of life and the soul,
to speak for all the living and half of the dead,
to invite the spirits of all creatures on earth,
to give them voice, to let their cry be mine,
I am a mother always giving birth
in the bed of her head.

No matter the cost, no matter the toll,
only a few are blessed with the means,
obliged to use it for those without,
a way to turn the tremors of time
and the horrors and joys that they know~~
everything lost and everything broken,
mirrors and all~~ and let them become,
in alchemical fires of words gone wild,
crystal goblets and light-holding windows
in a way that sings, to give color and shape
and blessed redemption, the promise of more
and the hope that it brings~~ from the daily feast
of plain bread or a shattering joy, a prayer of thanksgiving,
and from scarring wounds and unbearable burdens,
a weigh of wings.

                                Alla Renée Bozarth
                      My Blessed Misfortunes c. 2012

Poetry Pills

Poems are strong medicine.
Take them a few at a time,
or only one for your daily dose.
Soul supplements of truthful words,
revealing words, right words ~ work
deep down like high potency
time release capsules.
They can fortify your spirit
from the outside in and inside out.
They can clarify your self to yourself.
They can make the world more digestible.

If you take too many at once
you could get spiritual indigestion.
You could get drunk on an overdose.
But poetry won’t kill you, no matter
how much you take in, unless
you’re the one living it.

                   Alla Renée Bozarth
        My Passion for Art copyright 2012

Poetry Like Poetry

Nothing inspires poetry like poetry.
Poets who have never heard of each other
and will never meet accidentally find
one another’s poetry in their hands,
or more likely, one will find the other’s
and that will be that,
except that the given poem will come
to the receiving hand
and mind of the poet’s eye
like a magical hummingbird,
honeybee or butterfly, and
just like that a new poem will burst into bloom.
                      Alla Renée Bozarth
              The Frequency of Light c. 2012.

The Interview Resumes~  Who are your favorite writers and why?

Alla Renée Bozarth:  [The prose writer who comes to mind is the naturalist, Loren Eisley.] I love Walt Whitman for his shameless expansion, and Emily Dickinson for her brilliant concision. I love William Stafford for so simply making my heart happy and my hair shiver, with lines like these [in the poem framed by my typewriter hot from his own, with the handwritten corrections he made on the thin, aging white paper with pen:]

[from “Gaea” by William Stafford]

“And sometimes, not to know, but to spend
the time learning, I make the guitar say
a certain tone again and again
till it all adds up and becomes
what God intended from my part
of the world today. Then I pause,
and what follows that sound I make is music.”

I love Naomi Shihab Nye’s words, saying it differently but expressing what
I feel about it: “Our friend from Turkey says language is so delicate he
likens it to a darling—                                                             

“We will take this word in our arms.
It will be small and breathing.
We will not wish to scare it.
Pressing lips to each syllable.
Nothing else will save us now.”  What’s next?

Alla Renée Bozarth: Next for me is the publication of [fourteen] big new books and perhaps [six or] seven small ones, including two childrens' stories, plus two audio CDs. I’ve been living with and learning from  a chronic illness [(fibromyalgia with ramifications such as migraines and other nuisance factors)] that has caused all sorts of physical limitations because of pain and fatigue, but . . . the more limited my body has been, the more I’ve written. I suppose it’s sublimation. I intend to [feel better] and relate largely and more directly with the world again, and that will be a celebration, a reverse sublimation, as in a poem from Soulfire: Love Poems in Black and Gold—“The Poet to Her Love,” which describes how my life has been a kind of volcanic eruption of poetry for five [now ten] years, but soon will settle into a more balanced form:

I am about
to become
a monkwoman
a nunwoman
an animalwoman
a witch
I am about to pour
my sex into
this living
this poem.
Later, mark me,
I shall be
the world’s best
lay, pour
all my poetry
into you.  What was the last book you read?

Alla Renée Bozarth:  I just finished reading two beautifully written books: 19 Varieties of Gazelle, by Naomi Shihab Nye, and N. Scott Momaday’s In the Bear’s House.  Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?

Alla Renée Bozarth:  I love dressing up in luscious gowns and going to the opera and ballet, theater, dining elegantly, and more casually I love to go to the movies and eat a really great hot dog. I haven’t been able to do those things for some time, except for the occasional movie in my small town, so I enjoy watching old black and white movies on television again, and yes, they do produce poems. I love to watch the birds, weather, flowers and deer in the garden, and they all wind up transferred to the heartmind of my readers also. Besides that, I love to play my Steinway grand piano when I can, and dance. Sometimes when I can’t walk very well, I can still dance, and the dancing heals me [for its time].

I love to play with my friends, too, and am blessed beyond measure in our participation in each others' lives. And I still celebrate the Eucharistic Mysteries of Great Thanksgiving. Always, always that. My garden has put a camera in my hand and the thousand pictures I’ve taken of the wildflowers, Mt. Hood, the Pacific Ocean, my roses—these, too, become poems, for image and word do love each other.

All that follows is from the June 6, 2010 revision six years later, 
which I've edited and added to again on November 16-17, 2011 
and during the last week of March, 2012.

Postscript: I edited this interview as indicated on Sunday, June 6, 2010. I am aware of this being the 66th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied Forces’ Invasion of the Beaches of Normandy. On June 14, 1940, Paris was overtaken by Nazi tanks and fell under Occupation. In July 1944, plans for the Battle for Paris began. Liberation was achieved on August 25 and on August 26, 1944, the 24th anniversary of Women's Suffrage being written into the United States Constitution,  the Americans entered freed Paris to Victory Parades. I glanced at the calendar to see the date and it all came to mind, crucial events that determined the course of our lives before I was even born.

It hardly seems fitting to refer to my life at all by working on such a small personal thing as revising (and clearing the many editorial typing errors in) the original transcript of this interview taken six years ago.

On the other hand, these more recent events, in their way, by virtue of their small part in the worldwide effort to heal  the world being possible because of the outcome of that hellish war, are a tribute to the Normandy Invasion Allies—both those who lived to see their homes again, and those who did not. Time and its human record called History have mirrors. We sense this in the importance of anniversaries. Often, there is a folding over of juxtaposed meanings that emerged on the same dates of significance over a span of years. Irony or victory are remembered, usually with a cascade of conflicting emotions as we feel simultaneously the impact of events which we acknowledge sequentially. 

In 2012 following certain events in the War in Afghanistan, I added my long personal history of the Vietnam War integrating past and current events to show the nature of the human addiction to war. The docupoem follows the Books section as the last part of this entry, highlighted at the end of all else in case you'd like to read it. You can also preview and order the physical book here:

Women Have No Country        

She holds a cup of golden-tipped Assam tea
with dark leaves from East of the Rift Valley.
She wonders how a man, ostensibly a human being,
could be either so irrational or so selfish as not
to regard his mother, daughter, wife or sister
as worthy of being a citizen of his country.
That is what she wonders. It is his country.
As far as the immature man among men is concerned,
with government, with ownership, with personal identity,
it’s Women Keep Out/No Girls Allowed. Men get to have names.
Men get to own property and try to own everything, including other people. 
Men get to be in and run government. Men are for themselves, 
and expect women to be for them as well. Only for them. 
This is an absurd state of affairs, thinks the woman sipping her soothing tea.

She has just gone with her three sisters to register to vote.
She is Susan B. Anthony. The year is 1872. There are fifty women behind her.
She finds three men officiating as registrars at the office of voter registration.
She demands her voting card along with the other citizens present.

She carries The Constitution of the United States of America with her, 
tucked reverently and safely under her wing.
She is proud to be an intelligent and responsible citizen. 
She came as a citizen to contribute her intelligent vote to her country. 
First the men trying to police the polls in advance laughed at her.
Then they ignored her. Then they were just plain rude,
and sulked morosely until she left. But she would not leave defeated,
or allow her country to be deprived of her intelligent vote.
She began to quote The Constitution.

Accepting the unchallenged custom, she had allowed that the so-called 
generic masculine linguistic device included and meant all men and women, 
and having conceded that much to the dominant male linguists and grammarians,
when she went to act on the principle by which the men had insisted on arguing 
for the generic masculine— by their own logic— that all men meant all women too 
are created equal, and shall therefore be entitled to vote— she was laughed at and denied.

Her exposure of male irrationality and inconsistency had the men
sputtering and fuming helplessly, having found themselves caught
in the act of arguing against themselves.

She pointed out the rational points, the logical sequence,
her arch compliance with the fine points of the law
such as residency requirements, but the men acted miffed
and took her irrefutable argument as personal insult.

Seeing they could not comprehend logic and reason, and didn’t have
sense enough to realize how foolish and immoral the raw, irrational
selfishness of their undignified, self-demeaning and childish behavior
looked, the woman who was the lone voice of reason there observed
that they would not listen, they would not concur with the obvious truth.

Only one thing made them listen, and that was when Miss Susan B. Anthony
promised them something. She promised them that she was prepared to file
criminal charges against them in court, and to sue every last one of them,
and win. She had the best lawyer around on her side.

She said she would sue each man present for violation of The Constitution
of the United States of America, and she would win. That got the men’s
attention. Without further word, they registered her to vote, and she left
believing she had done it— won the precedent proving women’s equality
under the law, as she had come to do.

They let her vote, but before month’s end, they arrested her.
Miss Susan B. Anthony, orator, scholar and political leader,
went to trial, where her eyes were opened and her work began.

Her clear-thinking, clear-speaking lawyer defended her brilliantly
but his eloquent reason fell on deaf ears. Before a full defense could be heard, 
the judge stopped the proceedings, pulled out a paper written up in advance 
with a guilty verdict and threw womankind out on its ear one more time.

The gesture to “allow” the logical and right thing to happen
was not a legal precedent, but a wild fluke to avoid further female fussing.

It didn’t work. No woman on Earth could accept the decision
that she is not a legal citizen, being a woman, and therefore she cannot vote.
In a word (the word is woman), she has no country. She belongs nowhere,
other than in the service of the man who owns her.

Miss Susan B. Anthony demurred.
She refused the preposterous conclusion.

She persisted and prevailed in teaching the facts and winning the verdict
for decency, reason and truth, and her postmortem success countermanded
the shameful proceedings in court. She broke through the layers and lines
of mock lawyers attempting to bar all the sisters from what’s rightfully ours.

This is our country and we are its citizens.
This is our women’s country as well as our men's country
and we are our country’s women.
And the ignorant and selfish, no matter how rich or educated
they claim to be,  will not be allowed to interfere
with our citizens’ rights any more.

Alla Renée Bozarth ~ Purgatory Papers, c. 2011.

Women’s Suffrage Day    

On August 26, 1920, at eight o’clock in the morning, at home and after
his wake-up cup of strong coffee, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby
opened the certified record of the Tennessee vote to ratify the Suffrage Bill,
which had passed House and Senate but nearly missed with the states.
Young Harry Burn, 24, of Tennessee State Legislature, cast the deciding vote
because his mother had asked him to, in the name of human decency,
and it was sent forthwith to Washington. When Mr. Colby read the result,
he picked up a plain steel pen, in unconscious honor of the steel backs
of plain women who had given their disenfranchised lives to serve 
their families and country, and with their sisters everywhere 
to create and protect civilization.

In the name of them and their daughters, he signed the document 
that officially wrote the Nineteenth Amendment into the Constitution 
of the United States of America. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, 
Antoinette Brown, Elizabeth Blackwell, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman
and Susan B. Anthony were not visibly present, though together they guided
his hand, as did all the women of the New World going back to the first mothers 
who crossed the Bering Straits on foot from Asia to colonize the human-free
wilderness of the verdant Western World some ten to twenty thousand years
before, all of their hands on each other’s shoulders in relay line up to this
moment of, at last, recognition.

And their daughters and all their great-great granddaughters
reached from the future to lay their hands of thanks alongside them.

No one photographed the event. As he laid down the pen,
Bainbridge Colby spoke these words: I turn to the women of America and say:
“You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.”
We could cheer and raise our steel fists in our velvet gloves and declare,
with undeniable justification, “First, we’ll fire all the men!”
But instead, we embrace the freedom our blood, sweat and tears
have bought, and then we embrace each other, and finally
we embrace the men who helped us, with all our mighty hearts.

                  Alla Renée Bozarth
Purgatory Papers and Diamonds in a Stony Field
copyright 2011

Miracles Happen After Hard Work

Miracles happen—
the French took charge and cast out the Nazis
from the City of Lights when the Occupying Germans feared
the approach of the Allies and tried to force a 9pm curfew
on the citizens of Paris.

Occupation, if it is benign, is one thing, but a curfew is an outrage.
The police took over a building opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame
and then the women and children came out and started hurling their rocks
and the men shot tanks with small guns, and de Gaulle begged Eisenhower
to bring in the Allies, which he had formerly refused to do.

Impressed with the suddenly aggressive valor of the French,
the General agreed to follow a band of French troops into Paris,
and when they arrived, a Victory Parade was already underway
as the Liberation of Paris had officially happened the day before.

A distant humming reached the ears of the Americans,
a strange sound rising to a low murmur as they came nearer,
then erupting into an overwhelming roar of jubilation.
The people of Paris rushed on foot to greet them, women kissed them,
some offered wine to the soldiers, they climbed up onto the tanks,
hailing the Liberation of the City of Lights in the summer of 1944.

On the same day, August 26, twenty-four years before,
the Women’s Suffrage Amendment was written into the Constitution
of the United States, a victory for humanity created by the relentless
courage, effort and suffering of American women for generations.

By virtue of those heroic Suffragists, on June 4, 1919,
the Nineteenth Amendment had been passed by both
the House and Senate of Congress,
but it needed to be ratified by state legislatures.

Over a year later, on August 18th the deciding state
was Tennessee, the 36th state to cast its vote in favor,
and the deciding vote was cast by Harry Burn,
at twenty-four the youngest state legislator.

That morning he’d opened his mail and read a letter
from his mother, in which she said she’d been watching
to see him declare his inclination toward Suffrage for Women,
but so far she saw nothing. She ended her message,
“Don’t forget to be a good boy . . .  and vote for suffrage.”

Supporters of suffrage wore yellow roses and filled the balcony
while opponents wore red roses on the main floor.
Harry Burn walked in wearing red, but when he voted,
he said “Aye.”

All the women in the balcony threw down
their flowers, and on that day,
there was a beautiful storm of yellow roses
raining all over the representatives
of the state of Tennessee.

Alla Renée Bozarth ~ Purgatory Papers, c. 2011.
I'm reviewing and adding to the June 6 revision now in the week of Veterans' Day a year later, seven years since the original interview. War is rampant in the world. It seems always so. Daily I hold all those who suffer because of war in my prayers for healing. That includes all living beings made to endure the consequences of human conflict, not just those directly involved in combat or even all human beings, but all beings, including the other animals who flee human violence in terror, but for most there is no place to go~ and also the afflicted living earth and waters. With the destruction of libraries, museums and artifacts of history, we are robbed of our own best resources for the mind and soul. Whether by loss of life or bodily or mental function, loss of loved ones, heirlooms or habitat, we afflict our kin and in war, we destroy our heritage when we aggressively harm one another. This poem came from a sense of how deeply the hidden wounds can go in those trained for battle.

The Veteran        

What is admirable on the large scale is monstrous on the small. . . .
Since we give medals to mass murderers, let us give justice to the small
entrepreneur.   Dialogue in the film, “The Night of the Generals” 1967.

If you know someone and sooner or later discover
that he or she is a veteran of war, look into that person’s eyes
and learn your first lesson of war—
that there is more inside the skull
of someone who has been in combat
than can be known by anyone,
including the warrior.

The secrets held in the skull have to do with the essential conflict
never being over— the personal conflict, the conflict that goes on,
sleeping or waking every hour of that person’s life—
the memories,thoughts, eruptive emotions that go unexpressed 
lest others be overwhelmed, lest the veteran be misunderstood.

The horrible Thing Itself that cannot be told, the compelling intensity
of the experience, the faces, the images~ as the medic’s memory
of a woman’s corpse found without her head, but both her hands still
wrapped securely around the body of the baby she was holding in her lap~
the two young “enemy” warriors lying side by side, twelve or fourteen years old, 
rifles still clutched in their hands or lying beside them, each shot through
his thin wool cap the day before, the blue matter of their brains
still coming out of a nostril or oozing from under a cap . . .
the urgency to continue issuing strategic orders from inside the ruined castle
when, a second before, a bomb has come through an opening in the stone wall
and blown a colleague across the desk from you to high heaven, splattering
his brains on your face and the maps at your fingers, but you must not stop 
telling those in the air what to do because more lives are depending on you
to do your job, and soon the medics come to remove the body parts
of the person who was helping you five minutes ago and wipe them
from your face and from the maps while you go on talking
into your telephone to those whose lives depend on
your full focus and intelligent attention  . . .

The secrets are a mixture of guilt with glory,
dread and terror and the thrill of the compelling intensity
known only in the extreme circumstances of war—
The addictive drama of danger, the intimate devotion
among comrades tenderly serving each other’s broken,
infected bodies and minds, a familial intimacy not possible to express
or experience anywhere or anytime or with anyone else on Earth.
The puzzling bitterness and rage of hate and desire for revenge that mingle 
with an increasing repulsion to the slightest violation of another living being.
The nausea of combat conditions and the heartbreaking courage
of those who sacrifice themselves to save others.
The sheer human anger and shame, the bewilderment
that come from being raised to follow the Ten Commandments
that say, “Thou shalt not kill,” and then trained and paid to be
a legally licensed professional killer for as many years as are necessary,
obeying orders to kill while praying for protection and victory, followed by
the shock of going home to a peaceful, harmonious place innocent of war 
where you would be arrested, imprisoned, tried and executed as a mass murderer 
or serial killer for doing the same things you did every day in the years before, 
the things for which your government perhaps gave you a medal, knowing 
that this same government would now shame you and kill you for any number
of things that it trained and paid you to do.

No one else can go into a veteran’s dreams
but another veteran who has lived the same nightmare
and shared the same quirky joys.

Remember a little of this when you look into a veteran’s eyes,
and before you speak, and do not ask any questions unless you are
truly willing and able to listen, and for as long as it takes,
without judgment or fatigue.

If you look inside yourself you will find the willingness and the ability
when you discover the cowering hero that lives in us all,
the ashamed, frightened and vulnerable soldier who may hide but gives all
to serve the greatest good for the greatest number, or for just one child.

Images are from veterans’ memories of World War II as told in the documentary,
The War,  produced and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick  for PBS, 
October, 2007, and from unforgettable scenes in several other films.
         Alla Renée Bozarth
Purgatory Papers, copyright 2011.
 . . . Shifting from the moving breadth of collective history in dramatic times, personally in the here a now a few things have changed in my life since the interview. Stars in Your Bones is no longer in print, a sad fact which I hope soon to rectify. I’ve had to sell the Steinway I played for 22 years, once owned by Grace Coolidge and a posthumous gift from my father.

                                                         The Shamantool

To play the happy medium
to Chopin, Grieg, Beethoven —
my fingers dance possessed
across a black and white pattern,
creating color between the counted lines.

So it comes,
the sought release,
the finding
of one’s soul,
coming home
to center
a cold winter’s

To move out of spin
slowly, widening the angles
of one’s space, returning
to one’s own rhythm,
at rest in stillness —

and then take off
with grace
in the remembered

The power and sound
of the hands’ dance!

I could not play so well
by working at it —
I could not play so well
for ego or for others’ ears.

I play to lose myself.
I play to die to pain.
I play to the enfolding
silence, self-forgetting.
I play myself alive again.

            Alla Renée Bozarth

From The Book of Bliss, iUniverse 2000
Missing Gabriel ~ 
   I Felt Grace Beneath My Fingertips

I’m missing my piano. I’d named it Gabriel for the angel of glad tidings.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary
concerning her pregnancy with the Christ Child.

Perhaps I am full like Mary with mysterious things, and missing my angel of music
which allowed me to play out my unspeakable feelings. 
My piano originally belonged to Grace Coolidge, an animal rights activist and 
President’s Lady. Calvin went fishing at their summer cottage in Spooner, Wisconsin,   
while Grace played her beautiful Steinway grand piano all summer.
When they sold the cottage and auctioned its contents, the piano went
to a man who bought it for his two daughters. One daughter inherited
the piano and raised her ten children to its music. They all grew up
and married and time came for her, my friend their mother, to retire to Hawaii
with her post-widowhood husband. My father died and with his inheritance
I was able to adopt her piano, at once bonded and beloved to me.

I recovered from my academic doctoral education with ragtime tinkling on the keys,
sang Easter hymns and the psalms and Christmas carols with friends
sitting beside me on its floral needlepoint bench.

I played out my griefs with it, and all of my victories and joys,
wooed my husband with sonatas and concerti and Classical Gas
and the songs of Broadway, while he wooed me with his folk guitar.
Then my young husband died and the piano carried me over his River Styx
and filled like a field with my tears.

Whenever I played in the middle of the night especially, to cure a migraine
when nothing else could, I felt Grace beneath my fingertips, her animal-loving spirit
of generous humanity holding a blessing for me in the keys, with Divine Grace also.
And then, going on two years ago, a series of financial crises and losses
had rendered me drowning in debt and cornered. After five years
of increasing distress but refusing to sell the piano and selling everything else,
I finally had to do the unthinkable.

Gabriel’s gone. I made the dealer who bought it promise to let me buy it back
when my ship came in, after he’d rebuilt and refinished it. But my ship has not
yet come in, and my soul has lost its voice. 

For the first time since I was nine years old 
I am without a piano.

And that is why I wake up feeling full of things even dreams can’t remove, 
hurtful free radical memories that need to be purged on return, but only
the magic of music coming from that mysterious dance between my body
and a graceful structure of strings, brass, copper and wood~~
mahogany and ebony ~~ and yellowed old ivory keys could unlock
my heartmind and find what was hiding there needing to come out and away, 
with the sounds of Grieg or Chopin, Tchaikovsky or Mozart, Rachmaninoff 
or Liszt, touched alive by my eyes, ears, fingers and whole-body nerve. 

My soul is mute and I’m missing Gabriel,
and even my bereft tears are without healing sound.

Alla Renée Bozarth
My Blessed Misfortunes
Copyright 2012

After Gabriel had been gone for two years, a friend gave me her spinet
which I named Angelina, meaning Little Angel, a lovely stand-in for Gabriel,
named for the Archangel who brought Glad Tidings to Mary.
I call this portion of the room the Piano and Poetry area, alluding to the computer
behind the piano where I compose poems and letters and this blog. Partly hidden
beneath the purple drape on the right is a Gazelle exercise machine.

Sound Mind      
it waits to sound
at my touch

at my touch
it finds its voice

at my touch
it becomes
my voice

it sounds
my mind
my mind

through hands,
arms, skin, nerve
and blood of a human
body, the same as
the bodies which
gave it form and
taught it to find
its own true spirit

which becomes
one with my true spirit

forests began its life,
trees gave it its body,
I give it its breath
and it becomes
my breath

mute, I long
for it alone
mute, it waits
for me, keys poised
in welcome, ready
to open the soul

      Alla Renée Bozarth
The Frequencies of Sound
Copyright 2012 
Since late in 2004, because of health realities, the only meaningful work I have steadily been able to do is continue to write, revise and edit my books. And another great personal loss has occurred—Julia Barkley has died. On February 1, 2010, her daughter Mary Barkley Brown ended her presentation of Julia’s life and art to the Annandale (Minnesota) History Club with these words:

Julia Barkley died at age 81 on November 22, 2005, after a long struggle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. An Annandale Advocate article stated:  “Friends remembered Julia Barkley last week as an artist who lived to paint, a crusader who wasn’t afraid to stick her neck out and a woman who was deeply involved in the community and world around her.”
She is deeply missed.

Again, thanks to Terri Hawthorne and Mary Barkley Brown, Julia's daughter, Julia and I were able to have one last show together a month before her death, though neither of us was physically able to attend it. Paintings and poems were displayed and my poetry was included as a prayer led by the Women in Black at a candlelight vigil for peace in the undercroft of St. Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 16, 2005. Afterward, a group of participants visited Julia at her hospital bed in the Benedictine Health Center of Minneapolis, to thank her for being faithful to her art and giving the world so much spiritual enrichment and beauty. Some of her vibrantly intense “hypercolor” paintings were displayed in the lobby and hallways. Refreshments were served. The Benedictine Health Center informal gathering was the last art show reception for which she would be physically present. Terri and Mary each gave me a full telephone account.

Mary described her mother's Celebration of Life service, too. One thing I never knew about Julia during our shared time was that she played the trombone. Musicians in her family gave her a sendoff which included the powerful sounds of her instrument. Honored by Lakota Medicine People and Pipe Carriers as spiritually one of them, her birthplace and later her geodesic dome studio were in the heart of the Black Hills in South Dakota.  She frequently presented Art and Spirit courses on the Pine Ridge Reservation with Warfield Moose, Lakota Medicine Man and Episcopal Priest, and her colleague Sister Judith Stoughton, a painter and professor of art history at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Julia was buried with sacred feathers and shields, with seeds and stones, and Mary told me she tucked one of my poems (which was among the many I sent for our loving friend and Stars in Your Bones collaborator, Terri Hawthorne to read to Julia in her last months) under her head to go with her back to the earth and sky and into Paradise.

This painting below represents Julia as well as her body of work in vibrant color. When we went on our poet's and painter's pilgrimages to Russia, Paris and Bern, Switzerland, she sought out the great colorist painters, especially the Fauve group of artists among the post-impressionists, led by Matisse. Julia's art was painterly. She loved to get as much paint on the canvas, paper or metal base as possible. She would delight in showing how she would, in the tradition of Jackson Pollock, splatter, drip and throw color over thick brush work to create a textured effect and bring the image alive. Her paintings can be viewed and purchased at the website her daughter created for her:

I am blessed to have known and loved her and worked with her for so many wonderful years. I am honored to be her forever friend, and bless her for taking her Dragons of Compassion for the Grief of the Soul paintings along with my poem "Transfiguration," commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima, to present to the Mayor of that again beautiful city. They were the first works by foreign women artists to become part of the permanent collection in the Peace Memorial Garden. I was told that the poem has been transliterated into the Japanese language, though I have not seen it. My heart is glad for it to be there. In return, among the Christian and Buddhist Japanese artists visited by Julia and Sister Judith Stoughton, her friend and art teacher from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, there was a Buddhist gentleman who had been injured during the bombing. He gave her gifts of his own art to share. On my wall there is an exquisite painting of purple irises on a gold background which Julia promised him she would give to me.

Irises symbolize Good News. I call them the Gospel flower, for Gospel means Good News. . . . . The luminosity of the painting and of tall irises growing in water at the ends of bridges as they are so often depicted in art suggest to me the breaking of light in diamond prisms, which could also make them symbolic of the Diamond Sutra, whose Sanskrit title literally translates, "Diamond Cutter of Perfect Wisdom." A copy of a Chinese version of the text, classified as in the Perfection of Wisdom genre, was found about a hundred years ago, and dating to 868, it has been described by the British Library as "the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book."

Word and image do love each other, poetry and paintings, enhanced when performed with music or dance, can impart wisdom through two or more senses all the more effectively to make sense of life and death to the soul, even when these mysteries are beyond the mind's rational capacity alone, without being in conflict with reason. They are a route to the Holy Spirit by whatever name. Einstein and Escher shared with Picasso, Dante and Bach the sense of sacred mathematical proportions across the borders of intellectual disciplines.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid  . . . is a book by Douglas Hofstadter, described by the author as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll" ~ Gödel the great theistic logician, Escher the painter and Bach the musician, all in concert as harmonic masters of wind, brass and strings, standing for the core music of color, of mathematical correspondences and of language in varied rhythms of sound and meaning known as poetry, each within each, as intellect, intuition, emotion and sensation correspond in expressions of both language and number, art and science, each within each, a creative, holotropic gestalt of performance.

Both word and image evoke music, so ear and eye are involved in the experience of both genres, and they also evoke a philosophic point of view which may or may not be directly expressible through any genre. In these ways, Painting and Poetry are self-transcending multimedia, non-linear, non-dogmatic sermons for the intuitive senses and the feeling mind.

2010-11 revision copyrighted by Alla Renée Bozarth with all rights reserved. For permission to reprint any portion of this interview for any reason other than personal reference, please contact Alla by email at

Books and Audiotapes 
in Chronological Order ~ All Titles

Sometimes the date may seem out of order, 
which indicates an original first edition not shown.
To contact Alla for permission and procedure/protocol information to reprint or otherwise use her words, or for other reasons pertaining to her writing, please email her at Type “Permission” in the subject line.

Order any title available from your local bookstore,,, the publisher listed or your favorite Internet bookseller. For an inscribed book, type "Book Order"  in the Subject line and write to Alla Renée Bozarth at A few titles will only be available through her. They will indicate, “distributed through Wisdom House.” Later on, there will be a link here to order books or audiotapes, and eventually CDs, from Alla’s official sales website.

The Titles 

In the Name of the Bee & the Bear & the Butterfly                                                                            
Poems by Alla Bozarth-Campbell with Drawings by Julia Barkley
Wisdom House Press 1978
Out of print. Search Internet.

Poems by Alla Bozarth-Campbell
Wisdom House Press 1978
Out of print. Search Internet.


Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey [back and front dust jacket, click to enlarge]
by Alla Bozarth-Campbell
First Edition: Paulist Press 1978
Hardcover. Out of Print.
Search the Internet.

Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey  [front and back cover, click to enlarge]

by Alla Renée Bozarth
Revised Edition: Luramedia 1988
Distributed by Wisdom House
To order, type “Book Order” in the subject line
and write to Alla at~


Morality in the Christian community flows spontaneously out of a shared perception of Christ’s love. It is a shared attitude of desire for the common good, an attitude of well-wishing toward life so forceful that it shapes the good it intends. Genuine morality is the actualized overflow of the love of Christ into the world; it is an acted yearning for the wholeness and well-being of others. It is, finally, a mutual empowerment toward wholeness in creation.

Chapter Headings

Part One: Dancing in the Dawn Light
Wisdom House
Priesthood Frustrated
Priesthood Fulfilled
Christian Feminism
We are the Church
God is a Verb

Part Two: Dancing Under Burning Stars
This is My Beloved
Coming Home: Jerusalem

Read Review >  

Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey  [First Edition]

Alla Bozarth-Campbell (Alla Renée Bozarth) Alla was one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Episcopal church. She was one of Philadelphia eleven: eleven women deacons ordained “underground” by a retired bishop of the church, the canons of which declare “a priest is a priest forever.”

The Church National Conference laity [and priests] had several times voted to accept women as priests, but the bishops continually blocked the ordinations by very slim minorities. Young male candidates for ordination were “striking,” refusing ordination, until the Church at large allowed women priests.

These eleven women pushed the matter from hypothesis into reality, and forced the Church to deal with it.To be one of these eleven required courage, and faith, but also a sureness of vocation. How Bozarth-Campbell came to have these qualities makes a remarkable biography.

Bozarth-Campbell is a gentle writer: she is neither a braggart, nor cloyingly modest. Her writing suggests that she is soft-spoken, but nonetheless certain of herself. She is also never at a loss for just the right word; altogether, this story is gripping. Even though we know how things turn out, there is suspense; we don't know the details, and I, myself was on the edge of my chair waiting for them.

Anyone interested in women’s spirituality or church history must read this book; people who enjoy biography in general will not be disappointed either. And those who just enjoy good writing should like this book.  

Rivcah Maccaby Bloomington, Indiana

Two Responses specifically to the poem, "Passover Remembered" in Womanpriest: 
A Personal Odyssey, revised edition 1988.

Dearest Alla, I met you almost twenty years ago to date. I was a junior in college at Mount St. Mary's in Los Angeles. Never in my life had I seen a woman who was ordained within the church. Since then, my feminist consciousness has evolved, so much so that I am in a doctoral program now at Claremont Graduate University in the Women Studies in Religion program. I am writing this note because, along the way, I have kept your poem, "Passover Remembered," close to my heart. When I am distressed or need to be comforted that the days are long and the work to be done is too much, I can look at your poem and find comfort. Along the way as well I have shared it with women, who like myself, are engaging in the feminist task of hearing ourselves into speech. For twenty-years, indirectly, you have been a conversation-prayer partner for me, through this poem. For that, I wish to thank you today.    

Theresa Yugar

Fantastic! This is what we need. Like a pen to write the fireworks, vivid and outstanding.

Louis Vuitton

The Word's Body: An Incarnational Aesthetic 
of Interpretation by Alla Renée Bozarth
University Press of America 1997,  
Impint of Rowman and Littlefield.. 
This is a reprint of the original hard cover book shown above,
published under the name Alla Bozarth-Campbell 
by the University of Alabama Press, 1979. 


Introduction: Toward an Incarnational Aesthetic of Interpretation
Metaphor and Interpretation
The Art of Interpretation: Creation, Incarnation, Transformation 

In the Beginning Is the Word
Interpretation As the Embodiment of Literature
Hermeneutics and Interpretation
Toward an Erotics of Interpretation 
The Word Becomes Flesh

And Dwells Among Us

Conclusion: An Incarnational Aesthetic of Interpretation

Notes, Bibliography, Index
Read Review >

The Word’s Body:
An Incarnational Aesthetic of Interpretation 

The Word's Body integrates depth psychology and linguistic philosophy to illuminate a metaphor of the creative process, specifically the performance of literature in public or private as “the word becoming flesh.” This book expands the Johannine metaphor to describe the artist/performer/preacher's work of embodying the Word: Creation, Incarnation, and Transformation/Communion: The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. It is an answer to Susan Sontag’s call for an erotics of interpretation.

Anonymous reader

Sparrow Songs: A Father-Daughter Anthology Poems by Alla Bozarth-Campbell and René Bozarth Wisdom House Press 1982
Out of print

A few hard cover and soft cover books can be purchased 
from Alla at Wisdom House. To order type "Book Order" 
in the Subject line and write to Alla at~ 


Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss by Alla Renée Bozarth 

Zigzagging the Grief Terrains          

No matter what you read
or what the experts tell you,
there are no stages of grief.
There is only the landscape
of the soul and its varied terrains.

Navigating hard rock to ocean froth
through the surreal days, weeks, years or decades—
believe me that will be a far more impressive feat
than merely walking on water.

Some say, Grieve hard and be done.
Some say, Grieve hard and long.
Some say, Grieve gently for as long as you must.
Some say, Grieve quickly and privately, or not at all.
Only this can be authentically and generally said~
Grieve in your own true way.

Riding the ruling currents of the moments and hours
will be all that some can manage, more than others can imagine,
and unnecessary to others while essential to a few.

Though the raw pain of grief will not last forever,
it can return from time to time, even many years later,
as some loss is, from the beginning, nearly past bearing. 

You need not anticipate its return,
but neither be overly dismayed by
the crack and bleed of old scars.

Like a virus that sleeps in the spinal fluid for a lifetime
and may or may not awaken to sicken the body all over again,
it could happen to anyone or anyone’s body, spirit or mind.

In the beginning of grief it can seem
as though the world has broken apart, and
most of it will be out of synch with your fragile heart

Out the window it may be springtime sunny
and breaking into bloom,
but still be bitter winter inside the soul.

This will confuse and anger you.
You will want the world to be in a state of suspension
and wait for you, for your world will still be inside its deep winter.
You will say to the sun, How dare you shine? Stop it right now!
And to the garden, How dare you burst into bloom? And to the green,
Go back into gray. For living color and most music will shock and insult you.

You may be like Crow and live in two worlds, back and forth
in rapid succession between them— the outer world, which will now
seem a foreign country whose language you dimly remember but must
make every effort to use in order to talk to the grocer, the lawyer,
the child or the dog, though you hear yourself
as from the end of a long narrow tunnel or underneath water.

The other more dominant world will be the ethereal,
the broken open and shattered world within psyche,
where you will simultaneously do anything to escape,
and also do anything to roam homelessly, endlessly there~
to serve, protect and preserve the sacred story.

If memories rush up to flood through the mists, they will likely
be non-linear and ghostly fragments~ or vivid as blood.

Things will get better and then get worse, up, down
and every which way. Over time things will change,
but some will take more than years to heal.

More energy than usual will be required to move, to speak.
From now on the stories you tell may lack sequence,
and you will often leave out the middle, end or beginning.

Don’t worry. Whatever is true for you is your truth~
a spiral path, a labyrinthine terrain, a mountain goat’s climb
on precarious rocks, a solitary place to sit by a body of water 
or beneath a tree, a dolphin’s blue ocean deep or a salmon’s 
leaping up rivers against all currents and odds to come again 
to true home~ it will be your journey, and the home of rebirth 
that you alone come to, though you may find and love 
kindred hearts along the way and there also at journey’s rest.

Others similarly injured may take very little time
to heal and will have little understanding of those
who need long or recurrent mourning.

Simply this, then~
Blessed are those who are as fine as they say.
And blessed are those who are not, though they will be.
Blessed Be.

     Alla Renée Bozarth

Diamonds in a Stony Field
Copyright 2012.

When Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was an instructor at the University of Chicago Medical School, she undertook a study based on her interviews with dying people. Through these conversations, she learned that people respond in a variety of ways upon being told that they are terminally ill. She outlined five emotional responses as examples of the variations experienced among those who told her certain aspects of their processes. Dr. Kübler-Ross did not intend that her transcription of these accounts be interpreted as a formula for how to grieve, and certainly not as chronological rules for grieving, but rather that they be received as specific examples of some of the emotional responses persons had when confronted with their own deaths. Nor did she intend that they be extrapolated to describe the grief one feels after someone has died or when one has lost something precious, which is a different experience altogether. Sadly, her intentions have not been honored.

The sacred stories entrusted to her were given to the world to sensitize readers to the delicate and unique experience of first learning that one is going to die. These processes are not the same as what those same people would have experienced in after-loss situations. In the spirit of respect, the following resources describe various deeply human responses as individual people experience loss, and in most cases ultimately integrate meaning for themselves, after they have lost someone or something dear to them, including the absence of something or someone longed for but never attained. Always, what is honored and supported is the unique experience of the individual person.

The grieving process is on some levels lifelong, as we continuously interweave new threads into the entire tapestry and rearrange or eliminate old threads, linking them all together with past, present and future in the everpresent Now. It is not a linear process, not even a neat spiral, but more of an ever-changing labyrinth or irregular and uneven, multi-level zigzag. It is complex and simple, it is paradoxical and poetic and as ordinary, commonplace and colloquial as getting up, cleaning up and changing clothes from night to day every day. Working it through is the living process that enriches our lives.

Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss
Alla Renée Bozarth 
(First Edition CompCare 1982, 
Revised Edition 1986)
Hazelden 1993

Chapter Headings: 
Attitudes about Grieving
Loss of Part of Oneself
Grieving: How It Feels, What It Does, What You Can Do about It
Four Styles of Grieving
Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello
Birth and Parenting
Essentials of the Art of Grieving

Read Reviews >

Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello:
Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss
Best book ever on grieving over anything! This book has helped me so much during a very rough time in my life where I’ve split from my husband, lost my house that I dearly loved, and move to a place that I hate. It helps you understand what you're going through, and it gives you things to do that can help. An amazingly good book!

Anonymous reader

Alla Renée Bozarth is an excellent resource for anyone experiencing grief. This book is a profound mingling of sound psychological education and the emotional depth of one acquainted with grief. While she does not focus on the details of her story, I enjoyed the personal element of her personal grief poetry being interspersed throughout the book. Bozarth is both a priest and a therapist, yet she says her own grief journey was taken as only a broken human being.

The book is very thorough in its coverage of the various aspects of grief. She addresses cultural aspects of grief and how the loss of a significant person in our lives causes us to grieve other losses related to one’s self. She talks about how grief feels, its symptoms, and what you can do about it. 

She also includes chapters on the grief caused through other losses in life such as change, separation, sickness, and even things we normally consider good such as the birth of a child and success. 
One of the best things about the book is her reminder that suffering in and of itself has no value, yet we have the choice to teach ourselves and grow through our suffering. Bozarth shows her reader how, in the midst of their loss, they can teach themselves to have a new kind of joy and wholeness.

Anonymous reader

Five stars—An excellent guide for all kinds of grief journeys! I read this book in 1994 to help me with the loss of my grandmother to cancer. As I was reading the book, I began to understand how many other ways I had experienced grief in my life and never even knew it because “we don't talk about things like that.” 

I understood how changing jobs, moving to a new state, and giving birth are all moments in my life when I experienced change, and as a result, grief. I learned/understood that my emotional responses to each of these situations were not crazy but normal, and that awareness allowed me to work through the grief process much better. 

I was also better able to support myself in healthy ways. Because of the chapter on personal illness or the illness of a loved one, I have been sharing this information with the patients at my hospital ever since. The patients (and their loved ones) are experiencing grief as they learn to cope with a temporary or permanent disability as the result of illness, accident, or surgery. I am truly grateful that I found this book so that I can heal through my own grief, as well as support the people I meet on a daily basis. 
Many of the patients and their loved ones have thanked me for sharing this information with them and commented on how much the information has helped them to begin healing through their changes.

Anonymous reader

I discovered this book in the early 90's after my Father passed away from cancer. There had been many deaths in my small family—a sister at 19 (auto crash) and 3 weeks later my first husband committed suicide several years ago. This book enabled me to work through the grief that had been unresolved for a long time and regain self-esteem which tragedy destroys. 
I was so impressed that she didn’t “preach”—she shared her own experience. I have used this book through the years for reference and have passed it on to friends. I have bought 3 copies just for myself because no one wants to give it up after they read it. My present copy is dog-eared and highlighted throughout. 

My husband and soul-mate died almost 2 years ago—also from cancer. Once again, this book is helping me, especially when I learned that Bozarth . . . had lost her husband after writing it. She had added an epilogue describing the additional grief she suffered. I am now ordering a copy for a friend who is also going through grief. 

I highly recommend Life is Goodbye for anyone experiencing grief of any kind. It doesn’t have to be a death. Thank you Dr. Bozarth . . .  for saving the sanity of many.    

Carolyn G. Wright

Bozarth walks you through all kinds of loss. Loss is of a friendship, a job, an age, or a beloved person or pet. This book is conclusive evidence that we will encounter many deaths within our lifetime, and as long as we have faith, we will survive intact. 

The trick is to acknowledge the loss, allow the grieving and looking ahead once again with trust. This book is a great restorative. I bought it first for a sociology class, then bought four more copies to give.

Anonymous reader

My husband of 46 years committed suicide 3 months ago. While reaching out to every resource available to me, I came across this book. After reading it, I went back through and highlighted it everywhere it hit the mark. It took two days. 

This is the most astoundingly helpful book I’ve seen and I've read a lot of them. I’ve also recommended it to my therapists as a wonderful source of wisdom, insight, and understanding for those who are dealing with all kinds of grief: death, divorce, job loss, giving birth and many other events.

What a lot of helpful insights Dr. Bozarth offers! I recommend it unreservedly to all who are traveling down this road. God be with you.    

Elizabeth J. Riney, M.D.

I read this book after my mother died 16 years ago and I still recommend it when someone I know has lost a loved one. It really explains the grief process and lets you know that no matter how you feel and how you respond, you’re not losing your mind. I found it very comforting. I also pulled it out and reread it after having a miscarriage. This book is full of wisdom that will help with any loss. I highly recommend it!     

Carleen Brice

I purchased this book after the sudden death of a friend. I was at a complete loss as to how to deal with it, and had never experienced this type of loss before. I was shaken. 

I can’t believe my good fortune to have this book. It taught me so much about the role Grief plays in our lives, as well as it's not just limited to the loss of a person or relationship. Grief can come in all forms from all things. I found it very comforting to discover this and it actually helped me to embrace grief as a natural precursor to healing.

This is definitely a great book to have around, and it did give me some tremendous insights. I highly recommend this book for anyone having experience a loss or a feeling of loss that you can’t seem to attach to anything. I really feel like this book was a sanity saver in a sense, as it helped me identify something I would have never recognized as ‘grief-worthy.’

C.K. Ogi

At a time when I had lost 3 people that I loved very much over a period of only 6 months, I was not sure where to turn. Friends, family and co-workers said, “just take it one day at a time.” Although this is a very true statement, understanding the emotions you are feeling and why can really, really help after a loss. 

This book doesn’t just touch on death, it encompasses all losses from a job or divorce to the loss of a loved one. There are so many different things to consider and this book helps to drill down to your connect to the job or person and why the loss if effecting you in the way it is. I highly recommend this book, it does have a bit of a religious spin but not as a turn off, as a warm welcoming feeling that someone else understands.   

K. Haynes

A guide to help you through life's rough spots.

This book was an excellent guide for me when my husband came out of the closet. I felt like I was lost, floating in space. I was so scared to face what was happening to me. 

This book gave me the courage to face my worst fears and continue on. This book helped me at the worst time of my life by giving me a map to follow to get through. Thank you Alla writing such a readable book.

Love's Prism: Reflections
from the Heart of a Woman [front and back cover, click to enlarge]
by Alla Renée Bozarth
Sheed and Ward 1987.
Out of print. To order, contact Alla
Type "Book Order" in the Subject line.

Chapter Headings:
Loving Myself~ Dear Stranger, Dear Self
Loving Women~ Dear Mother, Dear Sister
Loving Men~ Dear Other, Dear Brother
Loving Children~ Dear Daughters, Dear Sons
The Other Side of Love~  Dear Flesh of My Flesh and Soul of My Soul 

A Journey through Grief by Alla Renée Bozarth 

Here with Death Begins~
  On the Death of a Cherished Companion

here with death begins
the long trail of tears,
traversed up and down
on your knees

for grief is a wet journey
where the soul is stripped bare
and chafed, where, through rips
in the core, blood mingles
with the ocean that overflows
from the heart through solo eyes

           Alla Renée Bozarth
The Frequency of Light, copyright 2012

A Journey through Grief 
by Alla Renée Bozarth 
(First Edition CompCare 1990)
Hazelden 1993—book only.
The Audiotape is distributed by Wisdom House.
To order audiotape (or book with inscription), 
type "Book Order" in the Subject line 
and write Alla at 
A Journey through Grief
This book was the most helpful I found when dealing with deep grief. It’s short, to the point, and hits the key heart strings with great simplicity and clarity. The idea that tears are what you do when you can’t do anything else was such a relief to me—knowing I could cry for as long as I needed and it would pass. And the idea to be gentle with myself allowed me to go through all the stages of grief undisturbed. I recommend this to every person who goes through a significant death such as the death  of a parent. 

Anonymous reader

A Journey through Grief—5.0 out of 5 stars.
A wonderful book to share with anyone who has had a loss.
I found this book quite by accident, but the timing could not have been better. After reading this book I felt as though I’d received a much needed hug. It is short, to the point, very gentle, and beautifully written. The author is a true poet. I have given several copies to friends and relatives. I could not give a higher recommendation.

Anonymous reader

Dance for Me When I Die: Death as a Rite of Passage (Audiotape only)
Alla Renée Bozarth CompCare 1990
Distributed by Wisdom House.
To order type "Book Order" in the Subject line  
and write Alla at 

Dance for Me When I Die is Alla’s address to the Minnesota 
Coalition on Terminal Care, November 1985, three weeks before 
her own husband Phil’s sudden death.  The following story is not 
on the tape, but explains its significance.

I Bless You, I Release You . . .

Phil accompanied me to the conference and taped my talk
on his personal recorder, which rested on his lap throughout.
There were about 500 professional people in the room—
oncologists, surgeons, nurses and nurse practitioners, hospice
workers, therapists, grief counselors, funeral directors and clergy.
At the end of the talk, I led a guided imagery meditation.

I invited the individuals present to close their eyes and visualize
something or someone they were ready to and needed to let go of,
and to bathe the image in gold light. . . . Then I asked them to
visualize the image diminishing and finally dissolving into the light
while they said, “I bless you, I release you— I set you free, I set
me free— I let you be, I let me be.” Then I asked them to
imagine that they themselves were being bathed in soothing pink
light flecked with gold. The gold was meant to represent Divine
Grace and the pink to represent Divine Compassion.

Phil was sitting on a center aisle seat toward my right from the podium
and about three rows back, and the co-keynote speaker, Comparative 
Religions scholar Huston Smith, was directly behind him. During my talk,
both of them, Huston much older than Phil, had radiant smiles on their 
faces as they leaned forward from time to time, as if it was all they could 
do to keep from saying Yes! or Oh! out loud.

On the way home in the car I asked Phil if he would feel all right
about telling me what he let go of during the meditation. He said,
“I let go of the last vestige of my lack of self-acceptance.” Phil also
told me that I had been his priest and a source of spiritual counsel and
wisdom throughout our marriage, as of course he had been for me, which
I told him in turn. Then Phil said, It's because of your relentless acceptance 
of me that I've finally been able to accept myself.

The conference had been around the fifteenth of November, and the day after 
Thanksgiving at the end of the month, Phil took me to the Twin Cities airport 
to fly to Oregon for my writing retreat. I was going to be gone until just before 

On December 8, Phil called me. We'd been talking so much on then
expensive long distance that we'd agreed to wait four days until 
Wednesday for our next visit, but Phil called the next day, Sunday,
the First Sunday of Advent. He was too excited and happy to
wait. He wanted to tell me all about the Advent service that morning.
Everything was gorgeous~ the altar, the flowers, the music. He sang
and played his guitar with the choir. His sermon was called, "What
are You Waiting For," and he was very pleased with it. I delighted
in hearing and imagining all this. 

Then I said, "I'm so glad you called because I wanted more than 
anything to call you and tell you something. I read in the Sunday  
Parade Magazine this morning. Toward the end of Franklin's life, 
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote him a love note and tucked it in his coat 
pocket for him to carry around. It said, 'You are the best husband 
in the world.' I wanted to say that to you, Phil. For all our years 
together you've worked hard and you gave me the courage to
work hard with you so that we could truly achieve marriage 
together. Now I can say it to you with all my heart, Phil. 
You Are the Best Husband on Earth." I could hear him purr . . .

When he had proposed to me on February 27, 1971, after a kiss 
good night in the front seat of my 1968 Plymouth Valiant, he
asked rather casually, "Will you marry me some day, Hon?"
And I even more casually grinned and said, "Uh huh," and
kissed him again. Nearly fifteen years later on the telephone
I playfully said, "Will you marry me someday, Hon?" and he
said, "Uh huh." Then in turn he asked, "Will you marry me?"
and I exclaimed, "YES!"  

While in Oregon I had gone Christmas shopping and wrapped 
presents for the family on December 6, St. Nicholas Day. 
They were in big canvas shopping bags and ready for my return 
trip around the 20th.

But on December 9, I was awakened from sleep by the telephone.
It was Phil’s mom calling from the hospital to tell me that Phil had
just died. I had been dreaming. I dreamed that a man in a United
Parcel Service uniform had asked me to witness and bless his saying
Goodbye to the woman he loved. It was like a wedding, and later
I realized that I was both priest and bride, and the groom was Phil,
declaring his eternal love. And then the phone rang.

I was still half-asleep when I heard the words. I fell out of bed onto
my knees and wailed the single word, “NO!!” My mother-in-love said,
“Call your neighbor right now.” My dear neighbor came and wept with me.

Then she called two other friends. Soon, three women were with me.
One packed. One drove me to the airport. I lay across three seats on
the plane and quietly sobbed myself half asleep again. How else could
I endure those horrible hours? The family met me at the airport where
less than two weeks earlier Phil’s bright loving eyes looked into mine
and we blessed and kissed each other for the last time on Earth.

Phil was a 37 year old man in robust health. He had the sniffles and was
getting ready to go to work. Suddenly he had an absence seizure but
couldn’t bring himself out of it and called 911. He died in the ambulance.
The autopsy revealed that his heart was strong and healthy but his lungs
had filled with blood clots. It happened very quickly. It was 20 years
before we knew why it happened. His younger brother had a routine
physical and during the history he’d mentioned Phil’s death. His physician
ordered a blood test, suspecting a genetic clotting mutation {Factor V 
Leiden disorder} that had only been discovered and named in 1994, nine 
years after Phil died of it. His brother had inherited the mutant gene from 
one parent, but by deduction, Phil was posthumously diagnosed as having 
inherited it from both, increasing the likelihood of a fatal episode five 
hundredfold. It can be triggered by a virus, and as his physician explained 
to me when reviewing his autopsy report, “a virus can take a detour 
anywhere it wants to in the body, and his had gone to the clotting centers 
of his brain.”

Three years earlier I saw my father at the same airport and kissed him
Goodbye for the last time also. After recovering from a long illness, he
had gone on a tour of England and Normandy called “In the Footsteps
of Thomas à Becket,” in celebration of his new freedom. He had called
us from London to say that he would be flying home to California the
next day and that Northwest Airlines had changed his Customs entry
city from Denver to Minneapolis. We accepted his invitation to meet
him at the airport and spend an hour with him at the gate before his
final flight home.

During that last sweet hour he showed us maps and told us about
his glorious pilgrimage, the people he’d met— about how a few nights
earlier when they’d crossed the Channel into Normandy their bus driver
got lost in the rain, and for two hours they drove around in would-be
frustration. Tired and hungry, the pilgrims and driver felt every jolt
and curve of the ride along narrow French roads, until my father took
charge. The next two hours flew by, at least for the passengers, as they
sang show tunes to their hearts’ restoration. {I later learned how much
this meant to them from the people themselves when I phoned to let 
them know what had happened.}

Papa told us that the next morning he got up early to take his first
walk in France by himself. They would be going back to London and
then fly home the next day. He started that last portion of his pilgrimage
by walking down to the river. He found a small bridge over a rivulet
of the Seine and from there he watched the dawn mists rise from the
river. He said he took a picture that he was sure would capture the
beauty of light on the water as silver gave way to pink, then gold. He
patted his overcoat pocket and said, “The picture’s right here on my
last roll of film.”

Phil had to leave for a meeting, and as we walked down the corridor
from the gate I said, “I forgot to tell Papa that I’m proud of him.”
Phil said, “Call him tomorrow and tell him.” I turned and Papa was
watching us, so we smiled warmly and waved to each other. I let him
rest the next day and planned to call him the day after. That night,
he died in his sleep. When I arrived at his place I saw my new book,
Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello on his nightstand. I’d inscribed an advance
copy for him and mailed it so it would be there when he got home.
It said, “Thank you for all you have given, all you have taught me.”
Knowing that he’d read it as was his custom before sleep, I felt like
he’d hugged me from Heaven. I vowed never again to delay saying
words of praise when I felt them. And yes, I found the roll of film
still in his pocket and had it developed immediately. I enlarged and
framed the picture he’d described in an antiqued gold frame. It was
on my wall for many years, an icon of his last deep vision, one which
he experienced with the eyes of his soul and passed on to me as a
beautiful legacy. I am so glad that we got to hear him describe it in
his own voice. . . .

The night of Phil’s death I sat in his big leather chair and remembered
that he had made his own recording of my talk three weeks earlier.
I put his tape recorder on my lap and played the closing meditation
as I visualized him lying on the beautiful emerald green carpet of our
living room, but I hadn’t anticipated what would happen when I pressed
the “Play” button. Since the recorder had been in Phil’s lap during the
meditation, his voice was the primary sound when those 500 people said,
“I bless you, I release you— I set you free, I set me free— I let you be,
I let me be.” In that way, transcending time and space and death itself,
Phil and I said Goodbye out loud to his body together.

Six months later, my doorbell rang back in Oregon. I had driven back
and forth to Minnesota to pack up our things and bring them all to
Oregon with me, as I had to sell our condominium in Minneapolis
I’d packed everything but furniture in 27 United Parcel Post boxes
and sent them to meet me by truck. When I opened the door,
standing there to bring me the last of our life together was a man
in a United Parcel Service uniform. I gasped, remembering the dream
Phil had sent me as his spirit was flying on its way Home to God.

Water Women (audiotape only)
by Alla Renée Bozarth
Wisdom House 1990
To Order, type “Book Order”
in the Subject line and write

Poems Included:
Bakerwoman God
Blackberry Zen
Blessings of the Stew Pot
Chambered Nautilus
Cosmic Child
Cosmic Circus
Country Life
Family Reunion
God is a Verb
In the End When Life Begins Again
In the Name of the Bee & the Bear & the Butterfly
Loving in the Open
Mame Sea and Mama Rock
My Solitude Means Plenitude
Nobel Woman
Passover Remembered
Prayer to the Holy One
Religious Manifesto of a Grown Woman
Sunday Memory
The Elements are In Charge
This is How Women Get Lost
Water Women
Where Did You Go?
Women at Play

Reading Out Loud to God  (audiotape only)
Poems by Alla Renée Bozarth
Wisdom House 1990
To order, type “Book Order”
in the subject line and write

Poems Included
A Poem Heard
Arctic Quest
At the End of this Road
Belonging [Stars in Your Bones]
Burning Bush
Conscientious Objection
Country Cousins
Creature Coveneant
Cygnus X-1
Dinner at the Alexis Esplanade
Easter Wisdom Rite
For Adults Only
Grandfather Lover
Hymn to Gaea
I Am Your Poem
Inanna in Hell
Loving the Body
Medicine Bear
My Yoga Teacher
No Failed Magician
Novaya Zemlya
Pure Lust, Perfect Bliss— Holy Communion
Sabbath Light
Smart Luck
That’s Life
The Flower that Sees
The Night I Sang at the Paris Opera
The Shamantool
To One Whose Sacred Map Was Stolen
What Jesus Really Said
Where Life Begins

Stars in Your Bones~
Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys

Click on image to enlarge.

Poems, Paintings and Commentary by Alla Renée Bozarth, Julia Barkley and Terri Hawthorne
North Star Press of St. Cloud 1990 (Out of print ~ Search the Internet)



Click to enlarge.
At the Foot of the Mountain:
Nature and the Art of Soul Healing
by Alla Renée Bozarth 
(First Edition with subtitle: "Discovering Images for Emotional Healing"
by Alla Bozarth-Campbell CompCare 1990)
Current Edition iUniverse 2000

From the Introduction:
   "This book catches me on the wing. It is a book of Between.
So it is a true-to-life book, a soul-making book. But unlike
tidy fiction, it has no plot. My life and soul have no plot~
only themes. Here are themes of flights, as in music, as in
a fugue
   "When I wrote these themes into form some years ago, I was
on the way. I was up in the air. My only map was faith. I had
embarked on a destiny journey with no idea of my destination.
I was telling a true story, but I was in the dark about its plot,
its details, and its resolution. Now some of these things have been
revealed because I have lived through them.  . . . The light breaks
through into what is essential for me~ the sweet and stinging
divine Mystery.  . . . [It] includes the limitless importance of people
in my life. The themes of my sense of exile and homecoming are
present in this book, but locked inside them are deeper themes . . . "  

Of Nature as teacher and healer, death as utmost transformation~ of Grace, of courage, of willingness, 
surrender, wonder, of breath-taking moments of splendor in the lives of Creation around me . . . 
the salmon's steadfast swim out to sea and heroic return at life's end to the finger lakes where it was 
born, diving up waterfalls on the way and trying not to be eaten by bears or ripped in human 
machinery . . .  then love and rebirth at the end.

Chapter Headings

Before the Beginning and After the End
The Mountain
My Eye
The White Deer
The Salmon
The Well
The Great Bear
Chambered Nautilus
Seven-petaled Lotus
Invisible Wings
A Happy Childhood
In the Beginning

At the Foot of the Mountain: Nature and the Art of Soul Healing
This remarkable work proves that a time of devastating change can result
in magnificent growth and illumination. In these intensely personal—
and universal— ponderings, Episcopal priest, author-poet and therapist,
Alla Renée Bozarth, relates the wrenching decisions that caused her move
from her “exile” I the Midwest back to Oregon, to her place “at the foot
of the mountain.” She takes us through her grief at the death of her father
and of her young husband, then shares her gradual healing through the
creative process of writing this book. At the end, nature and art and the
human spirit make a union with the whole. 

Anonymous Reader
All Shall Be Well, All Shall Be One (audiotape only)
Alla Renée Bozarth
Lecture delivered to the Womanspirit Conference
in Los Angeles, 1991
Wisdom House 1992
Out of print.


Click to enlarge.

Six Days in St. Petersburg
A Chronicle of Return
Poems by Alla Renée Bozarth
Purple Iris Press 1993
Out of print. Search the Internet. 

At the Ballet

In Petersburg
at the Little Ballet
a large while angel flies
in each corner of the state,
blessing the wings
of the theatre and all
who lap and exult there,
all who  fall weary
into the wild ovations
of entranced audiences
like me, unable to move
or acknowledge it's over,
refusing to go home,
at dawn still sitting there,
throwing roses at the dancers' feet. 


Olga, Tanya and Vladimir
entertain us expansively
in their two-room flat.
The children, Vasya and Irina
are out taking music lessons
and studying.

We eat potatoes from the country
and cucumbers from town.
Red tulips we have carried
through the deep Underground
open in full glory, yellow
stamen against the gold wallpaper.
Iced cake and samovar tea.
Apples and currants in tall glasses
with fresh sugar just purchased dearly.

On the way back in the taxi,
Olga whispers when we pass
a medium-sized grey building, "KGB."
I look up as we turn the corner,
see a green plant growing
in a fifth floor window,
white curtains.

The old functions change.
What oppressed now seeks
to protect.

Sometime soon, let freedom
and security breathe as one.


The affable
young man
who speaks
for his country 
and teaches
strangers its ways
gives us a link:
there are no natives

He, after all, is
a true Russian:
half Tartar, a quarter
Kurd, a quarter Jewish.
Naturally, he mixes
his religions also.
He is an honest citizen
of the world.


 Click to enlarge.

Wisdom and Wonderment—
Thirty-one Feasts to Nourish Your Soul
Alla Renée Bozarth 
Sheed and Ward 1993
(Now an imprint of Roman and Littlefield) 

Meditations for every day of the month:

Thirty-One Commandments or Flavors of Grace 
     Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
                                 Native American Saying

Thou shalt not insult thy Creator by hating, abusing or 

disrespecting thy Self.

Thou shalt not insult thy Creator by hating, abusing or 
disrespecting any Other Child of God.

Thou shalt not bore thy Creator – by reading from a script 
to converse with Same– unless it be to share good literature, 
for the Creator loves a good read.

Thou shalt not grovel.

Thou shalt not whine.

Thou shalt not repeat thy sins and irritating habits 
over and over again in word or deed.

Thou shalt relinquish thine addiction to perfection, 
for it will only harm thee.

Thou shalt not cling falsely to any other of thy delusions, 
nor to thy tedious disbeliefs for safety or stubbornness’ sake.

But thou shalt not be afraid to ask questions.

And thou shalt learn to ask the truly helpful questions, and 
to live them patiently.

And thou shalt remember that it is all right to be wrong and 
to admit it.

Thou shalt not be afraid to be foolish, for Wisdom loves 
the honest risk taker, and thou shalt laugh gently with her.

Thou shalt not, however, keep doing the same dumb things 
without learning gratefully from the gift of thy mistakes.

Thou shalt relinquish thy rage after listening to thy hurt 

child within, and learning what thou needest to feel safe.

And thou shalt focus and use thy righteous anger against 
injustice well, to change reality for the greater well being 
of all.

Thou shalt raise hell, from time to time, for heaven’s sake.

Thou shalt not be afraid to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive.

Thou shalt remember the obvious, and not belabor it.

Thou shalt not underestimate thy power nor minimize 

thy pain, but learn to use both compassionately.

Thou shalt fret not thy gizzard.

Thou shalt not forget to celebrate and practice happiness 
and breathe in and out with a grateful heart every day, for 
all God’s gifts to thee and in thee.

Thou shalt remember to take long walks out of doors and 
to listen to the birds and smell the flowers and trees and 
to touch the Earth and sing to her, and to have picnics 
whenever possible.

Thou shalt not literalize thy metaphors, nor shalt thou 
absolutize them into idols, for they merely attempt to 
describe the indescribable.

Thou shalt not hold thy brokenness against thyself, 
nor others’ against themselves.

Thou shalt be creative and playful in thine own special 
idiom, and delight thy Creator with thine ingenuity,
which comes naturally and needs little cultivation.

Thou shalt trust in thy Self as God trusts in thee, 
to fulfill thy destiny and live thine experiment 
with life lovingly.

Thou shalt trust in God in thee and in all creatures.

Thou shalt be tenderly kind to thy Self and to Others.

And thou shalt remember to rejoice in thine intellect, 
senses, and holy emotions, and to make mutually 
beneficial contact with all holy creation through them,
relying always on thy creative power to heal thy Self 
from within, which is God’s birth gift to thee. 

And thou shalt remember to ask for help in thy healing, 

and thou shalt not be afraid to fulfill thy heart’s desire; 
and thou shalt in all things be willing for the divine 
reality to be born in thee and to move through thee, forever.

Mantras as Needed—
Pace yourself lovingly.
Make merciful revisions of everything.
Find the hidden gift in frustration.
Find the hidden gift in pain.
Find the hidden gift in despair.
Celebrate the hidden gifts in everything.

                                      Alla Renée Bozarth                                                                                                                             
Accidental Wisdom
iUniverse 2003.
All rights reserved.

Though the entire piece is not printed in  Wisdom and Wonderment, 
the thirty-one meditations in that book are based on the individual 
commandments or flavors, shown here as a unified text.

Click to enlarge.

Lifelines—Threads of Grace through Seasons of Change 
Alla Renée Bozarth 
Sheed and Ward 1995
(Imprint of Roman and Littlefield) 

Chapter Headings: 
Transition~ A Time of Trust and Grace 
Make Friends with Your Fear
Praying Your Way through Pain
Meeting Your Inner Healer
Healing Addiction to Perfection
When  Good People Do Bad Things
When Love Means Letting Go 
Meeting Death Can Mean Living More Deeply

Click to enlarge.

Soulfire: Love Poems in Black and Gold
Alla Renée Bozarth
Yes International Publishers 1997

Read Review   >

This is a rare and wonderful gift of love. Poems of wonder 
and longing, loss and pain, desire and inestimable joy flow 
from the pen of a priest and psychotherapist who helps heal 
the rift between religion and the erotic.
Anonymous reader~

Turn your face
to the firelight,
Beloved, and rest
your head against
my breast.
How perfectly we fit
when I stand, you sit,
your ear leaning
on my heart.
When you listen,
do you hear
my whole life
singing to you?
My body's breath
carries your mind
like waves, up and
home again.

You are the waterbird
riding my rhythm.
When you listen,
do you hear
the winds of all
the oceans, and within,
the drumming wings
of all the birds
that fly them?

 Click to enlarge.

The Book of Bliss 
Poems by Alla Renée Bozarth
iUniverse 2000

The Night Gardener

This is my bliss time.
I water under the moon
while the world sleeps.
Awake with owls and bats,
moths and cats and
the worker bee who never sleeps
I give grasses their drink,
kiss the night-blooming flowers
whose moon-drenched yellow scent
surrounds the garden, whose round
blossoms glow in the the dark, dancing
like drunkard angels.

The Book of Bliss

These 220 poems are mystic chalices, each filled to the brim with practical elixirs for improving one’s daily engaging of “ordinary” life. Drink deeply with  this poet’s deft assistance. Whether you begin your “inner adventure” by consulting the stars or the flowers, you will spend many delightful hours returning  to these luscious words of wisdom from the founder of Wisdom House. (I have.)

Alla’s own life story (her early widowhood, priestly duties, piano playing) weaves in and out of these prayerlike poems, touching time and again upon our universal and cosmic encounters with imperfection, blessing, loving and letting go, and daily bliss. For those who are guided by the Word, it is here in abundance and for every flower you pick in this garden, two will blossom in your heart.

Ann Knight White Rock, British Columbia

  Click to enlarge.

Moving to the Edge of the World 
Poems by Alla Renée Bozarth
iUniverse 2000


You blow yourself up
to nurture your children,
to draw attention

to a larger reality
than human history,
to teach us

that Earth is alive
and every day of bearable 
light is a gift.

                                                                        Click to enlarge.

Accidental Wisdom 
Poems by Alla Renée Bozarth
iUniverse 2003

Dancing the Labyrinth

There is a way
to begin —
meaningful movement
is the child of stillness.

See where you are. 
You do not have to be
anywhere else
or better
than you are.

Feel the Grace
of the Earth and God
through your soles.
This is the pathway
of soul.
And it is
a constant

Let your feet find the ways
to Oneness and lead
your dancing heart.
It is play.

The way allows
wings and those
who lumber.
The way allows
the bleeding
and broken as well
as the fit and strong. 
You may be feeble
and frightened or
you may feel
Either way
your inner angel
will be the one
to carry you.

The way is black
and white and also
living colors —
all suggesting

It is paper.
It is words.
It is silence
and snow.
The way is
from the mountain’s
It is desert floor
and water.
It is body
and spirit.
The way is
It is the soul’s
and the body’s
It is the cleansing
of the mind’s eye.

Simply begin.
At the center
you will find
your truest self
and your birthplace
at the heart of the rose. 
In the phoenix nest
at the center
you will die and
be touched by fire.

When you return
we will know you
truly for the first time. 
We will welcome news
you bring from home. 
Food you bring
will ready us to follow. 
Songs you sing
will call us into Mystery.

The only reason
for going into
the open heart
of the labyrinth
is to let your heart break
so that you can hear
the first cry
of creation
when God birthed
the universe,
and you can
large enough
to respond,
let your whole
life unfurl
in all
its magnificence
and purity,
and cry back
to the Holy One
with the beauty
that will rise
within you.

    Alla Renée Bozarth
    Accidental Wisdom
    iUniverse 2003


Click to enlarge.

This Mortal Marriage~ Poems of Love, Lament and Praise  
Alla Renée Bozarth
iUniverse 2003


 . . . A star seems
to slip secretly
over the mountain.
A river sings
a new song of never-before
and always. 
You look into the eye
of a deer and see
the whole forest,
a star on each tree.

It could be morning.
It could be night.
The push is over.

At last
you remember
whose you are.

 Click to enlarge.

This is My Body— Praying for Earth, Prayers from the Heart
Poems with prose by Alla Renée Bozarth
iUniverse 2004

O Earth, Wrap Me in Your Leaves

O Earth, wrap me in your leaves~
heal me.

Let me fall 
on your Earthbresat~
feed me.

Sing to me
under the round nests
in your cedar trees . . .

Let my wounds
and empty

Into your wonderful
compost heap . . .

Let my wounds
become fertil
gardens and

Let me be.
Let me live

Vietnam Docupoem
Revised Edition
by Alla Renée Bozarth
Book Smart Blurb
Copyright 2018


Forthcoming poetry collections:

Protected by copyright, 2011—All rights reserved

Winterfire: The Rebirth of Love
Love’s Alchemy
My Passion for Art
Purgatory Papers
Postcards from Paradise
Falling in Love with Fire
Falling in Love with Light
Kissed by Lightning and Left for Dead
Learning to Dance in Limbo

My Blessed Misfortunes
Diamonds in a Stony Field
The Frequencies of Sound
The Frequency of Light
Also to be published over the next few years~ 

Two children’s stories with CD
Four chapbooks
Two interviews
A third edition of: Womanpriest
A reprint of: Six Days in St. Petersburg
     with a CD of Alla reading the book
A reprint of Stars in Your Bones

View this docupoem on its own blog with more images, follow-up stories 
and response:

Vietnam ~Veterans’ Day 2008-2012 Perspective
        On the Hundred Years' War 1914 - 2012 So Far
         An individual’s political beliefs depend on
               when he or she became politically aware.  

I wanted to know when it began. 
It began incrementally.   
On September 27, 1950, the United States established                                       
the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina, in Saigon                            
to aid the French Military.
On November 1, 1955, as the French were leaving Vietnam
the location designation was changed from Indochina  to Vietnam 
and the United States established a direct combat advisory role to aid 
the South Vietnamese Army. This date is used to mark the official beginning 
of American military presence.  The Department of Defense cites this 
as the earliest date for inclusion on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. 
On December 11, 1961, the United States aircraft carrier Core arrives                         
with 33 helicopters and 400 personnel to operate them. American pilots             
begin flying combat missions with the South Vietnamese. 
On August 7, 1964, Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 
to allow the President to take necessary steps including armed force to prevent
attacks on
United States forces. Many regard this action as the start of the war.    
On March 8, 1965 the first combat troops arrive in Vietnam.                              
3,500 Marines land on China Beach to join 23,000 advisors already there          
and to protect the American air base at Da Nang. Some view the arrival                      
of U.S. combat troops to be the start of the War, though military advisors         
have been there for a decade.

There was never an actual declaration of war.     

I wanted to know who sent us, meaning the U.S., to Vietnam.
On the first website I read, the history of American presence in Vietnam
from 1945-1975 is divided into Seeds of Conflict, America Commits,
The Jungle War and The Bitter End.

After years of mostly self-imposed exile, Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam
in 1941 and organized the Viet Minh, or Vietnam Independence League.
For decades, he had traveled extensively and immersed himself in French, 
American and English cultures, but his political education began in France.

Recovering from tuberculosis, he spent time developing his thoughts in Russia 
and China, drawing geographically and psychologically nearer to return.
During the Versailles Peace Talks following what was then known as
The Great War, Ho had petitioned Western powers for recognition
of the civil rights of the Vietnamese people in French Indochina~ 
but he was ignored. He appealed to President Woodrow Wilson,
asking for help in removing the French from his country and replacing
their rule with a new nationalist government~ but he was ignored. 

After the United States entered World War II, the American intelligence
Office of Strategic Services aligned with Ho Chi Minh when Japanese guerillas 
occupied the jungle, to harass them out and to rescue downed American pilots. 
In March, 1945, based on rumors of imminent American invasion, Japanese
soldiers ousted the independent French colonial government and took control
Vietnam with Bao Dai as puppet leader.

That summer, famine seized the land. 
Two million out of ten million died of starvation. Peasants revolted. 
The Viet Minh gained in power, promising hope in the midst of turmoil.
After the War, America considered Vietnam of little importance
in the peace settlements. Planning the post-war world in Potsdam, Germany
leaders regarded Vietnam as a minor item on the global agenda. . . .

~World War I had gone dormant and seethed in the collective underground
of the European psyche, then woke with vengeance as its consequences became
the prime psychological motivator of Germany's rage for vengeance and power.
World War I swirled in the background of the human psyche to more than haunt
World War II. Similarly, Vietnam’s living ghost looms over the Middle East
these nearly fifty years later, phase six or seven of the second Hundred Years War—
all one long world wounding eruption with cease-fire outbreaks of peace
here and there. The past is more than a backdrop. It bleeds through into the present.~

In August, Bao Dai abdicates, the Japanese surrender
and leave Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh’s guerillas occupy Hanoi
and proclaim a provisional government. On September 2, 1945,
Ho Chi Minh announces independence for Vietnam by quoting
from the American Declaration of Independence supplied by the OSS:
We hold the truth that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed
 by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty 
and the pursuit of happiness. This immortal statement is extracted from 
the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. 
These are undeniable truths.”

Ho Chi Minh declares himself president of
and seeks recognition from the United States,
but President Harry Truman ignores him. 

British forces arrive in Saigon on September 13. 

In the North, 150,000 Chinese Nationalists march down from China to Hanoi
looting villages all along the way, and then looting Hanoi. On September 22,
1400 French soldiers are released from Japanese internment camps and
go on a rampage, attacking Viet Minh and murdering civilian women,
children and men. Some of the 20,000 resident French civilians join
the deadly assault. Two days later in Saigon, the Viet Minh organize
a successful strike and shut down all services. In a suburb, members
of a violent criminal organization massacre 150 French and Eurasian
civilians including children. Two days later on September 26, 1945—

The first American death in Vietnam occurs, during the unrest in Saigon
as OSS officer Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey is killed by Viet Minh guerrillas 
who mistook him for a French officer. Before his death, Dewey had filed 
a report on the deepening crisis in Vietnam, stating his opinion that 
U.S. “ought to clear out of Southeast Asia.”

In October, 35,000 French soldiers take arms under the command
of a World War II French general, Jacques Philippe Leclerc.
After some harassment, they expel the Viet Minh from Saigon.
In February of ’46, the Chinese agree to leave North Vietnam
and allow the French to resume control in exchange for the latter 
leaving Shanghai and other Chinese ports.

In March, Ho Chi Minh allows the French to return to Hanoi temporarily
in exchange for their recognition of his Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The Chinese leave.  That spring through summer Ho Chi Minh is in Paris
attempting to negotiate full independence and unity for his country,
but without result. In June~ in a major affront to Ho Chi Minh, 
the French high commissioner for Indochina proclaims a separatist 
French-controlled government for South Vietnam. In December, 1946, 
the First Indochina War between the French and Viet Minh is mutually declared. 

It will last for eight years. 
Ho Chi Minh says,
“The fight will be long
and arduous, but our cause
is just and will surely win.”

In October 1949, Mao Zedong's Communist forces defeat Chiang Kai-shek's 
Nationalist Army in the Chinese civil war. Mao's victory ignites American 
anti-Communist sentiment regarding Southeast Asia and will result in 
a White House foreign policy goal of “containment” of Communist 
expansion in the region.  

And so we begin.

On June 30, 1950, Harry Truman sends ground troops
into South Korea after communist soldiers come down from the North.
We’re stuck in a bloody police action war until President Eisenhower ends it
on July 27 of 1953, four months after the death of Joseph Stalin.

In Vietnam Ho Chi Minh has the blessings of Russia and China
and the French wars go on. 

From the end of May through March of 1954, the French are cornered
and running out of food, water and medicine. They appeal to Washington.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff discuss three options: send combat troops,
send B-29 bomber planes, send atomic weapons {!}. Britain protests
the latter two and Eisenhower decides not to rescue the French
to avoid the likelihood of escalating the horror. 

At 5:30 p.m., May 7, 1954, 10,000 French soldiers surrender at Dien Bien Phu.
Four hundred thousand human beings from all sides, soldiers and civilians,
men, women and children, had perished. On May 8, The Geneva Conference
on Indochina begins, the fate of the land to be decided by the United States,
Britain, China, the Soviet Union, France, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

On July 21, [1954], the Geneva Accords divide Vietnam in half at the 17th parallel,
Ho Chi Minh’s Communists granted the North, 
Bao Dai’s regime granted the South.

Provision is made for elections within two years to reunify the country, although
the United States opposed the elections fearing a victory by Ho Chi Minh. 
Ngo Dinh Diem is appointed prime minister in the South, a Roman Catholic
in a Buddhist country who predicted another, bloodier war would follow.
He encourages one million Roman Catholics in North Vietnam to flee
to the South, while 90,000 communists in South Vietnam go north,
but under orders from Hanoi, 10,000 quietly remain. On October 26, 1955
the Republic of South Vietnam is proclaimed. President Eisenhower
pledges support for the new government and offers military aid.

American military advisors and personnel 

begin to train the South Vietnamese army.

Diem’s leadership is aloof and autocratic, despite American efforts.
He becomes increasingly harsh. On April 28, 1956, the last French soldier
leaves Vietnam. The French High Command for Indochina is dissolved.
Diem refuses, under American influence, to participate in elections
and their deadline passes without compliance with the Geneva Accords.
Trouble brews in the North and unrest is stifled by 6,000 killings.

In May, 1957, Diem goes to Washington. Eisenhower says, “The cost
of defending freedom, of defending America, must be paid in many forms 
and in many places. . . . Military as well as economic help is currently needed
in Vietnam.” Obsessed with security, Diem spends little money on schools,
clinics, or other badly needed social services. Communists in the countryside
promise to give the people what they need to improve their lives. Guerillas
attack the South and 400 officials are killed by year’s end.

In March of 1959, Ho Chi Minh initiates the revolution by activating his
People’s War to reunite all Vietnam. This begins the Second Indochina War.
The Ho Chi Minh trail starts being constructed through 1500 miles of jungle 
and mountain passes from North Vietnam along the western border and into
Laos and Cambodia to funnel a steady stream of soldiers and supplies
into South Vietnam. By July, 4,000 guerillas born in the South and trained
in the North have infiltrated South Vietnam in readiness for war.
On July 8, 1959, two American military advisors
are killed by Viet Minh guerillas 20 miles north of
the first American casualties of the Second Indochina War, 
known in America simply as the Vietnam War.

I was twelve years old, but I still hadn’t heard of Vietnam.

On May 12, 1961, three days before my 14th birthday, 
President Kennedy orders 100 special forces troops to Vietnam

On December 11, 1961, 33 helicopters are sent with 400 air 
and ground crew to operate them for South Vietnam

On December 22, James Davis of Livingston, Tennessee
is shot down by Viet Cong. Later, President Johnson called him
the first American to fall in defense of our freedom in
America, it seems, is no longer fighting to help the Vietnamese,
but to defend itself in
On my 15th birthday, May 15, 1962, in response to Communist attacks in Laos
President Kennedy orders 5,000 troops to Thailand to defend the Thai borders.
On November 1, 1963, President Diem and his brother are assassinated
in Saigon. After that, “one coup follows another.”

In June, 1964, Henry Cabot Lodge resigns as U.S. ambassador in Saigon.
It was reported— and much later, too late, repudiated— that two U.S. destroyers, 
“Maddox” and “C. Turner Joy” were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin 
by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on August 2nd and 4th.

On August 4th, a U.S. retaliatory strike destroyed 25 North Vietnamese boats 
at their bases. In the Pentagon Papers, it was reported that a cable
from the U.S commander of the destroyer task force stated that there was
“No actual visual sighting . . . Suggest complete evaluation
before any further action.” 

Aug 7, 64US Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming all 
necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of 
the United States . . . to prevent further aggression . . . {and} assist any member 
of protocol state of the Southeast Asian Collective Defense Treaty {SEATO} 
requesting assistance . . .” US Senate voted {88-2} passed – 
Senator Wayne Morse {D-Oregon} and Senator Ernest Gruening {D-Alaska} 
voted against the resolution. US House voted {414-0} passed.

Fall 1964 – US turns down an offer of secret peace talks with North Vietnam.

I was a seventeen year old Oregonian
and proud of my senator’s dissenting vote, 
though it made no difference.
In the Fall of 1965, I was on a train traveling through southern
on my way to northern
Italy, reading the New York Herald Tribune, 
European Edition. Sick with horror I put down the paper and said out loud 
to the young American woman who was the only other passenger
in the compartment~~“Isn’t it terrible~ what’s going on in
Her response chilled me to the bone: 
“Oh, it’s so far away I don’t even pay attention or care.”

Johnson had already ordered a retaliatory air strike that February in response 
to an assault on barracks at Pleiku where American advisors were housed, 
killing eight of them. 

Our President took it as a personal insult and activated Operation Rolling Thunder 
which let loose a fury that lasted three years.

8 Mar 65 - Two US Marine battalions arrived on the beach at DaNang 
in full battle gear. . . . . They were met not by enemy fire, 
but by curious onlookers. . . . One soldier said, 
“The war was nowhere in sight.”

16 Mar 65 - Alice Herz, an 82-year-old survivor of Nazi terror, 
set herself on fire in
Detroit shortly after President Johnson announced 
major troop increases and the bombing of
North Vietnam.
20 May 65 - Hanoi restates its peace proposal 
Washington has already rejected.

2 Nov 65 - Quaker Norman Morrison set himself on fire and died 
outside Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s Pentagon office, 
a scene McNamara witnessed

9 Nov 65 - Catholic Worker Roger LaPorte immolated himself opposite 
the United Nations building as an anti-war protest

1965 - The US Congress provided $2.4 Billion for the Vietnam war effort, 
with little dissent in the US House or Senate

Jan 66 thru Oct 68 - US bombs dropped on N. Vietnam total over 600,000 tons
29 Jan 66 - US begins bombing around Haiphong and Hanoi, N. Vietnam

This is considered a major escalation of the air war.

1 Mar 66 - An attempt to repeal Gulf of Tonkin resolution 
was defeated in the US Senate.

Then, two years later, on March 16, 1968, the My Lai Massacre. 
An entire village of mostly young children, women and old men 
was systematically, savagely, grotesquely and gratuitously murdered 
by American soldiers.

In the still-dark early morning of January 31, 1968, the first day 
of the Vietnamese lunar New Year, the Tet Offensive began, 
a steady full force siege plan of North Vietnamese military 
to wear down and then overthrow the separatist rebellion in South Vietnam.

31 Mar 68 - President Johnson commits the US to a non-military solution 
of the war when he announced he would not seek re-election, and ordered 
a bombing halt over 75% of N. Vietnam 
{north of the 20th Parallel}.

In August, protests erupt from
the Students for a Democratic Society 
and the Yippies in Grant Park concurrently with
the Democratic National Convention in
I move to Chicago six months later and ride the wake of the storm 
for the next seven years, in Midwestern educational exile
from my beautiful Pacific Northwestern home state. 
I learn more than I ever counted on. 

Black friends are murdered in 1969, some of them by the Chicago Police. 
The affable and competent black secretary of the Urban Training Center 
where I spent a month that winter was murdered and immediately
became a cold case file. Black Panther Fred Hampton was murdered
in his bed during a violent 4am raid by the Chicago Police that December.
I had spoken with him for half an hour the night before when I called
to volunteer for the Panther's community service school breakfast program.

Charles Campbell, a black Episcopal lay minister in the Diocese of Chicago,
was attacked while walking his dog in integrated and normally friendly 
Hyde Park and ministering to street people on his regular rounds one night. 

Three drunk white male medical students pulled him off the sidewalk into 
their car and dragged him upside down with his head on the pavement at high 
speed, finally banging it up on the wall of a viaduct until he was all but dead
and dumping him. It took him a month in Cook County Hospital to die. 

I had been a guest in his home and broken bread and prayed at his table
and waved goodbye to him when he went out to make his ministry rounds. 
Along with a legion of other friends I spent most of that long, sweltering
summer month at Cook County Hospital, meeting humanity on new terms 
and hearing their stories from the injured, the sick, the dying, their families 
and the noble doctors and nurses who humbly served them 
and anguished with them.

Joanie, Charles'  white wife and my friend, 
showed me the stab wound in his side. 
When the police came they said 
it looked like he'd been punched with a ball point pen.
The wound was broad and deep as can be. 

The families of the murderers paid off a judge to dismiss the case. 
No justice was even attempted by the authorities.
The Bishop came. The Governor came. 
A steady stream of Chicago dignitaries awed 
the compassionate and dismayed mostly white medical staff, 
many of whom attended his funeral, sobbing. . . .

Months afterward, I visit a black prisoner in Cook County Jail 
as a favor to his sister, deliver messages of care from his family 
and engage in conversation with a black prison guard his age
who tells me, "We're all prisoners here."

I pray and sing at Operation Bread Basket
led by Jesse Jackson on Saturday Mornings
and with the Urban Training Center participants
join Jesse and  the congregation in a Hunger Caravan 
by bus to bear witness to racism and injustice against the poor
on the capital steps in Springfield.

I keep up with peace vigils locally throughout those years. 

31 Oct 68 - President Johnson announced he would halt all bombing 
of N. Vietnam on 1 Nov 68. The B-52 bombing halt was maintained until 
15 Apr 72. The US bombing “sorties” were shifted to Laos 1 Nov 68 
on through 1972—  over 25,000 sorties were flown, 
with the most occurring in 1971

More of same from President Nixon. 
Paris Peace Talks go on and get nowhere . . . again.
September 3, 1969, Ho Chi Minh dies of a heart attack at 79.

December 1, 1969, Nixon announces the first draft lottery in 27 years.
I hit the streets with the rest of despairing America,
including members of Congress, clergy, and Dr. Spock.
We pray
noon vigils for peace in the middle of Lake Shore Drive 
north of Chicago, and on the White House steps.
2 Dec 69 - US House approved {334-5}) a resolution endorsing Nixon's efforts 
to achieve “peace with justice,” following a 2 day debate. This was the first 
major Vietnam policy declaration since the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

8 Dec 69 - Chief US negotiator Henry Cabot Lodge and his deputy resigned, 
expressing pessimism concerning the course of the negotiations.

Jan 70 – “Washington Monthly Magazine” described an intelligence network 
of “nearly 1,000 plain clothes investigators working out of some 200 offices 
from coast to coast”  who wrote reports on “political protests of all kinds.”
The domestic intelligence operation stored and disseminated information 
on both groups and individuals who “might cause trouble of the US Army.” 
Senator Ervin reported in December 1970 that he was informed the surveillance 
included 800 Illinois citizens including Senator Adlai Stevenson, III {PD-ILL}, 
Rep. Abner Mikua {D-ILL} and US Circuit Judge Otto Kerner. Ervin said 
“apparently anyone who in the Army's definition was ‘left of center’ 
was a prospective candidate for political surveillance.” 
During lengthy Senate hearings on the Army's activities, 
Defense Secretary Laird ordered the spying stopped.

2 May 70 - Senators McGovern, Hughes, Cranston, Goodell, 
and Hatfield announced they planned to introduce an “end the war” 
amendment which would work by suspending funds for military operations 
in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

4 May 70 - 4 Kent State college students were shot to death 
Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war protest on the campus. 
This led to widening anti-war protests.

I join the countrywide student moratorium, put on my black arm band and, 
though attending most of my classes, forfeit the A grade my professors bemoaned 
I’d denied them by choosing the pass-fail option Northwestern University 
had offered us, so I could be ready for any eventuality.  
America was as tense as it could be.

9 May 70 - A peaceful anti-war rally held at the Ellipse in Washington, DC 
was attended by about 80,000 people including about 10 members of Congress.

1 Sep 70 - The McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, providing for the withdrawal 
of all US troops by 31 Dec 71, was defeated by the Senate now and again later.

1970 - War Powers - By the time Congress learned that the naval incident 
leading to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution {1964} had been misrepresented
and moved to repeal the resolution in 1970, President Nixon had already 
shifted to another legal rationale – his constitutional powers 

as “Commander in Chief” – for his Vietnam policies.  

In its 1969 “national commitments” resolution, the Senate made a bid 
to reassert a congressional voice in decisions committing the US 
to the defense of foreign countries. The House passed war-powers 
measures in 1970, 1971 and 1972.

Shades of things to come. A war based on an “untruth.” 
From Southeast Asia of the sixties and seventies to Iraq
at the turn of the millennium. 

Then another Republican president wanted to replace the Constitution          
with  his own whim and will. Neither then nor now will America stand for it.
On March 29, 1971, Lieutenant Calley was convicted for the My Lai Massacre, 
though his full term was not served. The next day, it was later revealed,
a confidential Army directive ordered mail to be censored and all mail
with anti-war sentiment prevented from going to soldiers in
including letters of concern from their families.

7 Apr 71 - During a speech, President Nixon said that in relation to 
setting a firm date for troop withdrawal, it would 
“serve the enemy's purpose, not our own.”

18 Apr 71 - 2,300 Vietnam Veterans came to Washington, DC to participate 
in Dewey Canyon III, “a military incursion into the country of Congress.”
Led by Vietnam Veterans Against the War {VVA}), the vets camped on the mall 
1/4 mile from the Capitol, and threw away military medals and ribbons 
at the foot of the statue of Chief Justice John Marshall.
24 Apr 71 - 10 days of protests by a group calling themselves 
"The Mayday Tribe" included attempted work stoppages 
at several federal offices in
Washington, DC.

3 May 71 - 5,100 policemen backed by 10,000 federal troops resulted in 
an unprecedented mass arrest of approximately 7,000 persons, with another 
2,700 arrested the next day. Protests ended 5 May with the arrest of another
1,200 demonstrators on the Capitol’s east steps during a rally attended 
by some members of Congress.

9 Jun 71 - The Senate adopted an amendment authorizing drug control 
and rehabilitation programs in the military.

June 71 - Pentagon Papers published.

17 June 71 - Congressman Charles Whalen, Jr {R-Ohio} co-sponsored 
an “end the war” bill which was rejected by the House {158-255}.
1 Jul 71 - During the peace talks, the Viet Cong proposed the return of all 
American and allied prisoners held in North and South Vietnam by the end 
of 1971 if all US troops were withdrawn within that same period.  
US reaction was cautious.

In February, 1972, a good thing happened. President Nixon visited 
the People’s Republic of China, opening the door between East and West 
and beginning a conversation, almost a separate reality, 
a separate universe and mind zone from the continuing tragedy 
of the countries to the south.

And then Nixon did some very bad things.

17 Jun 72 - Watergate break-in and attempted bugging 
of the Democratic Party Headquarters

And let us not forget the famous missing 18 minutes of taped conversations 
about this, presumably the erasure work of an Oval Office secretary. 

27 Oct 72 - Nixon “pocket vetoed” 
the Veteran's Health Care Expansion Act of 1972. 
The health care act would have authorized expenditure 
of $85 million in 1973 for expanding health care services 
for veterans and their dependents.

Oct 72 - The Supreme Court was steadfast in refusing to rule 
on the constitutionality of American involvement in Vietnam.  

As late as Oct 72, the court voted 7-2 to decline to hear a case 
in which taxpayers challenged the use of foreign aid funds to 
finance American operations in Vietnam (Sarnoff vs. Schultz).  
Justices Douglas and Brennan disagreed with the court's hands-off 
attitude since the Constitution specifically gives Congress the power 
to declare war, they said, and thus “{implicitly}bars its exercise 
by the executive branch.”

Dec 72 - Peace talks stopped due to a change in the Communist's position. 
The heaviest US bombing of North Vietnam of the war followed 
18-30 Dec during Operation Linebacker II which included 
129 B-52 bombers striking Hanoi

As the world assumed World War II was practically over 
just before the Battle of the Bulge, 
the most horrific combat yet that awful winter of ‘44-‘45,
with the firebombing wipe-out of Dresden yet ahead~ so now in Vietnam.

8 Jan 73 - Final stage of peace talks began that would lead to 
the signing of a Vietnam cease fire on 27 Jan.
23 Jan 73 - President Nixon announced an agreement “to end the war 
and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and SE Asia.”

27 Jan 73 - Official end of the Vietnam War.   

Between 27 Jan and 29 Mar 73, a total of 587 military and civilian 
prisoners were released by the North Vietnamese, and 
during that same period, 23,500 US troops 
were withdrawn from South Vietnam.

29 Mar 73 - 67 more US POWs were freed in Hanoi. The same day, 
US withdrew its remaining 2,500 troops from South Vietnam
This date also marked the actual end of military involvement in Vietnam.

10 May 73 - Due to continued bombing of Laos and Cambodia, the House voted 
{219-188} for the first time to cut-off Indochina funds.

31 May 73 - The Senate took strong action prohibiting the use of any funds 
appropriated by Congress to be used for combat activities in Laos or Cambodia.

7 Nov 73 – The War Powers Act:  Congress dealt President Nixon 
a stunning setback when it voted to override his veto of legislation
limiting presidential powers to commit US forces abroad 
without congressional approval.  

Congress, with the Vietnam War and the showdown over 
continued bombing in Cambodia behind it, was anxious to reassert its role 
in the conduct of the country’s foreign affairs.

And finally~
Aug 74 - President Nixon resigns.

16 Sep 74 - President Ford unveiled a conditional clemency program 
for Vietnam-era military deserters and draft evaders.

9 Mar 75 - A major offensive begins against South Vietnam with an attack 
on Ban Me Thuot in the Central HighlandsSouth Vietnam fell in 55 days.

17 Apr 75 - Cambodian government surrenders to Khmer Rouge forces.

29 Apr 75 - Last American soldier killed in Vietnam {the first was 8 Jul 59}.

The official American presence in
Saigon ends 
when the last Americans are evacuated 
by helicopter from the US Embassy roof. 
Within hours the Saigon government surrenders to the VC.

The Fall of Saigon

Saigon was captured by the People’s Army of Vietnam
and the National Liberation Front officially on April 30, 1975,
and the process of reunification and the transition of South Vietnam 

into a communist state began.
Barack Obama, elected 44th president of the United States of America
in August, 2008, was thirteen years old when the last Americans left

1979 - Western European countries and non-Communist Asian nations support 
US-led embargo in protest against Vietnam’s 1978 invasion of Cambodia
Feb 82 - Vietnam agrees to talks regarding American servicemen.

August 1982~ Senator Mark Hatfield, Senator Edward Kennedy and 
Representative Edward Markey sponsor a nuclear freeze resolution,    
 which the House of Representatives defeats 204-202.
Despite their failure, the collaborations of progressive Democrats
Senator George McGovern (in 1970) and later (1982) Senator Ted Kennedy
with my home state Republican Senator Mark Hatfield
remains to this day uplifting to my heart.
Their efforts are on record as an emblam of our hopes
for unity of spirit across party lines in America.

Sep 88 - Vietnam-US cooperation begins regarding American MIAs
with first joint field investigation.

Sep 89 - Vietnam completes Cambodia withdrawal.
Apr 91 - US office is established in Hanoi to investigate American MIAs.

Oct 91 - Washington takes steps to normalize relations with Hanoi 
after Vietnam supports UN peace plan for Cambodia.

Dec 91 - Washington lifts ban on organized US travel to Vietnam.

29 Apr 92 - Trade embargo is eased to allow commercial sales to Vietnam 
and establishment of a telecommunications link.

14 Dec 92 - President George Bush grants permission for US companies 
to open offices, sign contracts and do feasibility studies in

3 Feb 94 - President Bill Clinton lifts trade embargo.

27 Jan 95 - US and Vietnam settle old property claims and establish 
liaison offices in
Washington and Hanoi.

15 May 95 - Hanoi gives US presidential delegation documents on MIAs.

That was my 48th birthday.

Jul 95 - The US restores diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

Aug 95 - The US Embassy in Hanoi reopens.

16 Apr 97 - A copyright protection agreement is reached, 
said to be a step toward Most Favored Nation status.

9 May 97 - Ambassador Douglas “Pete” Peterson starts new post in Hanoi.

Jun 97 - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright makes an official visit.

In August, 2009, former Lieutenant William Calley tells a small group
of Kiwanis Club members in
Columbus, Georgia, near where
he had been court martialed, “There is not a day that goes by
that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in
My Lai.
I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, 
for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.” 
After 41 years, this is his first known public apology
for the massacre of about 500 villagers ~ mostly women, children
and the elderly including a  few men. 

They were all unarmed. 
Some had been sexually abused, beaten and tortured,
and some bodies were mutilated. 

There was no evidence that any of the civilians were Viet Cong
or had associations with Viet Cong.

The killings were assumed to have been revenge murders
and a convenient opportunity to express sadistic rage
under the protection of  “following orders.”

Dishonorable conduct is not unheard of during the stresses and
high emotions of fear and anger that are kept fully charged during war. 

Given license under the guise of patriotism
to revert to rule by the reptilian brain, 
human beings are still inclined to behave appallingly. 
War can make devils of once decent men.

Parallels have been drawn between the My Lai Massacre
and certain events during the current War in
Iraq, particularly
the murders in 2005 of 24 Iraqi citizens at Haditha, 
at least 15 of them non-combatant civilians,
as an act of outraged retribution by American
soldiers, a dynamic also present in the documented atrocities
committed against prisoners of war held as suspects
by American military at Abu Grahib. 

On March 11, 2012, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales,
a man with a history of alcohol abuse and civilian violence,
during his fourth deployment to Iraq/Afghanistan went berserk and 
viciously massacred villagers, gunning down nine Afghan children
and eight adults, and desecrating some of their bodies. . . . 
To bring threads together into this still-globally-tragic present time,
my own story enters the picture through a series of sacred friendships.

Now we go back to more than three decades ago to find the unifying 
threads, stopping to view a scene at the end of this part of the story,
a picture of sweet resolution~

During the early part of the first decade of the new millennium,
my own dear friend Jean Jachman returns to Southeast Asia
and has lunch with her South Vietnamese/American friend Luyen
at a
French sidewalk café in Hanoi where Luyen now lives and works,
drinking wine and laughing in the clean spring air 

with flowers blooming beside them as they reminisce about their time 
together in the refugee camp on the Thai border in 1982.
Jean met Luyen during her three months there in 1982. 
She later returned for four months in 1984, and to another camp
for six months in 1987, each time as a nurse with a U.S. medical 
team under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Luyen had walked 700 miles from Saigon through the jungles 
of Cambodia to freedom and a bath at Nong Samet camp 
on the Thai border. After she got a little rest, she organized 
a softball team and a choir and became a tiny protective 
angel of the Vietnamese Hospital that served a fragile 
population of two thousand in the vast tent city of over 
100,000 Cambodian refugees with a history of hostility 
toward Vietnamese. 

Jean commissioned Luyen {in her spare time!}
to embroider an exquisite stole vestment 
for me to wear as I celebrate the priestly mysteries
of Great Thanksgiving. 

The stole is made of natural raw silk
backed with deep iridescent blue-red. 
On the front, draping down on both sides,
it is finely embroidered with bright sunset pink 
lotuses said to have sprung up from the footprints
of the baby Buddha, symbolizing transformation of the soul
born in the muck and mire of existence and bravely pushing 
its way upward to break through clear water,
its beautiful face radiant in sunlight~ 
and above them at my shoulders, Chinese symbols
the color and shape of the sun~ 
one representing the Goodness of God~ a human being working in a field~ 
and the Mercy of God~ a human being working in a field with help. 
At the bottom, Luyen twice tore out the two long parallel crosses
she’d formed into intersecting rows of flowers by pulling threads
through the fabric from the back and tying them. Her sweat and skin fibers
are on each thread, with the red dust of the refugee camp that constantly
was stirred up from the earth beneath so many hopeful feet readying
for a new life in a free land.


The stole, while I am alive, will never be washed of its sacred contents, 
and after I’ve left my body to return to the elements 
of fire, water, earth and air, it will be draped across its shoulders 

over my wedding dress and my husband’s wedding shirt, both painstakingly
made by my mother of royal blue velvet, white satin and seed pearls 
in the seventeenth century style of the Russian nobility of her motherland~

My soul will be celebrating Mama's and Luyen's long-worked-for outcomes 
both in art and life~ their courage and hard lives as war refugees and their 
long, harsh journeys to America after their homes were destroyed by revolutions 
in Russia and Vietnam . . .  and I'll be remembering the first martyrs of the 
Vietnam War who bore witness to peace in drastic terms on American ground~

Alice Hertz, the 82 year old Holocaust survivor
who had set fire to her body in anguished protest against
our deadly aggressions in Southeast Asia in early Spring, 1965~
Norman Morrison, the Quaker who followed 
her with his own immolation in front of the Pentagon
while our Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
watched in early winter that year~ and Roger LaPorte,   
the Catholic Worker who followed one week later.  

Alice Hertz, the 82 year old Holocaust survivor
who had set fire to her own body in anguished protest against
our deadly aggressions in Southeast Asia in early Spring, 1965~
Norman Morrison, the Quaker who followed 
her with his own immolation in front of the Pentagon
while our Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
watched in early winter that year~ and Roger LaPorte,   
the Catholic Worker who followed one week later.  

Twelve years after Jean had presented me with Luyen’s stole,
before the birth of her child, in the summer of 1994 the artist herself 
came to visit me in my home at the foot of the mountain in western Oregon.
Her English husband Robin (at that time a worker for
the international organization, Food for the Hungry)
took our picture, the stole draped around both our shoulders, 
arms around each other, standing and smiling among the full-blooming roses. 

Luyen herself was the most sacred aspect of the gift, one who had lived through 
and embodied the mysteries of transformation from suffering and degradation 
into redemptive light and joy and fulfilling love.  
Luyen’s father had been a youthful colleague of Ho Chi Minh
when they were both idealistic patriots devoted to serving their country,
leaders referred to simply as the Boy from the South and the Boy from the North.
That was before the division, before our war in their country.
The war that will never be over for Americans. 
The war that still hurts us.
Hurts its veterans and their families.
Hurts the world. 
The war that seems to play out again
on a new bloody stage. 
And wretched people on the outside of it like me are hurt too,
for being on the outside and unable to know yet relieved not to know
what it’s like to gather and scrape fragments of human bodies,
whether of comrades or so-called enemies or your own comrades in arms, 
to breathe in their ashes like pollen and be filled with the smell of death,
to hear their skin and flesh rip away from their bones beside you,
like lightning-struck trees whose sap boils and explodes the whole tree,
to hear the cries of children as they leave their bodies flying 
through the air in a billion atomized pieces that are now
glued forever to the petrified trees, to the faces of ancient stone temples,
to our undetached yet distant minds, to the witnessing stars,
to the reflective and mournful warriors with hair as white as
their still living fathers’ who fought in the wars before theirs,
who gather together with their Second World War/Korea/Vietnam veteran
fathers and their Bosnia/Panama/ Iraq/Afghanistan veteran sons to try to heal
their souls a little through poetry retreats across our land this Veterans’ Day, 
a week after our country has elected its first biracial president,
Barack Hussein Obama, and heard his solemn, inspired acceptance speech
from historic Grant Park in Chicago~~ 
words of a poetic, elegant, faithful family man and scholar, a man of humility,
wisdom and grace, of well-grounded temperament and soaring intelligence,
and the first president in my lifetime who brings with him a government
that makes me truly proud and full of hope to be an American.

The true beautiful blue spirit of Americans has given our country back 
to us, so that we, the people, can work together to rebuild its integrity
and give it back its soul. 

Post Script~ Four years later and another election campaign year.
America is exhausted, battered by wars and economic catastrophe.
Audacious hope is tired but true among the wise who want to give
the country a two-term chance with a new true blue Congress
that will abandon the current one-agenda obstructionist policy
of the last four years, despite the efforts of our president
to break through its calcifications and lack of heart.
Reform has been bound and gagged. George Packard, retired
Episcopal Suffragan Bishop for the Armed Forces, was arrested
for the second time in five months on May Day evening at
the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Plaza at 55 Water Street
in Manhattan in alliance with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
In December he was arrested leading a group of people over
a fence to occupy a vacant lot adjacent to Trinity Church Wall Street.
In May the press dubbed him the People’s Bishop. He is serious
in his quest to live the Gospel and lead the movement for restored
integrity with vigor. Trained as a young man to be a killing machine
in Vietnam, he confesses his crimes against humanity, the hundreds
of killings he felt duty-bound to perform without emotion, the night killings
that still haunt his sleep and guide his waking acts of atonement now.

He passionately and ceaselessly acts against, writes about and bears
witness to government injustices and institutional inaction.
He challenges the clergy and everyone to take to the streets and
speak out, to risk arrest as a badge of honor and not to flee from danger.
He is a prophet of these times. America, listen.

Bishop Packard was born in the year after the end of World War II.
I was born two years after the end of World War II.
I am sixty-five years old.

               Alla Renée Bozarth 

The italicized chronological sections of this document 
have been lifted, mostly unedited, from two websites:  

15th Field Artillery Regiment, 1917– 2008 ~ World War I, 
World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan,
and The
History Place Presents the Vietnam War.

Purgatory Papers, copyright 2012.
Luyen Trong Shell at Nong Samet Refugee Camp.
Photo by Jean Jachman, 1982. 

Jean and Luyen pose with the Lotus Stole which Luyen created.
Present in the lower right corner are three shadows of other people who live
in the camp, a war refuge city of over 100,000 human beings. Many children
grew up in camps such as Nong Samet on the Cambodia/Thailand border.

When the film, The Killing Fields came out in 1984, Jean and I watched it
together. Jean had grabbed her mail as she left her house and brought it with her.
After the movie, for the only time in my life save one, I said, "I need a drink."
Normally that means hot tea. I sipped half of my glass of French wine as Jean
reached into her handbag and pulled out her mail. At the top was a thin blue
aerogram from Nong Samet. She read the letter aloud. 

A passage in it went like this: In school today the children are practicing
by reading out loud and then writing a few words about their lesson. . . .
We were in the middle of this learning time when the noises of war
came very close. School stopped for awhile because of the war,
but now we are back and I am writing to you again. 
Please excuse the interruption.
       Hanoi Spring
             for Luyen and Jean

Thirty years after the War—
recalling her father’s memory
of fighting against the French
some decades before,
the Boy from the South allied
with Ho Chi Minh,
the Boy from the North,
then no longer an ally
but an old man leaving his life
while her mother, his wife,
languished in the Mekong Delta
as the new fighting waged on—
the daughter now sits serenely,
decades away from Saigon,
at a pristine sidewalk table
in the sunshine with her Thai border
Nong Samet refugee camp co-worker and friend since
that place and time in the early eighties, both of them
enjoying the day, drinking an elegant French wine
and sharing the familiar communion
of lunch between women, far away
from their normal new lives in America,
far away from the resonant past
in which their lives were bonded by Grace,
and marveling at where they were
and what they were doing
at this French restaurant
on a fresh spring day
in Hanoi.
                    Alla Renée Bozarth
                   Purgatory Papers
                  Copyright 2012

Shown above is the lotus stole, designed and created by Luyen Trong Shell in 
1982 at Nong Samet Refugee Camp near the town of Aranyaprathet, Thailand
where foreign workers lived at night. It is worn here in August, 1986, by the Rev.  
Alla Renée Bozarth for the wedding of John and Patricia Ciminello at the Bishop’s 
Close gardens in Portland, Oregon. It has been worn at an ecumenical liturgy for 
ordained women of the Pacific Rim on the island of Oahu which was attended by 
Jean Jachman, and at Holy Eucharist on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, later to be 
shown in the 1987 Easter Sunday front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It has been 
worn for Wisdom House services and sacraments in Minnesota and Oregon regularly 
for the past 30 years. Red dust from the floor of the refugee camp and the artist’s skin 
cells remain in the fabric and make it all the more holy, keeping her creative work 
ever present as its beauty nurtures the eyes and souls of those who participate in 
the services where it is worn.

The Veteran         

What is admirable on the large scale is monstrous on the small. . . .
Since we give medals to mass murderers, let us give justice to the small entrepreneur.    

              Dialogue in the film, “The Night of the Generals” 1967.

If you know someone and sooner or later discover
that he or she is a veteran of war, look into that person’s eyes
and learn your first lesson of war—
that there is more inside the skull
of someone who has been in combat
than can be known by anyone,
including the warrior.

The secrets held in the skull have to do with the essential conflict
never being over— the personal conflict, the conflict that goes on,
sleeping or waking every hour of that person’s life— the memories,
thoughts, eruptive emotions that go unexpressed
lest others be overwhelmed, lest the veteran be misunderstood.

The horrible Thing Itself that cannot be told, the compelling intensity
of the experience, the faces, the images~ as the medic’s memory
of a woman’s corpse found without her head, but both her hands still
wrapped securely around the body of the baby she was holding in her lap~
the two young “enemy” warriors lying side by side, twelve or fourteen years old, 
rifles still clutched in their hands or lying beside them, each shot through his thin 
wool cap the day before, the blue matter of their brains still coming out
of a nostril or oozing from under a cap . . .

the urgency to continue issuing strategic orders from inside the ruined castle
when, a second before, a bomb has come through an opening in the stone wall
and blown a colleague across the desk from you to high heaven, splattering
his brains on your face and the maps at your fingers, but you must not stop 
telling those in the air what to do because more lives are depending on you
to do your job, and soon the medics come to remove the body parts
of the person who was helping you five minutes ago and wipe them
from your face and from the maps while you go on talking
into your telephone to those whose lives depend on
your full focus and intelligent attention  . . .

The secrets are a mixture of guilt with glory,
dread and terror and the thrill of the compelling intensity
known only in the extreme circumstances of war—
The addictive drama of danger, the intimate devotion
among comrades tenderly serving each other’s broken,
infected bodies and minds, a familial intimacy not possible to express
or experience anywhere or anytime or with anyone else on Earth.

The puzzling bitterness and rage of hate and desire for revenge that mingle 
with an increasing repulsion to the slightest violation of another living being.
The nausea of combat conditions and the heartbreaking courage
of those who sacrifice themselves to save others.

The sheer human anger and shame, the bewilderment
that come from being raised to follow the Ten Commandments
that say, “Thou shalt not kill,” and then trained and paid to be
a legally licensed professional killer for as many years as are necessary,
obeying orders to kill while praying for protection and victory, followed by
the shock of going home to a peaceful, harmonious place innocent of war 
where you would be arrested, imprisoned, tried and executed as a mass murderer
or serial killer for doing the same things you did every day in the years before,
the things for which your government perhaps gave you a medal, knowing
that this same government would now shame you and kill you
for any number of things that it trained and paid you to do.

No one else can go into a veteran’s dreams
but another veteran who has lived the same nightmare
and shared the same quirky joys.

Remember a little of this when you look into a veteran’s eyes,
and before you speak, and do not ask any questions unless you are
truly willing and able to listen, and for as long as it takes,
without judgment or fatigue.

If you look inside yourself you will find the willingness and the ability
when you discover the cowering hero that lives in us all,
the ashamed, frightened and vulnerable soldier who may hide but gives all
to serve the greatest good for the greatest number, or for just one child.

Images are from veterans’ memories of World War II as told in the documentary,
The War,  produced and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick  for PBS,
October, 2007, and from unforgettable scenes in several other films.
  Alla Renée Bozarth
Purgatory Papers 
   Copyright 2012.


Image of Alla with Mt. Hood in her eyes at the very beginning of this three part
entry is by John Jarman.

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