Córdoba and the Names of Nowhere
The names of nowhere write in lost languages,
whole poetries, entire canons of speech, acts
recorded on the waters of history, gone
into the mists of the speculative, the wind
and the unwoven tapestries of the tongue.
Sometimes nowhere saddles itself and goes looking
for nouns. Wearing a red dress and white ribbons,
it gets into its horsepower and cruises the connotations
of invisible cities––Canemah, Ocuri, Atlantis––singing
a cycle of forgotten songs, evanescent epics.
Listen to the name the city was named before
the reconquista––Qurtuba, Qurtuba––the cathedral
built on the foundation of a mezquita, rituals
reverenced into rock on certain times of day
carved by a god in ruins, stunned by disbelief.
Listen to the names of gods without prayers,
the homeless, the nameless, going and coming
from where nothing knows their names except
obsolete angels intoning a secret no one can hear
but the wind tethered to its tongues of stone.
The Palaver of Place
Every landscape has its own palaver––
the slopes and rises, the arrangement
of grasses and trees, their textures
and shades, their lingo of lights
and darks, the way the morning opens
its eyes and says itself, a realization,
a way of being, a perception
that follows the day into a culture,
a pattern of attitudes, a sense of place.
A river says, Let’s go.
I’ve come a long way
down from where mountains
scour the sky and firs sift
the clouds from the rain.
I’ll go as far as I can,
a river says, and then
meet up with friends
or curl around my selves
and pool into reflection.
Roads know a lot about the country.
They follow it along streams.
Streets are less perceptive.
They want to go straight
and become intersections,
double-crossing local curves.
Sometimes, when steps lift themselves up
to porches, we see where the land rose
and hollows held the rain
and creeks once ran before
they were caught in concrete,
seeping now and then into basements
just to say, hey.
Tim Barnes teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Portland Community College. His latest book of poems is Definitions for a Lost Language. He co-edited Wood Works: The Life and Writings of Charles Erskine Scott Wood and now edits the Friends of William Stafford newsletter.