Today's poetry for today's world

Tim Barnes


Tim Barnes teaches in the English Department at Portland Community College.  His poems and essays have appeared in Cloudbank, Poet Lore, South Dakota Review, Oregon English, and Silk Road.  His most recent collection is a chapbook, Definitions for a Lost Language.  He is co-editor of Wood Works: The Life and Writing of Charles Erskine Scott Wood and has recently assumed the editorship of the Friends of William Stafford Newsletter.  He lives in Portland with the beautiful Ilka and their cat Lorca.






Spoons, An Appreciation




Ah, the romance of spoons. Their goodness.

How they fit together, how they lie together, hip to hip,

spooning comfortably in that slender bed, the drawer.

I believe in spoons, their essential good nature.

They are the gentlest of the utensils.

Knives cut; forks jab, but spoons cradle.

The knife slices meat. The fork skewers it.

But the spoon is oval and holds sips.

It is the utensil of moderation, of cure,

spoonfuls of medicine, spoons full of care.

A spoon will never hurt you, never jab nor cut you.

There is no blood in the history of the spoon.


Spoons are the sexiest of the utensils,

feminine and rounded, all curve and camber.

Knives are phallic and forks are aggressive, toothy,

but spoons are the shapes of breasts and buttocks.

To knife is to pierce, to fork is to branch out,

but to spoon is to make love, cuddle together.

The gentle spoon, to be spoon fed like a child.

Spoons are the utensils of babies.

The spoon conserves, contains, mothers.





"Spoons, An Appreciation" appeared in Alchemy;

a slightly revised version appeared in Poet Lore.








When the wind falls asleep in the oak

and the moon is almost lost in heaven

and the sea tosses in its dark sheets

and stars smolder in the smoky night


my mother stands up in her spirit

and looks down on the garden

of Star Hill farm that is now

the lawn of someone who sometimes

weeps in the bay window.  I

don't know why.


Because she is dead and ashes and blind

to time, my mother thinks she is again

at that window waiting for Sandalio

to drive out of the redwoods

into her arms.  How she wrapped

my father's absence in Sandalio's arms.


She sees herself in the garden in summer,

time turned to flowers and sheep grazing

the gold hills above Half Moon Bay.

Her breath is shaped like the pure dark

the weeds rise from as she pulls them again

from around the roses and thinks of Spain.


It doesn't matter how many noble hearts

are willing to die if their guns are empty,

and Sandalio fled the dark war into the arms

of one who promised my brother and me

that someday there would be no enemy.




"Sandalio" appeared in Portland Exhibitions in July of 1987.  It was part of a showing at the Blackfish Gallery organized by Joel Weinstein of Mississippi Mud that paired a poet and a visual artist.  Dennis Cunningham did the visual response to the poem.




 Winter Fog Along the Willamette




The hills across the river

turn slowly to mist

this afternoon, all

the way to the coast,

trees fade from

their forests, farms

leave their chickens

and goats, housewives

look out windows

into a vanished

yard.  Toddlers drift

from their trikes.


The crow and his cry

are lost where rivers

wave to their beds.

A sigh that is almost

a shudder

breaks from the bull

in the field as he chews

the thoughtful grass

down to simply nothing.



It is similar to snow,

to TV static, an

interference of air.

Your best friends

evaporate in the distance,

the way roads blow

away into winter.

No knobs or wheels

can recall them.


There is nothing to fix,

now, nothing to focus.

Your hands, your eyes,

no longer hold

what you wish,

which, at this moment,

is only your body--

that it might remain with you

in any weather

on earth.




"Winter Fog Along the Willamette" first appeared in Cutbank and was reprinted in From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, then reprinted again in Greater Portland: Urban Life and Landscape in the Pacific Northwest.




Writer's Comment: I could persuade myself to think of a poem as an association of syllables tuned to the music of meaning by someone interested in verbal adventure.


Writer's Tip: Advice I often give to my students: Don’t tell a poem what to do; listen to what it wants.  If you don’t understand this, get a cat.




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