Fish Poetry: “Cordova”

By Steve Schoonmaker For The Cordova Times

This place called Cordova,

Well what could it be?

It’s more than its mountains

It’s more than its trees.

It’s more than its harbor

And Gulf weather breeze,

And the creaking of lines,

All tied up from the seas.


This place called Cordova,

Well it’s seeming to me

Was left with the Eyaks

For the coming to be

The railroads and runways and

Ships from the sea,

So exposed to a future of complexity,

Yet, remaining a village in its niche by the Sea.


This place called Cordova,

Just what could it be?

Coming back to the harbor

Well it’s speaking to me.

All nestled in forests,

Old structures of town,

On the shoulders of mountains,

Peaks nearly surround

Except for the ocean

That’s breathing right there

By the snow dancing lady,

By the fish and the bear.


This place called Cordova,

Just how should it be?

Like a live tank of learning

Derived from the Sea.

Derived from extraction and machinery,

And characters evolved in its gurry & grease.

Local knowledge is collaged

In the hulls of the fleet,

And children heard laughing

In the slush of the street.


In this place called Cordova,

Words neon the night

As hands wipe the bars

Reflecting the light

Cast on the stories just in from the sea,

Cast out the windows

And into the street

Yeah, probably wet, yea what could it be?


This place called Cordova,

How should it seem

From the extra tuff trails

In the mud by the street,

From the tenders and planes

And such fish from the sea.

In the bright bibs and gloves

Of its fish processing

In the sleepless of summer,

It’s more than it seems.


Yea, this poem called Cordova

Has a maritime sound

And the smell of the sea floor

With the tidewaters down.


In this place called Cordova,

Just in from the sea

Are some people of feathers

With feathers like me,

Flocking all summer for more than it seems

Or staying all winter,

Through the changes of scenes.


Yeah, this poem called Cordova,

Well it’s seeming to me

Like a toast to Cordova

For all it might be.

So exposed to its future

Of complexity,

Yet remaining a village,

And so poetically

Remaining a village

In its niche by the sea.


Steve Schoonmaker, Alaskan fisher-poet performed at Salmon Jam, July 2017 in Cordova.