January 2022

Old Building in a New Town

©Matthew Word Bain

in the shadow of the ice cream store
closed now for years but preparing to return
probably not as an ice cream store, but I don’t know
seems like they just closed a few months ago
but this is a different town, and a different time
what becomes of who we were
when we become
who we are?


© Matthew Word Bain

next spring there will be a short window of time
during which the resurgence of this plant from its roots
will make for good eats, a green spring salad
and then, within a couple weeks,
those same leaves will become poisonous
just like the seeds of the purple berries it will bear
later in the summer, berries that make great jelly – so long
as you strain out the seeds… a good medicine for hard illness
but not to be taken lightly – just a little bit to poke the immune system
and get it charged up to fight off a severe flu or the like
not many people know how to use it anymore
know it well enough to have a relationship with it
know it well enough to use it as medicine without injury
what has happened to us? knowledge not only of this plant
but of how to live in relationship with plants and their medicine
used to be common knowledge – a knowledge commons –
a weft thread that bound our individual threads
together In community as a social fabric
what remains in its absence?

Other People’s Memories

© Matthew Word Bain

mountains in the distance
this is one cool alley this time of day
I’m imagining the memories made in this place
over time, over beers, over the repair of car engines
but there’s nothing left here now to show for any of that
just empty lots and weed trees sprouting from foundations
those times are long gone, whoever they belonged to
one by one the buildings are being renovated
or at least that work has now begun
soon enough there will be
new memories made
by new people
even as old
memories fade

Doing Right by Life

© Matthew Word Bain

it would be wrong to say it was rectified
but the rectilinear need not be left unattended
for very long before life itself by the very act of living
buries the straight lines and right angles in organic curves
and the stochastic pathways of phototropic decision making
until the abstract aesthetic vacuum is filled with the stuff of life
the movement of life, the colors of life, the detritus, the flow
brought back into the circle of life, enfolding deadness
in the process of life living, growing, gathering,
sharing, spreading, dancing with the sun,
rising and falling with the silver moon
swaying with wind, singing as rain
until the square find belonging
in the culture of the round
and the ragged edges
soften the lines too
straight to be
real or

Charlie’s Window

© Matthew Word Bain

its happened before
first time nobody believed us
then Charlie climbed up on the hedge
he just wanted to get a better look
or anyway thats what he said
I don’t know what he saw
but he just got this real sorta faraway look
and he leaned over like he was tryna get a better look at somethin
he musta lost his balance
he just sorta tumbled into it
mama says we gotta stay inside now evry time it comes back
I wanna go out there and look for Charlie

Home for the Holidays

© Matthew Word Bain

unlike desperadoes
and yet waiting for a train
I found these two moments after
their train arrived – I had come running
having heard the whistle from a block away
it is rare that I speak to people when I’m foraging
today I spoke to three, and seriously considered others

I didn’t have a chance to converse with this couple
and didn’t get the sense they would want to
but they were kind enough to acquiesce
when I asked if I could photograph them
I would have asked where they were headed
and whether or not they enjoyed riding on trains

this town – and its rail yard – keep drawing me back
and I keep finding myself dreaming of next steps
and imagining them moving in that direction
whether that involves a new place to live
or a departure point for a rail journey
or a class at the local art school
I don’t know – but I do know
I am glad to be dreaming
knowing I am awake

Lost and Found at Sea

© Matthew Word Bain

parked in an alley, far from the shore
well aware I am out of my element
REO here has wheels to roll on
and only wants a tractor
but traction does me no good
it only exacerbates friction
I need the smooth liquid
for which I am made
upon which I can float
in which context I can glide
until I am buoyed aloft again
I will continue dreaming of home


© Matthew Word Bain

like a window to the era of their origin
a snapshot left on a dashboard over time
glancing through a junk yard fence
I find magic and a time machine