April 2022

Imagining a New Path

© Matthew Word Bain

now, then, from across the street
what a different way of seeing
this same stretch of wall
with the protruding painted bricks
and the ambiguous commercial status
framed by one well lit municipal planting
and the cheerful precautionary cylinders
decorating the cables which stabilize
the telephone pole at center stage

an awkward view at best
one in which the intentions
of too many disparate parties
commingle uncomfortably
unable to present any
sort of coherent aesthetic

Christopher Alexander, et al
in their A Pattern Language
were proponents of
spending time
in a place
getting to know
the way the elements
moved through a location
before beginning to consider
what should be built there
let alone how it should
look or function

aesthetics, I imagine
must have played a role
in their thinking, although
my sense is that role was
secondary to function
but I do not know

it can be difficult
to tease the two apart
beauty is far more potent
than we are taught to believe

imagine here a broader sidewalk
an absence of utility hardware
and perhaps more than
just a few trees
planted amidst bricks
how different the feeling
of walking down a grassy path
with room to spare for people passing
without having to yield the right of way
to the convenience of the power company…
and room for taller trees and the shade
they provide as they shield eyes
from the glare of the sun

there are other ways
of doing things
than those
we have learned
other ways of seeing
and other ways of being

everything is in relationship
and each minute change
generates movement
ripples traveling
farther than
we may be able
to glean at first blush

Hello Out There

© Matthew Word Bain

some places have more than one thing to say
some places seem to have been waiting
for someone to talk to
for a long time

there I like to linger
until all has been said
that wants or need to be said
and I begin to feel
that the place in question
is experiencing the sort of relief
that comes with telling your story
to a willing ear, not unlike exhaling in full
after holding your breath
for far too long

Photochthonous Foraging

© Matthew Word Bain

in case you haven’t noticed
we’ve been taking a walk together
I’ve been posting photographs
for the past few weeks
in the same order
I found them
and driving
and walking again
dancing first with this partner
and then with this other
making friends
with Place
while I forage
inviting each location
to show me the light in which
they would like to be

Living Matter

© Matthew Word Bain

corrugated siding
and ongoing efforts
to corral the wild spirit
of the wood that still lives
even after an intensive process
of cutting, slicing, pressing, gluing
to be made stable enough for civilized
culture to manipulate it into abstract forms
and cover the holes in the facades of their culture
the complicated structures that are always deteriorating
and never a viable replacement for the complex living systems
suppressed by cutting, burning, plowing, and excavation
in order to make way for these simply complicated
efforts to shore up the addiction to consumption
that is the fuel source for the same principle
of growth that turns off cell death
in malignant tumors

take a moment
and notice, if you will
just how effective these efforts
at corralling this wild spirit have been


© Matthew Word Bain

shadows converging
as they point to the horizon
lengthening as the sun goes down

a smörgåsbord of textures
catching and holding
or reflecting back
the light and shadow
as it travels its daily route
imperceptibly shifting each day
until it comes around again
twice each year
to the crossing points
between increasing light and dark

Lonely Vestige

© Matthew Word Bain

inset at an angle
in the shade of the late afternoon
locked up and boarded
with remnants
of the building next door
still clinging quietly to the wall
one solitary slab of orphaned masonry
clinging to the one connection
with what is familiar
after all it has known has
been violently stripped away

On Dry Land

© Matthew Word Bain

is this the temple whose building was prompted
by some earthbound peasant inquiring of Odysseus
why he was carrying on his shoulder a winnowing staff
or whether it was the blade of a windmill
never having seen an oar

for here is a place
where libations to Poseidon
must abound should he wander so far inland
as to work up a thirst among these followers who know not the sea


© Matthew Word Bain

a building with many secrets
and more bricks than windows
in between lives, it seems
with a little glass left
in the ghosts of old
windows but mostly
boarded up


© Matthew Word Bain

Tyson Yunkaporta points this pattern out as one of the fundamental, universal patterns. If I recall correctly, Joseph Rael incorporates this pattern in his description of reality. In the context of Creative Community I recognize it as the ripple response from a stone (or a rain drop) dropping into water. As a gardener I recognize it as the growth pattern of a rhizome left alone for many years. As a would-be mycologist and faerie fancier I recognize it as the pattern of a faerie ring. Any infant would recognize this pattern, as would any navel gazer…

I have been opening my perception to new iterations of patterns I know over the past week or so, as well as to patterns I don’t know yet, or haven’t recognized. Patterns are helpful in navigating change, as the pattern can be an anchor, something that remains constant even as the circumstances change – from cast iron in concrete to spray paint on dry laid brick.

I’ve slept a lot in the past week – between 9 and 14 hours for four nights in a row – and stayed in bed a good hour after waking almost every day. I’ve not done much. It hasn’t always felt great, but it has been great. One morning I woke up at 5:00 am with so much on my mind I alternated between speaking into my digital voice recorder and nodding off again for over an hour before going back to sleep. Lots of foundational, ontological revelations.

Cicada’s lifecycle remains a constant metaphorical pattern I still use as a map during these times, knowing I’m in the liminal place between emerging from underground and actually taking flight. I’ve been pondering the question of what in my life and self and world constitute the ground I am leaving behind, and the exuvia I am leaving or about to be leaving behind. One of the phrases that came fully formed to me as I found myself awake with the recorder in my hand was this gravid affirmation:

Anything and everything I am clinging to pales in comparison to what I am becoming.

© Matthew Word Bain

Last Home Standing

© Matthew Word Bain

a home surrounded by new neighbors
which, while they have been around now for years,
are relative newcomers to this part of town

who lived here before these brutalist intrusions?
where have they gone, and their families with them?
the inexorable spread of the civilizing force
ever robbing those of the least means
of home and wealth and culture
which are then distributed
among those of the most means
robbing from the poor to give to the rich
no wonder Robin Hood was disliked by the gentry
he was addressing a foundational feature of civilization
an inconvenient truth that applies to all of us who contribute