Unexpected Cosmologies

I’m a believer.  I believe in numbers.  In textures and lines.  I believe in shadow and light.  How the grade of darkness is sometimes tied to the word value. I believe in beginnings.   In origins.  I believe in ruptures and faults.  In borders and intersections.  I believe in pattern and chaos.  Sitting in a restaurant full of strangers or on a bus, entangled in the skein of language and words, I believe in the mercy of silence.  In the shape of emptiness.  I love gravel – long stretches of seemingly random stone – and the way a certain angle of light renders it beautiful.  Old keys.  The scent of used bookstores and battered traveling trunks.  The wind through a cracked car window at dusk.  Fields swept clean after harvest.  Flames.  Cold stones beneath feet in the river.  Everything small and seemingly insignificant, I believe.  The world is woven of many things.

Sometimes driving long distances I lose track of my body.  I am the car for awhile.  Then I am the act of journeying itself, the movement through space.  The world of small almost imperceptible things moves by.  The road has a sound.  The car has a sound.  My own heart beat has a sound.  If I turn off the radio, the sounds merge – not quite unified, but together.  Outside there is a tree, then there is no tree.  The sun moves.  The earth curves beneath me.  Above me, a hawk turns.  Crows descend.

Once, driving down a freeway in Vancouver, a murder of crows filled the low trees at the bend.  The branches were heavy with birds.  Once, I saw larks locked in a courtship spin collide with the car, then fall lifeless together at the side of the road.  Once, I was startled by a bright moon in the middle of a grey winter day.  In summer, it was the locusts rising like a storm from a school field.

The world is full of strange miraculous things which beg to be meaningful.  Some of them purely random, others products of our own hand.  Still others we yearn to name, to ascribe some point in the dark sky, to link together, line to line, like a great constellation of constellations which we cannot quite decipher.  We want to be surprised by order.  We are codebreakers convinced that something lies beneath it all.  A beautiful and terrible secret we should know but have forgotten.  We read, we write, we listen, we watch – to reconfigure ourselves, to bring us back to something old and purposeful.  The heartbeat.  The simple voice of the earth.  Dawn.  The sea.  What we love.  What we’ve lost.  That tide bending and returning.  Everyday the building and destroying and rebuilding of the world and all we love.

I’ll close again with another poem from The Lost Country of Sight:

How the World Fits Together

At best awkwardly, like new stones
in an old wall mended by strangers,
or the way the dead descend into the earth,
drifting like lost teeth in a broken jaw,
nothing certain of place.

Each fragment of world, a memory carried
across the dark soliloquy of water.   What passes
beneath us and above, the sound of clouds,
the character of fire, the slow ease of hammers.

Draw me a schematic.  A simple diagram of saints.
A symbolic representation of the world.  Dig here.
Cross where it is shallow.  Here is a silence.
Here is a moment.  Here is a road.

Blackberry and reed.  Salt water bridge of sand.
Iron girder story.  False mercy of flame.  Outside,
the gun bone rattle of children at war.  A bus burning
like a candle.  Flickering wax statue of peace.

Carry me home in barbed wire tangles.  Lips of obsidian.
Eyes like coal.  Skeleton of bark.  Dream beneath rivers.
The dying – the unyielding curvature of light and longing.
The moon’s dark mane of cloud trailing and falling
till we wake at last, watching—uncertain,

our hands merging, folding one into the other
like an echo of storms carried in a hundred paper boats
or the endless chain of names which wed the sky
to the world below. Here, any god could be my god.
The earth. The coin. This bitter map of numbers
I taste on your tongue.

5 responses to “Unexpected Cosmologies”

  1. I love gravel – long stretches of seemingly random stone – and the way a certain angle of light renders it beautiful.

    Nice. Moments of perception like this are the basic unit of æsthetic awareness, they are what makes it worth while getting up in the morning and having a world to look at.

  2. g.a. says:


  3. swells says:

    Which one of you GWers gave me this incredible gift of Neil Aitken? My god. Thank you. Oh, and thank you too, Neil.

  4. Neil! Your two posts so far have been absolute gems. Your statement before the poem is poetry itself. Aesthetic observations like those you are realizing in your poetry and other writing are what drew me to photography as a medium. When I carry a camera, the world reveals itself differently than when I am in the field without one. The camera tunes my eye to the subtleties of light and texture. Your poems and insight are deeply appreciated, and we are all hugely fortunate to have your voice added to TGW.

  5. autumn says:

    Your words are inspirational.
    I want a long drive this weekend.