The Intersection of Small Things

I like unexpected patterns, the ways in which seemingly unrelated threads might find themselves woven together.  There’s a beauty in the small details.  In the ways in which one thing informs another.  Sometimes through sound.  Sometimes through history.  The mind forms associations, building both practical and improbable bridges, linking words and elements of the world.  We’re constantly making maps, plotting the relative distance between things.  We say to ourselves, this word belongs here.  This other, belongs over there.  This one somewhere between or to the left, to the right.

Most classical memory systems rely on the use of place.  One walks through a real or imagined space, using the landmarks to call to mind the key points.  Pillars and points.  Seats and tables.  We are taught to order the world through the way we map it.  And yet, such mappings are far from static, but are instead constantly in motion, always in jeopardy.  Everything shifts when observed, or so the physicists tell us.  What we find beautiful doesn’t always appear where we expect it, but rather in the least expected bends and corners.  Often beauty emerges in the wrong turns and detours.  We misread text, misinterpret an image, or misremember a name.  Stories fold and transform.  Colors collide with sound.  Faces blend.   And  somehow it’s here at these moments that we fall most madly in love with what we’ve encountered by accident.  The improbable and the irrational pairing of things.  The inquisitive mind lingers at intersection of the seemingly small and unremarkable, its attention caught an unexpected spark of kinship.

There’s a delight somehow in all of this confusion. Serendipity. The way things fit together.

The Center of Memory

Someone called it hippocampus, meaning “seahorse,”
what it resembled when the skull was opened
to an arbitrary page, the dull grey text of the brain
almost unreadable in the absent light.  Did they say it,
thinking of a man on a horse moving through the river
of forgetting, waist deep and dreaming?  Was he trailing a net?
Was he scanning the waves for what remains of a day?
These bicycle frames.  Gull feathers.  Down from old pillows.
Your arms spread open like a bird in flight, poised
on the parking tower ledge over the city.  The sun,
curved around corners, stretching the trees.
Or even the shadows of glass towers and windows.
The way light bends through water.  Sound is different
in the ears of a drowning man.  Garbled.
Or Garbo, with her hypnotic gaze.  Husky voice.
Face registering everything or nothing.  A certain
synesthesia which leads me to believe in the color nine,
or the deepest sound of red.

3 responses to “The Intersection of Small Things”

  1. Dave says:

    Okay, award for “Biggest Moment of Cultural Whiplash from Previous Post.”

    I love the word “hippocampus.” For some reason, my grad-school friends and I used it all the time.

  2. Tim says:

    I love the garbled/Garbo transposition in the poem.

    One thing that interests me about folk songs and folk tales is that they can act like a hazy cultural memory, changing over the centuries as people return to tell, re-tell, and revise. In some versions the heroine lives; in others she dies. It depends on the needs and desires of the teller and his/her milieu.

  3. J-man says:

    I love your poem, Neil. In a group of photos, or of people, or in a shop, I’m always drawn to the one person or thing that is different from the rest, the thing that stands out easily for me. It’s usually the fact that it’s different, rather than the thing itself, that attracts me. The stream of consciousness that you seem to follow in the poem, and the description of the overlap of unexpected patterns seem to form a scar that makes up a whole new and different pattern. Nicely done.