archives, poetry

Dim Shapes. {poetry}


The last two years I spent living in a remote valley in the Catalan Pyrenees, working at an education center for activists from all over Europe, people fighting some of the fiercest battles of these times.

At the bottom of the valley lived a man in a cave, called Guillaume.

When you entered Guillaume’s cave, you left conventional reality behind. Here was a human in deep communion with the natural world, who shared close friendships with rocks and trees and wild boars and vultures, and who knew the name of every bird — both the names humans give them in textbooks, and the secret names they give to each other in the nest.

Guillaume had spent his youth working as an anthropologist in Nicaragua, but had found the constraining views of the scientific community too limiting in scope. He was more interested in what existed outside of the nailed-down frameworks that try to hold the world so squarely in its place. When he’d contracted cerebral malaria, his wandering years had begun.

For a man who had nothing, Guillaume’s life was shaped by a depth that was rare in its fullness.

I’d shown up in a state I described as the flattening, months of feeling numbness and nothingness, heartbroken with the ills of the world and a sense of cynicism that we’d never be able to fix things ecologically, that the damage was too grave, that the systems of destruction we were living within were too deeply embedded to shift.

Guillaume took me to a high point in the mountains to look out over the broad sweep of the landscape.

His hand traced the outline of the circular bowl of the valley which held us, showing where 200 million years ago the mountain range had formed as part of a marine basin, and how with the passing of time the forces of nature had combined, relentlessly pushing, folding and raising the oceanic sediments upwards into the vast limestone outcrops which framed the valley today.

Turning towards me, he told me that the only thing we had to do — and do well — was to build bridges. “We may not get to see the full fruit of the beauty we know is possible, but we will build bridges for those who come beyond us, because there is a world coming into being which is more beautiful than you can barely imagine and it needs them, and it needs us.”

I didn’t have the heart to smash his vision to pieces, and in that moment my cynicism fragmented and something blossomed through the cracks in response.

How to love with as open a heart as possible through the desecration of these times? This is the question I keep returning to, over and over. How to move between the rising of grief for all that is being lost forever, and yet to also evoke full celebration for the great grace of being alive? Perhaps a part of it is to give up on hope. Perhaps where hope ends, ritual and wild magic begin.

And what if, in the words of activist and author Valarie Kaur, this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb? Something being birthed into existence more beautiful than we can barely imagine?


Dim Shapes

At dawn, deep within the mountain’s belly, we stirred.
Beneath a shadow mantle, thinly veiled,
we watched through the jaws of the cave.
The sky above us seethed,
no words could shield
the final intent of the day.
By nightfall, the knowing
that we would be clothed
in the robes of the dead.

The sun, brilliant in its closing climb
splashed crimson,
Yet closer still, a breath away,
smelling the scent of the love we made,
the gods lifted their heads, wiped the tears from their eyes
and then sighed
Smiling their approval with grins so wide
that the gorge forgot to frown.

By noon, from a satellite pin dropped in space,
war was released in its ultimate wrath.
The air filled with the scorched tang of skin and rust,
the sky rang out with the silence of birds,
the water in the streams ran backwards,
the fish, in their flickering thousands, gasped silver,
the mountain stared back with nothing to say.

Darkness loomed.
Night opened its eyes, licked its lips
and swallowed up day,
Reclining whilst stroking a belly’s full load,
with one eye open, one eye closed,
Hope fell.
And within that blackness sank forevermore
the dim shape of woman,
of man.
The moon looked on with an unerring eye, and
fragile as fireflies,
we left not a scratch on the sky.


Lindsay Alderton likes images and words, and emptiness and form, and isn’t ever just one thing. She helped create the Ulex Project, a training center for activists and change-makers across Europe. She’s interested in plurality of existence and what makes people burn. She explores this through pictures, poetry, and movement.


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