Boxcar Poetry Review www.boxcarpoetry.com




Neil Aitken

In the Long Dream of Exile

You are counting the dark exit of crows
in the rear view mirror, or from the top of an overpass
looking back into the last flames of cloud.
Your car, steel to the world of flint, rests listless
with its windows wide, the stars slipping in
and settling down for the night.

Now, what you could not leave rides in boxes
heavy with numbers and places you've already
turned into poems. There is nothing left
in your pockets, your clothes worn down
to this list of miles taking you out of the known earth.

Outside your open window, the dark repeats
like the wind in late fall, twisting the names
of familiar back roads into a long rope of sighs.
You could lower yourself down with such longing.
It could be a woman or a young girl, the way the light
clings to that body like a sheet of immaculate heat,
invisible to the eye, but something, you are certain,
something that must be on the verge of love.

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.

The Memory Theatre

He calls this theatre of his by many names, saying now
that it is a built or constructed mind and soul,
and now that it is a windowed one.
~ Viglius writing to Erasmus on Guillo Camillo's Memory Theatre

A matter of wood, these many boxes,
icons, images, the assembly of which
boggles the mind. Or at least, replicates
a state of wonder. Though the man,
stammering in Latin to Erasmus'
correspondent, claims the pen has claimed
his tongue, rendered him speechless.

Now the two of them, in the dark space
between knowledge and completion,
consider wooden gangways. Seven.
Something about wisdom. One lane
larger than the others. Will there be mirrors?
The body is its own sign. The eye is an oracle.
Clay vessels rest in the corner. The doors
swing soundlessly without hinges.

In the balconies, the old men are playing chess.
Crows gather at the gates. Shadows glisten
like blackened silver coins pulled from the gutter.
A trick of surfaces. Pits. Counterfeit.
The all-too-perfect gleam of teeth in winter.