Neil Aitken


Sometimes it seems as if you have but one heart between the two of you.
How you empty of light when you are far from her, how you fill again

upon your return. Everywhere you travel, her face goes before you.
On your lips, the pale incandescence of her name. There are no wires

of silver or filigree gold as fine as the invisible lines that fix you in orbit
around her laugh and that wry smile that unravels you

in the most incalculable of ways. For her, you've given up gladly
all that your father possesses, choosing the heart over the goldsmith's scales,

over the manor and the servants. Nothing else matters. The whole world
recedes on nights like this. London disappears. Every flickering light,

every quaking sound. Only her breath against your cheek. Her hair
loose across the pillow. And her mind, asleep, but full of unseen wonder,

of the extravagant pleasure of living that always eludes the mechanical,
that cannot be found anywhere in the universe of number. You press

your lips against her brow, and she stirs, drawing you in still closer,
as if the heart were now a flying shuttle across a loom. How it shines

so perfectly in the dark, rising then falling, like the bright needle of God.

Neil Aitken is the author of The Lost Country of Sight, winner of 2007 Philip Levine Prize, and the editor of Boxcar Poetry Review. He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and raised in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and western United States and Canada. His poems have appeared in American Literary Review, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, The Normal School, and elsewhere. A former computer programmer, he is presently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at USC.

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