Neil Aitken


Not quite cloud or brine, the color
of drifting ash, or a birch's thin pale
at twilight.  This aftermath of fire. 
Half-toned sleep of the closing eye
of the dead.  A potter's hand full
of watery clay.  Slip.  What fills the cracks
in old brick walls and ships, beneath
the greening moss.  Fossil color of bone.

Mother-of-pearl.  What lurks behind
faded ink.  Newspapers shedding
their skins.  The wings of egrets poised
at the water's edge.  Wind over graves.
Snow at dusk.  The water's film running
backward.  To sorrow.  To lament.
Vesuvius dreaming.  Gravel roads
turning northward.  The soft gleam
of unearthed pearl or hair. 

What the waves return. Sorrow. 
Driftwood.  Worn tires.  Bits of chrome. 
Weathered imprecision of photographs found
beneath squirrels flickering in the dark-limbed trees. 
From the shadows, birds call
unnamed.  Unknown, like a man 
pointing through fog to the sound of oars,
or the unseen shudder of gulls.
Distance.  The light failing.
A suitcase in the rain.

What we do not say
at the close of night.

Neil Aitken is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Crab Orchard Review,The Drunken Boat, Poetry Southeast, Sou'wester, and Washington Square. He will be returning to Los Angeles this fall to pursue a PhD in English Literature & Creative Writing at USC.

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