archives spring 2009




this dark finery of words,
blackbird dress, woven labor of thought

the legless man in the mechanical Turk
the million monkeys at their machines

what midnight lines we have strung together
out of a strange script, overwritten with zeroes and ones

numbered in our cubicles, in our spaces, countered
our hands spread out like an arrangement of dimes

the coincidence of faces, the discarded signs rising and falling,
the slow working lungs of the binary sea

the program is a careful cathedral, an intersection of lines
the unknown body of the world, our communion, our heap

formed of pattern, code, the burst of light—
here is a history of failures, each no more than the shape of itself

the logos we wear, the names we've forgotten
the ash and maple growing a leaf at a time, ordered simplicity

Paris filmed at night could be here, could be Alphaville,
could be wherever night blooms from the bare-limbed trees

someone wears a bright necklace of numbers, a ring of iron,
a long starry dress, heels that might break the world



          —a special type of variable that holds the address of another variable

Not the thing itself, but a hand gesturing to where it lies in memory,
like when we say Hopper and mean any room viewed from without,

any couple made distant by sulfur light and shadow, the angled turn
of bodies which do not to come face to face, but lean awkwardly on tables,

across keys, at the unopened window where night bends like a palm
under the weight of all that is impossible to touch. A numbered stall

out in the parking lot, in the lower levels of the tower by our building,
between the lines at the side of the road—and what they imply, this insistence

on fire and exhaust, how smoke rises to our lips. Even now, ash speaks to ash,
to the names of my father and his father, to what remains in the wind

and on the waves for days after an eruption, to the week we hid in our homes
after the fall of New York, the trees which break the frosted earth

awash in the color of salt, our hands caught in a motion between lapwing and sorrow,
between iron vein and needle, between want and want.  


Neil Aitken is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review and the author of The Lost Country of Sight, winner of the 2007 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. His poems have appeared in Barn Owl Review, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, Poetry Southeast, and other literary journals. A former computer games programmer, he is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.