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  November 2004
volume 2 number 4
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  home   (archived)
  featured poets
  Steve Abee
  Neil Aitken
  Larry Colker
  Nimah Nawwab
  Alice Pero
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Neil Aitken November 2004



Rev. Dave Wheeler

    Born in 1974 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Neil Aitken was raised in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the United States, and Canada. He has lived in a wide variety of communities: from small farming towns in northern Saskatchewan to the industrial districts of Taipei City. Over the course of his 30 years, he has been a farm laborer, an artist, a missionary, a university student, a math tutor, a computer games programmer, and now a graduate student.
    Since moving to California, he has become an active participant and regular feature at many poetry readings throughout southern California. His work has appeared in Inscape, Anagram, and Prairie Poetry. He recently started work on an MFA in Creative Writing at UC Riverside where he serves as the assistant poetry editor of their new graduate journal, CRATE.



Forgetting to Fill Up in Saskatoon

We ran on empty for an hour,
three boys in a borrowed car,
miles away from anywhere
but these dead farm towns,
without street lamps or oil.

Just burnt out gas stations
and the low moans of cattle
shifting in the dark.

Dry as December, we coasted
all the way home, whispering prayers
and holding our breath as if to lighten
the load till the faint lines of the city
rose at the edge of our view,
like the far off fires of a familiar shore,
and we pulled ourselves in
as weary men, tired of the sea.

(Previously published in Prairie Poetry, Dec. 2003)

copyright 2004 Neil Aitken



Counting Winters in Los Angeles

I no longer mark what falls in passing,
iron stones blazing through the night sky,
leaves turning dry in the autumn breeze,
or old men curled around fires
watching yesterday's news offered up
as ashes to the dark.

Hiding in the concrete-celled city,
my head is full of another country's snow,
a loose wind blowing through my room
at night, when I cannot sleep
and lie to myself in dreams
I've committed to memory.

I am a stranger to the city that burns
with too much neon, too much wine.
Each night I wind my sun-burnt car
through towers of glass and steel,
listen to the radiant hum of static,
the muted signal of an invisible sun,
the slow ticking questions keeping time.

What winter will take me home
down an ice-covered road
past the gray boarded shacks,
beyond the bending river's spine,
then plant me low
beneath the white-haired trees?

What wind will wrap itself
around my waist, and lower me down
to sleep and distant rain?

copyright 2004 Neil Aitken




Nothing moves at noon.
The sun halts mid-sky, a pensive fire
burning above the jagged heaves
of stalled cars on freeways,
the long lines of steel joined at a distant edge.

From my window
I can only see an old man
atop the last parking tower
pressing lips to brass, fingering notes.

He breathes a low sigh into the world
repeating blues in secondhand time,
a lone trumpeter calling Jericho down.

copyright 2004 Neil Aitken