Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

Neil Aitken


// test for empty case
if we reach some sort of end,

a lark split wide, its wings shattered song,
the last box within a box, and what it reveals—

that we love what we cannot hold,
what we cannot return, yet try nonetheless.

Here—some portion of ourselves remains.
Loose hair caught between keys, months, years,

the glint of glass, the reflection of an eye
trapped in the monitor's haze, or simply space,

a chair abandoned finally to the void.

// loop until done

we will work on, cut adrift from the city,
from empty rooms and empty beds.

All night, the moon looms—
a great white zero in the dark,

while we watch the freeways empty their nets,
the last flickering cars struggling home.

From between the slats of our window's view,
the night watchman stands atop the parking tower,

on break, setting his lips to a trumpet,
as if to blow the walls down or to call us back from the grave.

Perhaps to tell us something remarkable about the world
we've forgotten, each long note hanging like an iron rung

in the sky, a ladder ascending out of the nothingness of work,
while we shrink further and further into the distance,

like fireflies at the end. Flare. Then silence. Flare.
Then dark. All night, we pray for arms. For fire. For light.