Phillip Aijan

Phillip Aijian received an MA in creative writing from the University of Missouri, and he is currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of California, Irvine. His poems have been published in Literary Laundry, ZZYZZYVA, St. Katherine Review, and Heron Tree. He lives with his wife, guitars, and cat in Fullerton, California, and is slowly assembling material for his third studio album.


I know batteries work, but have no idea how.
They fit so easily in the palm, like an egg or rock

with a cross and a dash at either end. The cross
and the dash, my old foes from algebra,

calling into question whether or not a number
could exist. In the offing, Ben Franklin sends out

more line for his kite, drifting it toward a thunderhead
like a fly toward a certain trout in a certain river,

perhaps the Merrimack. One day I will sit
in a bedside darkness, with a son or daughter asking

the kinds of questions that invariably come after a day
of playing outside, after a washing behind the ears.

Where do lightning bolts come from? What are they made of,
and why are they so loud? By that time, perhaps my shelf

will be equipped with manuals containing warnings
about circuit breakers in the event I hazard

the devil’s territory of home repair.
Consider the vocabulary—electron, conductivity

charge, current. I may as well talk about gods—
deities in a pantheon with ever invisible qualities.


Sitting in a wicker chair next to the bed, I will I raise my arms
in the glow of a nightlight. An angel’s education, I explain

begins with watching and listening. How they watched at the garden
as Adam tried words for the first time, tasting each sound, savoring

the name of his wife. He spoke and left ‘rose,’ ‘pelican,’ ‘lamb’ in his path.
God said, ‘Go and do likewise.’ The angels tend a new garden

to make up for Eden, caring for flowers and trees only they and God know.
Once a day, the Spirit takes the finest of flowers and fruits, dropping them ablaze

into the sun—sweetening the light the way song sweetens a word. A cloud
may trap some light, storing it weeks, even months, until it grows so full

and hot the light breaks out, cracking the cloud and striking the earth like a spear…
and here I will pray that sleep has finally set in—what do I know

about gathering light? I am all practice and no understanding,
my shadow my alibi—I do not lie, but trade one ineffable

for another. Where does the light go? Who gathers it and how? I return
to the knowledge in my hands cradling my dad’s guitar,

full of its own darkness. What was that tune he sung the fall
I charged through my high school physics class, ever baffled

by those crosses and dashes, so secure in the textbook, but falling
from the pages of my homework and tests like ashes, like loosed glitter?