Neil Hilborn
I hear that in Hungarian they don’t
say “Go to hell” but rather “I hope

I’m there when your children decide
they don’t need you anymore.” In Scotland

the popular greeting is “Have you eaten
the heart of the mountain?” In America we should

say “You must leave town at midnight” for both
Yes and no, but we don’t have the balls, which should

only be an adjective for cheese and lightning,
I’m sorry. If there’s a word for the slight glow

of a lightbulb after you’ve turned it off, I don’t
want to know it. There should be a way to say “Fuck you”

that’s actually sexy. I hear the ancient Egyptians
would spread crocodile dung on sandstone tablets,

and when they scraped it off, there were the words.
The word for tomorrow was a stork, flying away.

What’s the word for a place that you loved,
a window seat, a garden, a house of stone,

a wall in a field you were carried to on the wind,
that, when you look for it again, is gone.

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash



A Catalog of the Things I Hate about Her, to be Displayed in the Event that She Leaves Me
Neil Hilborn

All of the food in her fridge has rotted
or is rotting. She duct tapes her bed frame
back together and declares it fixed. The bugs
are always pouring in her windows. There is a candle
that is actually the remains of hundreds
of candles. There are books
she will never read and a typewriter
she does not know how to use. She complains
about the mess as she throws her bra
on the floor. A stack of books is holding up
her bed now. She is cooking now. Once, a squirrel
climbed into her window and she wanted
to name it. She wants to keep the cats
with mange. She buys boxes upon boxes
and leaves them empty. The lightbulbs
are burning out one by one. She is sitting
in the dark, reading.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

running away times


Otsego County
Neil Hilborn

You have come here, out of the rain
that is your life’s work, and you find instead

that this is your life, this right here, this girl
you are kissing who you have flown

across the country to kiss; if our lives
are made of the moments we are

supposed to experience and the moments
we use to avoid those moments, then your life

is built from those running away times, those times
in which you were actually happy as opposed to

just saying you were happy, your life
is made of suitcases: you are, in fact,

a suitcase: you are built to hold
only what you need and as what you need

becomes what you needed you empty
and fill yourself and you have come here,

out of the rain, mostly full already,
full as can be expected from an emptier

such as yourself, and this girl, this girl
of sun hair and the always fingers, this girl chromatic,

this girl who is enough you to know you
but thank god not enough to be you, this girl

is filling up the last, not desperate
but almost, before unfillable bit.

leaves toilet paper


Leaves Falling on Toilet Paper
Neil Hilborn
In Minnesota, autumn looks like winter
on fire. All the leaves are colors
like Cliche Red and Jaundice. Some kids,

probably, have TP’d the houses on Summit
because when you grow up with beauty
I guess it starts to look like rotting

leaves. Habituation occurs when you see
something so much you no longer see the thing
but rather the idea of the thing. You can’t

roll around in an idea. An idea can’t kiss you
goodnight or tell you peace will be here
soon. We vandals love an idea.



Neil Hilborn

It is impossible to imagine a color
you have not seen. Instead of dying,
the jellyfish simply ceases
to move. I complete five crosswords
a day because it stops
the panic. Trucks are downshifting
on Main Street. Hair is partially
composed of cyanide. Napalm
is just gasoline and plastic. I am just
carbon and bad timing.



Neil Hilborn

How miraculous that we all
keep our shit together. How miraculous
that no one has a premonition of flames
and tries to open the cabin door. The airline
pilot next to me keeps his eyes closed
during takeoff and landing. He does not
drink anything. I have an orange juice
with no ice. I want to watch the horizon
as it gets farther away. This man
might just be smarter than me, but he is also
flying coach and reading the sports section
while I do crosswords, so he is probably
still smarter than me. Pretension
can look like intelligence if you squint
hard enough or wear glasses. There are,
for some reason, always Buddhist monks
in the Philadelphia airport. Buddhist monks
rewrapping their robes. This is my sixth time
in this airport. My sixth time because of two
different women. I have paid probably
a couple thousand dollars for the privilege.
Five cheesesteaks. Surprisingly good caramel
popcorn. Maybe thirty hours, five just trying
to find outlets. How miraculous that I can go
basically anywhere. How miraculous, the doors,
the wings, the recycled air. How miraculous,
flight is just a fall that never finds the ground.