Neil Elder

the poet

Neil Elder’s The Space Between Us won the Cinnamon Press Debut Poetry Collection Prize in 2016. Prior to this win, Neil published Codes of Conduct (Cinnamon Press, 2015) and Being Present (The Black Light Engine Room, 2017). His latest collection, And The House Watches On, will be published in 2020. Neil lives and teaches in North-West London.

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the poems

Thank You For Visiting

00:00 / 02:34

You are now entering the gift shop.
Please take time to enjoy browsing
our range of fine-quality mementos.
Among the most popular items 
is a set of coasters, each featuring
high-resolution images from your parents’ wedding.
Tote bags with your family tree design are by the till.
You may like to purchase a snowglobe containing
a scaled replica of the house in which you grew up.
Also available is a calendar showing your first twelve years.
Our gift cards show damning comments from your school reports.
Other popular items include a set of six postcards
depicting the worst cuts and bruises you have suffered,
such as the purple mushroom shape
from when you slipped on ice, and the laceration
you received that time you came a cropper on your bike.
Address books, containing all the numbers of the people
you’ve lost touch with, come in three pastel shades.
Umbrellas showing copies of your X-rays 
can be found on the left, just above stylish serving trays
upon which your test results have been printed.
Specially commissioned maps of your home town
are marked with every place that you have been blind drunk,
and shards of glass from the window that you put your fist through
have been laser-cut and polished to make keyrings.
Our tea-towel designs show all the women
you ever wanted to make love to,
while fridge magnets illustrated with your darkest fantasies
may also be purchased.
We are pleased to offer four limited-edition fine art prints 
showing scenes of how we imagine your last days, 
these are situated next to the life-size cut-out
of the man you hoped to be.

We hope you have enjoyed your tour of this exhibit
and ask that you place the audio set
into one of the containers provided
on your way to the exit.

Writing

00:00 / 00:52

I am writing this letter of resignation,

the one I’ve written every Monday

for the last eighteen months,

to make myself believe

that I might take a risk some time;

just pack the basics and head off

to South America.

I’ll swim Amazonian tributaries,

live without Wi-Fi, marry a Yanomami lady

and paint myself in clay.

Or I might change my name

and slip away, to drive a taxi

on the graveyard shift

in some place where no one lives.

But on my desk stands that picture of my kids,

and there behind them looms the ocean liner

I am chained to – iceberg just out of shot.

Like My Daughter Says

00:00 / 00:23

If, like my daughter says,
you are now a million particles
orbiting in space,
may you keep on spinning.
Or else as I look out tonight,
I hope you fall like snow
and settle for a while.

Publishing credits

Thank You For Visiting / Like My Daughter Says:

  The Space Between Us (Cinnamon Press)

Writing: Being Present (Black Light Engine Room)

© original authors 2020

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