Aaron Lee is a pilgrim poet, writing mentor, bivocational pastor, and regulatory and ethics lawyer based in Singapore. He authored three collections of poetry and served as anthologist and editor for several others, including Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry. In 2014, Lee and his wife, the national artist Namiko Chan Takahashi, co-founded the Laniakea Culture Collective, an interdisciplinary and intercultural art practice that builds communities.
(“The Expulsion from Eden”, Masaccio, 1425)
the dewdropped silence
morning is ushered,
a visitation of sunlight.
They stumble through Paradise,
nakedly unsure, bound invisibly to earth.
It is still light, yet darkness
follows close on their earth-soiled heels,
eternal and damning. At the gate
despairing tongues are loosed—
to the canopy,
Legend says that when Lazarus once saw a man stealing a pot,
he observed with amusement: “clay stealing clay”. Apparently
that was the only time he laughed in his life.
Once, a man looked into my 8-year old eyes
and said I would cause the death of one I loved.
Years later, I was relieved when my long illness
took a turn for the worse. I imagine
my sisters must be distraught.
As for me, here I am reposing in bedrock,
dreaming of being in the mountains.
My childhood years are a span of unfurled linen,
a premonition of itself. I am no prophet
and could never have seen this improbability.
Still, I have some inkling of what is to happen:
after a lifetime in this closed heat and grinding dust,
the blackness will be rent.
My friend will call my name and I,
troubled clay and bereft of conclusions,
will rise to an undying sky.
How To Pray
Not the old wish-list again:
sun instead of the yearly haze,
a surging stock market,
the welfare of loved ones,
complete healing of body and spirit,
instead of the slow onset of illness.
The whole time the cat perches
on the shelf like a common truth,
nothing in its face betrays
this daily ritual of sin and forgiveness
Do this every time you drink it,
in memory of me, he said
to me benign and smiling,
larger than life. I wondered
what was the point of it. No
choice but to start over
at the beginning. See?
You are changing,
he turned up his hands
and showed me again.
Flowers and trees you cannot name
bloom in blemished artistry
When you say leaf, what else could one do
but carry on broken-hearted
through the drizzle of dusk
darkling and browning? Already
the tree itself has confessed love,
its numberless griefs
absolve into a single equatorial season,
spell and span—
while multitudes blur and breathe
all wishing enough time to say
all that remains to be said.
That time now going, gone—
what do you call this non-season—
prodigal petals followed
by leaves and stems—
who can trust what passing days
will bring? While fleeting hands,
dig, pluck, repress, redress
all questions in this holy mess,
until you rise to find yourself
daydreaming of thereafters.
(North Shore, Oahu)
Woke in slow light,
wandered the house and then
irresistibly drawn outside,
to the far end of the alabaster beach
where the sand stretched,
Lay down, eyes closed
like ruined wood
dissolving into a faltering sea,
a long meandering of moments
before mindfulness returned.
In the high distance
a noiseless jet pressed an arc
against the still blue of sky.
Its font was a lucid line,
a vesper, a whisper, a wisp,
with nothing in between.
All these many miles
from one coast to another,
across the curve of earth,
to finally come to a kind of rest, here.
Tell me again where home is,
where inhabit all the holy hours,
where someday you will find me.
Nuu’s Dream of the Mountain
(an ancient Hawaiian legend of the great flood)
I am no oracle. I hardly prayed, heard no word from god,
only noticed a quickening in the air. Though it was odd
how I dreamt each night I had drowned, eaten by the sea.
And when the wet winds got more frequent, I quietly
went about my business, sought no help from my sons or
Lilinoe, my wife. In fact, there was nobody to account for.
But I am not too old. I hardly sleep, and can work all day.
So I piled logs high, and to keep them dry lit fires
and tended them, stared at their twisted hearts for hours
when I wasn’t chopping trees. Then the skies became grey
and always pouring; now here we are and it seems like years
have passed since the dogs climbed into this tub with us.
What just flicked over our faces—a bird or its shadow?
Rain is what lured us in, and what happens tomorrow.
Just Some Found Words
If, on the strange path of life,
you happen to meet any of the sisters
Truth, Love or Beauty,
follow them closely.
Eventually you will meet their father,
who had sent them out to seek
pilgrims on the mountain.
He will embrace you
as if he always knew you,
and show you to
the favoured spot by the fireplace.
Put your feet up, take it all in.
Take all the time in the world
to imagine that here at last
your journey ends
and you are finally home.
"Descent" was published in A Visitation of Sunlight (Ethos Books, 1997).
"Miracle" and "How To Pray" were published in Five Right Angles (Ethos
"Gardener’s Dilemma" appeared in The Nature of Poetry (NParks, 2019),
edited by Edwin Thumboo and Eric Tinsay Valles.
"Time Lapse", "Nuu’s Dream of the Mountain" and "Just Some Found Words"
were published in Coastlands (Ethos Books, 2014).
Born and bred in Singapore, Zhang Ruihe is an educator, writer, editor—and above all, a Christ-follower.
Unless It Falls
To you whom I see so dearly human:
may the year be good. Not good as some wish it,
each whim and fancy leaning to fulfilment,
but as the earth is—which knows so well
the rich fallen fruit, the harrowing rain,
the quiet of seeds reaching for the sun.