Aaron Lee

Contributor Biography

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.

Descent

(“The Expulsion from Eden”, Masaccio, 1425)

Stillness. Into

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—

 

And rising

to the canopy,

the incense

of their

departing cries
 

Miracle

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.

Gardener’s Dilemma

      Flowers and trees you cannot name

   bloom in blemished artistry

      flushed disguises—

 

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.

Time Lapse

(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,

untouched.

 

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.

Author's Note:

"Descent" was published in A Visitation of Sunlight (Ethos Books, 1997).

"Miracle" and "How To Pray" were published in Five Right Angles (Ethos

Books, 2007).

"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).

Zhang Ruihe

Contributor Biography

Born and bred in Singapore, Zhang Ruihe is an educator, writer, editorand 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.