Singapore’s Favorite Poem

Aaron Maniam, poet, nominates Aaron Lee’s poem “Searching for a Mythical Flower on St. John’s Night.” He writes, “Aaron finds names for the memories and musings we so often leave unexpressed, and I love that the poem has such a strong sense of place.”

Searching for a Mythical Flower on St. John’s Night

On the shortest night of the year,
there was a stubborn moon.
We found a hedgehog, and some glow-worms
signposting our way
through a forest with flowers
too dark to see.
We knew they were there
by the shadowed scent of their sleeping,
waiting to be born
with the first sharp pangs of the sun.
Here, away from the cold science of stars,
crickets vied to share their secrets
in the tinnitus of trees.
It’s funny now that I think of it,
how we never had any real hope
of finding what we had come to look for.
Hours later, we passed under the trees to return
empty-handed, so you put your hand in mine,
one foot before the other,
and we went without a sound.
Isn’t this how we all find our own ways home:
by silently treading that one road
familiar and forgotten as our first
pilgrimage from the womb.
Dear friend, only remember this
and some day we will know
what the words we spoke there really mean.

by Aaron Lee Soon Yong, from A Visitation of Sunlight, Ethos Books, 1997

Used with the author’s permission


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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