White Poems

for Siew Yea

It was kind of you to wish me happier days
After the most recent poem I sent. I too wonder
Sometimes why we cannot decouple our
Sweetest songs and saddest thoughts. It’s not that
There are no days of joy; just few that manage
To wrestle their way into words.

Jewish lore tells of midrash, scripture written
In black fire on white fire. We must learn to read
The glare of the latter, blind sometimes to its stories,
Hovering on the borders of being. Scholars find in them
The freedom of interpretation, discover the wondrously new
In the crucible of the familiar; the thrill of filling blank spaces
And realizing that unnameable power, not weakness, floats
For a time at the limboed limits of language. Here truths sear
Larger than any articulation we can cobble.

I cannot wish away poems like the one you read,
Black with the soot of incomplete combustion.
Neither can I predict when happier ones will come—
Perhaps some will praise friends who care enough to
Wish us better. But whatever the names they eventually take,
I know they are there, my white poems, margin-dwellers
For now, reminders that heat is strongest which is
Centre-pale. Reading between the lines, I sense them,
Luminous with hope, possibilities, promise.

by Aaron Maniam
from Lines Spark Code (2017)