Aaron Maniam

Aaron Maniam PhotoAaron Maniam is the author of Morning at Memory’s Border, which was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2007. He won the Singapore National Arts Council’s Golden Point Award for English Poetry in 2003. He mentors young(er) writers under the Ministry of Education’s Creative Arts Programme and National Arts Council’s Mentor Access Project. His poems have been featured in online and print journals, and he has read his poetry at the Austin International Poetry Festival as well as for Australia’s ABC Radio. The French government invited him as a featured poet to the 35th Festival Franco-Anglais de Poésie in June 2011, and published his work in the bilingual journal La Traductiere as well as the French Journal des Poètes.


Off Kilter

In my memory, the morning we met
had more white light than white noise.
Its trajectory seemed clear, its plane

lit to an infinity I could sense, if not yet see.

We talked about your PhD plans, my work,
the deeper questions that gave us gravity.

You left after a breakfast that ended too soon,
waving goodbye, then turned back
and waved again, just as I turned too:
one of those moments perfectly
sculpted in the white light of time:
upending us to new orbit,
possibly forever. At the time,
all I could do was smile, then walk away
to an inexplicably diminished day.



There is no language for why
I wanted to stroke your cheek yesterday
When you first arrived at the pub
Friend of a friend, unfamiliar
And promise-full as a new metaphor

Why I noticed the soft flesh
At the V of your T-shirt
The tender Canadian “Eh”
Inflection-propped as I imagined your body might be
Supported by an elbow amid ruffled sheets

Why it felt right for our knees to touch
And stay touching, warmth just short
Of a spark sustaining the connection
As the day lost itself to growing chill

There is no reason, no rhyme
For why I spent all of today smiling
At something more than April sunshine
And the prospect of a drink with you after dinner

When, hearing you mention a boyfriend,
In a parallel universe, another me learns again those
Other things for which we have no words:
Nothing as easy as anger; just the slow wilt
Of waste, desire cooled like a Spring day
Retreating where unbeen chances go to die.

In ours, I learn that sometimes, just feeling
Is enough. I hug you, promise to email and surprise
Myself with a skyward grin at whatever God
Decided this might amuse.

In yet another, another you sits on my hotel bed:
As we talk about planting trees, saving the world,
I start to run my hands through your hair.

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