The Tree

A Poem by Jake Lai

after Agnes Martin’s ‘The Tree’ (1964)


Of course it must hurt. The slow gridwork

is backache and heartache, it all hurts.

Innocence is an impossibility; innocence is

the most important impossible thing.

A white snowflake on a willow branch

is straining itself towards innocence.


Look at the painting. Nothing else

can come close to you, can give you pain;

the pain in your arms and the burning pain

in your soot-black heart. Look at the painting.

The colour of glaucoma in the sky.

Sexless line after line.


Your back closed on the world, in this life,

the silent litany of days passing over you;

the world gliding behind you.

Lairoongroj Jinnawat, better known as Jake Lai, is Thai-Singaporean residing in Singapore. He has recently graduated from high school and is currently enlisted in National Service.

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