Theory of light
Andy goes craving all over the beach
with her red grip and her red grapple.
A red apple after dark isn’t red,
it’s a black apple.
She says she’ll black up if she doesn’t have salt.
She finds a sea urchin full of holes.
What’s a blue sea after dark?
Are these the spaces where breath goes?
I find a gorgeous gold-yellow branch,
a colour, a describable friend.
We carry our findings, our branches
and urchins, from end to end.
The blue and red and yellow everywhere
is our theory of colour, of light.
Young salt-footed fools, you know there are no ends,
only ends in sight.
LISTEN to ‘Theory of light’ by Joan Fleming
Joan Fleming is a Wellington-based poet who now lives in Golden Bay. Her work has appeared in Sport, Hue & Cry, Turbine, Moving Worlds, Takahe, and of course, The Lumiere Reader. Joan completed her MA in Creative Writing through the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2007; she received the Biggs Poetry Prize and co-edited Turbine that year. This year, she is tutoring Creative Writing through Massey University, as well as baking, gardening, serving coffees, learning Spanish and playing capoeira. Joan has just completed a book of prose poems—her first.
Fleming comments: ‘ “Theory of light” is a sort of farewell poem. I wrote it after walking on the beach near my home in Golden Bay with a good friend. She had come to visit me before returning to America. This beach of mine, I think I will claim it as the most beautiful place in the world. So many perishable treasures wash up and wash back, and the colours are unreal. On our walk, Andy was telling me about colour theory. She explained how the colours of objects not only change with the quality of light, but actually, they don’t inherently exist. No colour is independent from the way our eyes perceive it.
It made me think about how we only get back what we give out. It made me think about the things we carry with us, and what we leave behind. I don’t fully understand any of this— colour, light, beginnings, endings. But I hope this poem enacts a reaching for a way to understand. Re-reading it gives me a pain in my chest, in the best possible way.’