YOUNG WOMAN TALKING TO A DIFFICULT POEM SHE HAS LOVED FOR MANY YEARS
Why do you keep hiding things from me? Always that inscrutable turn of the ankle as you leave the room of the page. I don’t know. Sometimes I can hold you in my mouth like a sip of seawater. Other times, I carry you around like a stone, a burnished stone from the pocket of the pea coat of some grand captain who knows a great deal more about the navigation of poetry than I do. I suppose songs don’t have to mean anything when they come out of birds’ mouths. Beaks, that is. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to admonish. I like that you keep changing. Today salty, tomorrow, tasting of grey. Who lives in the white space around your borders? The fingerprints of the poet are there, smudgy as ownership. And the breath of anyone else who’s ever read you. Even folded up, even shut in the dark of a closed book, you can never leave our ears.
Joan Fleming's debut collection of poems, The Same as Yes, was published by Victoria University Press in 2011. Her poems, prose poems and stories have been published in Landfall, Sport, the Listener, Hue & Cry, Enamel, JAAM, Takahe, Snorkel, Turbine, Blackmail Press, and the DUETS chapbook series, and have been anthologized in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems and Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems. In 2012, Joan will take up a Masters scholarship in Iterative Poetics at the University of Otago.
Fleming comments: ‘This was one of the first “conversations” I wrote in the series of poems that became The Same as Yes. I can't say with any certainty where the images came from. Why a sea captain? Why a stone? I don't know, except that they felt right.
‘The sort of “difficult poem” I imagine the young woman talking to is, say, “Casabianca” by Elizabeth's Bishop, or James Galvin's “The Heart” – compelling poems that are clear of language and don't seem to be holding anything back on purpose, and yet, seem to shift and change with every reading, never fully revealing themselves.’