Cropped Hand Of Woman Holding Mirror Against Black Background
Photo: Getty Images

The Friday Poem: HISTORY, by Joan Fleming

A new poem by Joan Fleming.



Joan Fleming is discomposed.
She gathers the soft rabbits of complaint.
She has a special cage.
She is as happy as clay and strawberries.

Joan Fleming is ashamed not to love all the things her mother keeps for her.
The burgundy handknit with the flaccid hood.
The wooden horse she begged to be bought for her from a hotel gift shop.
It was, and will be hers forever.

The rearing stance of the horse, its junk like a burnished bunch of grapes.
No one should ever feel safe enough to do ‘the butt smear’ in a bookstore
without cocaine. Joan Fleming doesn’t want you to know
how white she wishes her teeth to be.

The first time she saw a soiled tampon in a girls’ bathroom she thought, Oh that poor mouse.

Next year, Joan Fleming will probably be in Honduras or in Fiji.
Rosie Perez is coming, she wants to reclaim her signature move.
Rosie, do not ask, what is that tray for? That small white-dusted tray
with the fat pig painted on it. His expression is one of resignation and grief.

The days of Soul Train are over forever.

When white teeth go out into the world, they smile.
But what can teeth know of happiness?
Happiness, for teeth, is the absence of sensation.
Joan Fleming’s cheeks bunch in a beguiling way on either side of her face.

Joan Fleming is as happy as a tiny dessert spoon. In her life,
there have been moments when she thought, I don’t know what I’m looking at.
You cannot guess whose portrait she drew in high school
when everyone else was distorting the faces of Drew Barrymore and Johnny Depp.

Something should be taken from Joan Fleming and never given back.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again in March 2021.

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