Joan Fleming

Twenty questions
What did my tenderness suggest to you           was it too sweet            was it
not enough         What I wanted               was it too rough                 ██████
██████████████████████████████████       Was it your pained
puppy–dog ███████        eke ██████       Was it the red dogs’ feet barking
through the afternoons             did they mark their needs
██████████████                                in your too–soft wood floor
Was I too good          and then    at some sly test             no good at all
            Was it when I fell asleep ████████████████████████████
            was that █ cruel ███████            ███████████████
Did the entire ███████████████████ feel          intolerably
like school        Was it the careful seepage in the car          a scent I hate
Was it the you of you                 never ████      █████       or late
Was it that I wanted you to be a kind of man who          rips in
Did you feel unwanted               Did you want parades
Did you want more questions          Was I sorry            Who was I sorry for



Editors’ Note: In the original print edition of Minarets Issue Four / Autumn 2013, Joan Fleming’s poem Twenty questions was formatted differently due to restrictions of page width. Furthermore, an error was made in typesetting. For this digital edition, the poem is presented in the complete and correct original form, as the poet intended it.

By Joan Fleming

is the author of two collections of poetry, The Same as Yes (VUP, 2011) and Failed Love Poems (VUP, 2015), and the chapbook Two Dreams in Which Things Are Taken (Duets). Her new collection Dirt is forthcoming. She holds a PhD in ethnopoetics from Monash University, and is the New Zealand/Aotearoa Commissioning Editor for Cordite Poetry Review. She currently lives in Madrid, and in 2020 she will travel to Honduras for the Our Little Roses Poetry Teaching Fellowship.