Don’t Go Too Far

I shake off the last drops of urine.
The bathroom door swings
open. Stone-faced parents let the policeman
in before I can flush and wash
my hands like they taught me. His leather boots
creak as he comes toward me,
sits next to me
on the edge of the tub.
I stare at the backs of my small hands.
My teeth feel as if they will splinter
in my parched mouth.

Am I in trouble?
For riding my bike to the school
after my mother told me not to go that far?
For liking the colorful drawings
of little boys in superhero costumes
only above the waist?
He asks about the man at the school, his voice
soft on my seven-year-old ears. I give him
only silence. He stands, tells my parents,
I’ll come back
when he’s ready to talk.

When he is gone, I run to the couch.
I want to disappear inside the cushions.
My older sister asks the same questions.
Her voice grates against my ears. I burst
out the answers as if I’m on a game show
in which the prizes are silence and solitude.

It is Saturday. My friend and I rode our bikes
to Fremont Elementary. A man in mirror sunglasses
swung his metal detector over shaded sand.
He said he was an artist
and showed us his cartoons—
his intentions hidden
in blues,
and yellows.

Philip’s knee started to bleed
from the scab he’d picked at all day.
He told Philip to use his own underwear
to wipe the blood. I saw fear on Philip’s face—
his eyes and mouth wide. I watched the man,
tanned skin and black-stubbled face.
He leaned against his ten-speed bike,
his back turned, pretending
not to look. I shook my head,
a silent plea to Philip:
Let’s get out of here.

After that day, no one spoke
of the man again.

© Josslyn Turner

This poem also appears in the 2018 issue of Penumbra Art & Literary Journal. 


When I Drove to Santa Cruz

I drove to Santa Cruz,
a hundred miles in the pouring rain,
to see her. It was the first time
since August, when she gave me
a blowjob under a full moon.

I knew there would be no sex
this time, since she made it clear
that she was not my girlfriend,
but I still needed to be with her.

She took me in her silver Kia,
to the boardwalk. Despite
the ashen sky and Scotch mist
hanging above the saturated sand,
we watched the waves
from the warmth of her car.

For a moment, we breathed in
silence. I rubbed my thumb
over the back of her hand
as if something was there
written in braille. It was not
the word love.

© Josslyn Turner

This poem also appears in the 2018 issue of Penumbra Art & Literary Journal.


On cold nights, I watched my dad light a fire
in the charcoal-colored stove that stood
on a bricked platform in the living room.
The flames warmed my face as they licked
the almond wood and crumpled newspaper.

My dad often took me with him to an orchard
somewhere in Modesto. Bundled in my red hooded jacket
and winter gloves, I dangled my legs over the tailgate
of our white ’67 Chevy.

I watched him pull the starter cord several times
before the chainsaw groaned to life. The chain tore
into the dry flesh of the branches and spit gold dust
all over him and on the ground.

After the tree was dismembered, I helped load the bed
of the truck, scraping my small wrists on the marred wood.
When we were done, we hopped back into the cab,
and listened to Cash on the way back home.

© Josslyn Turner

This poem also appears in the 2018 issue of Penumbra Art & Literary Journal. 

Coping with Depression

Morning light,
like aged ribbons through the blinds,
rouses me before the clock. I fight
the urge to hide my eyes and drift
back into the dream like the days before.

I get out of bed, and head to the bathroom.
In the mirror, I sneer at the stubble peppered on my face
like grains of sand. I remember my baby’s grin
when he explored it with curious hands.

I still shave to sustain my feminine features,
though I do not look passable to those
who will not see me. After three years
on hormones, I can say I like my soft skin,
and 12-year-old breasts.

A hot shower, the first in four days,
awakens my brain and my bones.
After a morning ritual of coffee, a bagel,
and some poetry, I’m ready to feel the sky.

©Josslyn Turner 

The Memory Tree

Fruit isn’t my favorite thing to eat,
but I trust my friend who says
to try the black plum I hold in my hand.
The juice spills over my chin as I sink my teeth
into the soft flesh. Mark is right.
Plums are delicious.

The tree stands in the center of the backyard
where we spend lots of times in the summer.
I can see my house on the other side of the fence.
I prefer here than there,
the house where my parents yell
at each other.  

If the tree had eyes,
it would see me drag
a 2 x 4 with Mark’s shoe stuck
on a rusted nail. I show it to his mother
who ran out when he screamed.
We were in the old guest house. The floor
was covered by boards that we crossed
like slabs of riverstone.

If the tree had eyes,
it would see five-year-old Emily
who chases me on another summer day.
She tackles me to the ground,
smothers me with kisses.

I still have the picture my mother took
of her and me on the porch
with my arm over her shoulder.
Without it, I would not remember
how she looked; platinum blonde hair
and a smile that would melt
the devil’s heart.

© Josslyn Turner

Second Place winner in the 2018 Celebration of the Humanities at Modesto Junior College.


People gathered
on a spring afternoon, for a funeral.
Sheltered from the baking sun,
I waited as mourners settled
into their seats on the lush
green grass. I felt
as though I were waiting
for a bus as I stared
at my father’s coffin.

© Josslyn Rae Turner

For Quadrille Monday at dVerse.