Three Poems by Shaun Turner

Diagnosis


In the meantime, enjoy
the breeze. Consider its sweetness
and how the sunlight extends
over this mountain valley, gossamer
in motion. In the meantime,
think. Wait for the sun and moon 
to paint the sky in months. Know
yourself. Even the old red maple knows
when to lay down its boughs.
Even the midday summer sun
knows winter will deposit 
the slushy sidewalk snow, gray as
a morning. In the meantime, it’s hard
on the body, to wait for anything,
something.






Arithmetic 


If the humid nights dust the evening sky purple, 
how many times will you wake in your room
after midnight? If your breathing is tight, if
your body tires from the weight of each day,
for how many years will you continue 
to do the same thing? Show your work in years
and measure the heaviness of a decade
in grams, in ounces. How many times 
from a young age did you hold cataclysm 
well? How many times have you hid 
a tension behind white teeth? If you can 
hold your entire history and your family's 
history in your open hand, how many words
would it take? How long until you explain 
everything, the opaque and translucent math
of your life?






Diaspora


No matter where you are, or where you’ve been, the curved road,
once gravel, twists a cluttered highway north, bleeding salt
when it rains. No matter the years you’ve been gone. No more
the hills turned into conrete-rivered canyons.

Flat patches of high grass: they’re gone. Instead, burnt echoes 
and a doll's head, fallow fields. new houses, a trailer
then another. Signs they’re building an industrial park. 
Gone are the trees with thick bark—submerge when it rains
—they held to roots as deep and long as ache. 

Here, you can still see their gnarl. The limbs of trees in hail,
a twist-cap, a rusted-out horse trailer, arthritic hands 
like rhizomes. At night, you can still see 
a thin line of smoke wrapping into sky

In a pit, somebody’s burning
their week’s garbage. 





Shaun Turner is the author of chapbooks The Lawless River: Stories (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Trying Not to Write Roadkill: Poems (Ghost City Press). He serves as Fiction Editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection and co-editor at Fire Poetry Journal. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry can be found in Cutthroat, the Chattahoochee Review, Bayou Magazine, and Appalachian Review, among others.




return to poetry                 home