The Turn

By on Dec 27, 2020 in Poetry

Suburbs with old photographs

Though my mother is long dead, my sister estranged,
I cannot account for the specter. After over forty years,
the image, the memory returns to me lately, haunting
my afternoon routine, all its edges garishly distinct.

The turn began at the end of summer, nineteen-seventy-
two or three, the last tubing and camping trip with
the Buskirk and Weaver kids, The Caves at Millwood,
along the muddy Kokosing River.

After one too many days of fun, fun, fun, of hotdogs
and marshmallows, hair and tee shirts reeking of smoke,
sticky nights in rank sleeping bags, no showers,
no television, the mighty, sickening aroma of latrines,
sunburned, mosquito and nettle bitten, all parental
wisdom and diplomacy abandoned, we packed for home.

Mom drove the big, red Galaxy 500 with searing black
vinyl. My sister raged in the backseat, demanding
to ride the twenty minutes with Dad in his van, her
preference. After all, she was Daddy’s Little Girl.

She flung open the door and fell out, hanging onto
the latch, dragged along in loose gravel, nearly run over,
a five-year-old action movie star. I screamed. Mom
braked. Somehow, my sister survived.

Here was the hinge of everything afterward, the likely
advent of anxious days: at that moment I witnessed
a turn. Not a turn in my mother, she was the constant.
A turn in me, my comprehension was the pivot.
My horror was my mother’s expression: distant,
indifferent to her daughter’s near miss, my terror.

Within a year, Mom in the psych ward behind heavy,
clicking and buzzing doors, we peered at her through
thick glass, Dad stunned, my sister sobbing, my mother
somewhere distant. I wasn’t surprised.


David Sapp is a writer, artist and professor living along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. He is a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award grant recipient for poetry. His poems have appeared widely in a number of venues across the United States, in Canada and the United Kingdom. His publications also include articles in the Journal of Creative Behavior; chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha; and his novel, Flying Over Erie.