poem sketches winter to summer ‘22

Jocelyn Shen
3 min readJul 3, 2022


6/24/2022 — memorial to morning

Twenty two sailboats, I count,

They look like toys from where I stand, and I

Imagine pinching them between my fingertips

The way my dad used to catch Monarch butterflies

Gently by the wings

Before letting them fly away

Twenty seven flights down, I count,

And the smell of wet mulch and lavender hits my nose

People drift around me with their

Brown blue bottle cups and green bowls and gluten free cranberry scones

The high pitched ring of

Email notifications and $5 off promotions and buy-1-get-1-frees

This place is silver

But people want it to be gold

I walk further towards the boats and they grow larger

The pavement is cracked now, weeds sprouting between the fissures

Moss finds its way under the urban forestry

And that back alley reminds me of my grandmother’s home

I am transported so deeply that I can feel the spray of ripe, seeded watermelon

Hit my face as it cracks open,

The minty sting of mosquito bites on my legs

It’s just the itch of the sun on my pants.

Closer to the shore, I pick up a familiar, lime-colored bud

It smells of pineapple when I squeeze it between my fingertips

I look at my watch

Twenty minutes, I count,

Until my next meeting

4/26/2022 — pismo beach at sunrise

I am not afraid of this slow sinking feeling

Because at the very least it feels like

The nauseating stomach churn at the end of a drop

A comma, but, in the letter of a loved one

Curved with indignance

It seems to say

“You will never know what comes after me.”

I dig my feet deeper into the cold granules,

Imagining that beneath my callused skin,

Some shelled crabs wiggle, struggling with me,

Clams foam at their lips and push deeper into the sand,

Afraid of the light,

I yank up,

The wind hits my ankles with a biting chill,

Like ice on exposed gums,

I look up at the last hint of the setting sun,

The light scattering through the thin webs of my fingers, red and glowing,

My feet are sinking again,

But I stop to wonder, maybe the sun is rising instead.

1/6/2022 — burnings

These bitter memories

Hardened on white matter like burnt iron

Scalded into the bottom of a wok so timeworn

That the bamboo handle has cracked

And there is a dent so deep in the curved rim that it looks like the shy moon.

I would scrape at them

Wishful that under scars, new skin will find its way out

I scrape so hard against the pitted surface

Until my fingertips are blistered and sore.

Until the blackened bits gather beneath my nails

Forming clumps that are tender, like peach gum

Springing back with a sticky sweetness

I turn charcoal into diamond

Bitter to sweet

The tastes fade from the tip of my tongue, but lingers in the back

The way sickly cherry medicine makes its way down my throat and

I am reminded they never meant to leave by force.

12/31/2021 — the woman in stone

I often wonder

What it would feel like to slip my fingers between the spaces in your marble ribs

And gently climb inside the cold cavity where your heart might be

Smooth, like youthful skin. Taut and white, glazed porcelain shining against manufactured light.

Everything is on display.

If I stretch my arms out into the hollow spaces, could I become you?

I close my eyes, imagining the skin melting seamlessly into stone.

The way the shore meets pearly sand

Grazing my toes until they are pink and raw.

Fully enclosed in this dark cave, it is calm.

I fit inside this perfect automaton.

But it’s a bit stuffy in here, don’t you think?

I wiggle my fingers. My sticky palms peel away from the hardened walls.

Slowly, feeling returns to my body. The sensation of needles, blood rushing back.

I spread my fingers out slowly, watching the light glow orange at the places where my skin is thin and delicate

The flesh is soft, and unlike this hollow shell of a human,

it is warm.