Poetry youth

Thirteen

Jess Tucker Boyd's fragmented recollection of her years as a teenager captures a messy, misunderstood, magical age – from stolen Southern Comfort to best friends to bus rides.

by Jess Tucker Boyd

I drank a whole bottle of grenadine,

But I thought it might do something,
The grenadine,
It was a bit grim if I’m honest
Me and Jasmine had drank a bottle of Southern Comfort she nicked from her cousin’s christening,
I wasn’t really listening when my dad said be back at 8
I got back really late
we met on the green and drank and span and ran.
Grass and laughter tangled our hair
Five o’clock September air
in our lungs
I thought the grenadine would at least keep me drunk

Jasmine says I can have her old Air Max,
they’re cream and yellow and baby blue they’re basically new
but she’s getting ones from TK Maxx.
She’s got so many I can’t keep track
I’ve got shitty Primark ones,
Three pound on the hanger ones,
Won’t hold out the rain ones,
Speckled with Southern Comfort and grenadine
I lean against the willow tree by our house
Mum and Dad are out
Everything is spinning,
I noticed today that Mum’s hair is thinning,
At the back.

Sometimes it’s like I’m watching myself like
And I’m like
Like seeing it and feeling it but not really
Grenadine is that stuff you put in cocktails to make it go red
It’s thick, and like 2 percent
Looks like blood.
It sticks to my lips.

You know trees grow differently to us,
I mean, obviously they’re made of oak and bark and stuff,
But,
When we grow,
it happens all over,
Our skin and flesh and bone
Like growing stones
Slowly expanding as one

Sometimes I feel like I’m eroding

But a tree,
Grows from the tips,
In selected bits
These parts of them experience something way more intense than the rest
Restless,
Like they’re reaching outwards,
These bits of themselves escaping
out of their body

I got held down at the back of the bus again
Him telling me to stop making a fuss because Kyle said he could
Only him though
I know Kyle never would
Kyle’s got a smile like Pharrell Williams,
but
he called me a fridgid slut
Which doesn’t make much sense
And for the rest of the bus ride
it’s like I’m outside of myself again

I am home grown numb as I hold the garden fence.
The wood is old and rotting.

It’s Friday night,

I’ve lost my dreams in puffs of weed
A spliff handed to me by Millie Smith’s dad
as we sat
passing vodka,

Millie’s dad puts his hand on my thigh,
Stella told me he was 65
I’m wearing this dusty pink skirt from Miss Selfridge
I’m so fucking high
Our eyes horizontal as we compete with the smoke
I can’t see where my skirt ends and my leg begins
My pink teenage skin beneath the grain of his hand
Like sand eroding a stone

I imagine my leg transforming into a branch
Escaping out of my body
Thick twisting oak tearing up and out of the room
I loom over myself,
Gnarled and capable,
Cut me open and you can count my years
In rings of wooden wisdom

I watch myself from above,
She is small, the room is bare,
No sofa or chairs
She curls her hair around her thumb
Her heart is thumping in her chest
As the old man’s hand rubs her leg.

Millie eats ice cubes from a paper cup.

They crunch between her teeth

Today is her thirteenth birthday,

For mine I got some gold hoop earrings, and a poster of 50 Cent.
Then we went to Boots and I stole a tub of curl creme and a silver eyeshadow

My shadow makes it look like my hair is thinning

On the corner of Cornmarket Street we eat Burger King chips
Salt and grease on our lips
I’m wearing a top that says ‘DON’T ASK’

I ask Charley if she’d still be my friend if I looked like this
I pull a face that makes her spit out her chips
Then Kyle cycles past
We laugh so hard I think I might fall out my own arse

We try to go to Uni Parks but it’s closed
So when I get home I climb the willow tree by our house,
The bark smells like my grandma’s skin
Mum says my wrists are thin
Like hers
I press my chest into the wrinkled trunk
Until I’m wrinkled too
Me and the tree together
And I think I could rest here forever.


Jess Tucker Boyd | @jesstuckerboyd
Jess is a Movement Director, Director, Poet and Actor working with independent theatre companies including The Alchemist Theatre Company, after training at East 15 Acting School and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Selected credits include The Royal Court, Trafalgar Studios, Arcola Theatre, Theatre 503, and The Kings Head Theatre. She is an Associate Lecturer at Northampton University on the Acting and Creative Practice BA Honours course.

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