Thursday 10 February 2022

Five Superb Poems by Rose Mary Boehm


A Memory


The way my father stood

by the evening sun-lit window, a golden halo

playing around his hair

and how he would look

so quietly out of the window, blinking

into those slanted rays of burnt orange.


His thumb in his waistcoat pocket,

his watch chain performing

the perfect shape, just as watch chains

hanging from waistcoat pockets

should. Rather than seeing it then,

I knew that on the left side

of my father’s nose

there was a fleshy mound—not too big.

I would always recognize

my father’s nose.


I couldn’t see that either,

but I knew my father’s hat

hung on the stand-up wardrobe

in the hall, the one with the big mirror

and the large hooks made from a copper alloy,

doubled as not to damage the clothes. I was tracing

the raised flower pattern on the wallpaper.


The evening sun slants across my desk

and makes it difficult to see

the computer screen. My eyes

are wet. The insistent phone calls me.



Catch 22


If you don’t have a job you can’t join a union.

If you aren’t a member of the union, you can’t

get a job. Go and sit down. Someone

will be with you shortly and explain.


Mrs. G. didn’t send in her Fé de Vida. Now they

have written her off as deceased. She is waiting

for Flora, the department secretary, to reinstate her

among the living. Mrs. G. thought it would be enough

to turn up. Show ‘em. Not so, Flora expounds impatiently

and puts the form under Mrs. G’s nose. Sign below.

Don’t forget the date.


Young Keith got his degree. It was the erroneous

course to take. Nobody wants poets.

He’s waiting for a nod from window number 10

for his turn to apply for unemployment.


What would we do without bureaucracy?

As Flanders and Swan would have us know:

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do...”

Some make queues, some queue. The fair

distribution of a country’s workforce.

Waiting successfully is an artform.





I live in the embers of fires

which once were fierce. White, gold,

red, amber conflagration.



Needs must.

No prisoners.

No forethought.

No consequences considered, torching

what came near enough, and the iceman a chimera

whispered about by shivering old women


no longer strong enough to hold the flames.

I have felt his breath in the shadows.

Last night he held my hand, sightless, unforgiving.



My Ghosts


Our old house in the middle of nowhere.

The downwind is filling the air with woodsmoke.

From under the eaves something dark uncurls,

insubstantial, adding a smell of moss and wet earth,

memories of a burial ground perhaps.

I am not good at funerals.


In the posh urbanization, the housekeeper’s son

drowned in the unsecured pool. He’d been three.

Why would they care about a kid that’s not theirs?

His small, naked feet leave watermarks on the ground floor.

I am not a good companion for dead children.


Our new home on the other side of the world.

In the dark I feel cold and the touch of invisible tendrils.

I can feel a woman, and she’s begging for attention.

Someone told me that they killed her in the entrance.

Her cry on my skin.

I am not a good companion for ghosts.


Preparing the table for lunch, two unseen hands

are lightly pressing on mine, and I remember.

Not putting the napkins straight was my ex’s pet peeve.

Now that I think of you, you make me laugh.

The one thing you always did best.



Past and Future


The past takes on a rosy sheen. Thinking

of my childhood in a world war, I rarely remember

death raining on my city, blown out windows,

the stench of burning flesh, the years of separation

from my father when he ‘abandoned’ me.


There was the breeze made visible by the wave

of the wheatfield, the finer points of a slug,

delight in a hairy little caterpillar, and the hares

zigzagging across the frozen field at the back of our house.

Skiing to school during a white winter, or walking

barefoot, leaving footprints in the asphalt softened

by a burning summer sun. The geese in farmer Braun’s field

to be feared, the worry: will Mum have managed

to swap the box of silverware against

a sack of potatoes?


About growing up I ought to remember

unkind comments on my home-made clothes,

dwelling on my as yet non-existent breasts,

deciding to leave my art for fear of ridicule.

And one day I was about to die from bleeding.

Mother said I was a woman now.


My past has been a long one

And memory is a tricksy friend.


Two children, two grandchildren. May they find

the wave of the wheatfield in a summer’s breeze.

Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, has just been snapped up by Kelsay Books for publication May/June 2022. Two further manuscripts are ready to find a publisher.




  3. These are exquisite Rose, perfect for one who has also had a long past and a tricksy memory!!

  4. I love that this journal went ahead and called them "superb," which they are. Maybe we shouldn't brag on ourselves, but it's only right for the journals to point out your genius.


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