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 fourth poetry collection, THE RAIN GIRL, was published by Chaffinch Press (Ireland) in 2020.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
He’d only said ‘yes’ because they explained that without him
the whole shebang wouldn’t work, and for the last
two thousand years he’s had such a bad press.
He longed to set the record straight
because every time his name was used with
hate and disgust, when they made him
into their favourite bogey man,
the arch abomination,
the cold winds of the ubiquitous void
whispered and taunted and lied:
They especially loved to make the hissing sound.
Then the winds would regroup, become
tempests and would scream past his
prized spot right near the big guys,
where, if he were to name names and
boast about his deeds, he had every right to be.
But the hissing and yelling continued unabated,
and he had a good mind
to let the truth hang out.
The truth and nothing but…
When he’d signed on the dotted line
all those aeons ago,
he’d agreed to the deal because at the time
it had seemed the decent thing to do.
How he had been betrayed…
He knew his rights,
and he knew who was responsible:
The black-robed ‘men of the truth’, yeah man, a-men,
The ones who don’t know what truth is and even less
where it can be found
but keep pointing energetically and zealously
in the opposite direction.
First published in TANGENTS (my first collection of poetry published in the UK by Blackleaf Publishing Group – now ‘defunct’).
Daphne, Apollo’s Sacred Laurel
Apollo was about to catch the nymph, when she called upon her father, and he cast upon her an enchantment of great power, her skin turned into bark, her hair became leaves, and her arms were transformed into branches.
The green hill stretches its large wings.
Just off the summit, leaning windward,
the one tree prepares for takeoff. A lone bird
pecks at its steel-blue feathers in distress.
Fingers of bark close over her breast,
a dryad combs her hair to leaves while
her arms, thinning and hardening, reach
upwards in despair, her feet rooted
while stumbling onwards.
In Daphne’s paradise the shepherd rhymes
in G-minor. The notes fall gently
on her translucent skin, then burrow themselves
deep into her essence.
Soft calls for rescue float free off her lips
but no-one will come to her aid today.
My daughter’s hair used to stand up. She
didn’t want to be held.
Forced her small body
to obey her will. Walked before one.
Dad wore long curly hair, armbands made from
elephant hairs and six rows of beads. He was kind,
though, and believed in freedom, peace and love.
She made some bad decisions.
She says she’s not sorry.
After all, he was chased around the kitchen table
by his small mum with a wooden spoon.
And I had two huge wings to make good,
the kind that suffocate.
Instead of having to say, ‘No’, I had my mother as a lame
excuse which was as much respected, as sighed over
and frowned upon: ‘My mum will kill me’.
Our daughter was free to decide for herself
and take responsibility. Her shoulders
were strong but somewhat worn under the weight.
Being out in gale-force winds without a coat
isn’t easy. She managed the cold, and the heat.
To her child she says, ‘Don’t,’ holding a symbolic
wooden spoon. My grandchild is grateful,
even though she doesn’t know it yet.
I look at her photograph and see the fine lines
around my daughter’s eyes, a slight smile, unflinching
gaze, and I know she made it. Despite her mum.
Looking into schools
We would be there for a year. The film set in Eire,
my mind open to religion with a small ‘r’ because
it was built into the grey granite rocks that cut
the sea in County Cork. I had seen the brothers
in black, threatening joy… the dark hallways; at home time
heavy wooden doors bursting open under the onslaught
of grey boys in grey uniforms seeking light and air.
I had visited the flapping wimples and bustling
blacks of the nuns, heard shrill voices, took note
of pink angels on pins, sweet blue Christs on
various crosses, and Marias in all colours.
Hail Mary, mother of the moon and pagan rites.
The Quakers say that peace is the way but don’t
allow much in the way of personal revelations.
We decided on a friendly little Protestant village school
with light coming through stained-glass windows,
small tables and chairs hammered together
from whitewood; dragons, fairies and princesses
painted by the song-filled little people in blue
overalls. My son was still reluctant. His hand
against his forehead, his voice a whisper:
–I can’t write yet.
Real Men Need Not Apply
Yossarian was not the first and not
the only malingerer in my life.
I even fell for Flashman,
Julien Sorel, the Marquis de Sade,
Don Juan and Rhett Butler.
The Talented Mr Ripley gets
away with murder.
Then there’ll always be Toad,
boisterous and pretentious,
while the wind rustles the willows.
Snufkin decided to see the world
instead of hibernating
with his Moomin friends.
I’ll never forget him, sitting
on the fence, his hat at a rakish angle,
playing a melancholic harmonica
before he left in search
Can you imagine a fun relationship
with Josef K – sex once a week?
Who can resist fretting for Pip.
‘Good’ tires me soon
and so does Joe Gargery.
Humbert Humbert ought to
meet Anne of Green Gables,
Hannibal Lecter’s exquisite taste
may allow him to eat my heart,
while I have to forgive
Tom Jones his robust infidelities.
Alexnader Portnoy is at first embarrassing
and ultimately tragic. I can imagine
holding his hand while he howls
at a past he can’t undo.
And here we’ve come full circle,
seriously engaging with the one
whose need will always be greater.