ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Rose Mary Boehm

How to Prepare for my Final Flight

First, let me fly. Ideally my hand in your hand, one more time giving me warmth.
My eyes fade into the cool blue pools of yours. Your kiss and the promise
that you won’t be long.

Still, I have a feeling that time is relative where I am going.
We’ll not be discussing this, however.
At least not now.
I’ll be taking my backpack and move over that eternal line. Will the weight
be lighter now? Moving one waft at the time.
(I suppose I’ll be wafting – it’s not American football.)

As you know, I don’t believe in the god the church made, but I wouldn’t
mind a bit of singing. There was the one song at my grandfather’s
funeral, but that’s in German and only works if you understand the words.
It’s about going home after finishing work.
My grandfather was a working man who wore working man’s boots.
I can still hear his heavy, tired tread on the wooden steps of their little house.

So you chose your favourite Janet Baker, even though I am telling you
that Maria Ewing would do. Still, this is your party.

Invite your best friends but try and love some of mine too.
There will be a few who would like to listen to the arias.

Once you have my ashes in a box (you won’t sink so low as to put them
into a personalized urn), promise me to take them to the forest, any forest—
to become perhaps a sumaumeira in our piece of the rainforest in Peru,
a pine in the Spanish sierra, or perhaps a birch in Finland or the German Alpes.
I would very much want what stays behind to become a tree.

However, as I said, it’s not my party.
I would love to be tall and gorgeous, and able give you shade.


Sweet Ghetto

Rosh Hashanah, Eid al-Fitr, Diwali,
Weihnacht, Lughnasadh,
Blintzes, Fattoush, Luchi,
Spekulatzius, pumpkin pie…
Each festival superimposed
on the ones that went before.

The road less travelled by.
Wer jetzt kein Haus hat baut sich keines mehr.
Elle est retrouvée. Quoi? - L'Éternité.
We are only as blind as we want to be.

We recognize the quotes, recognize
the ritual, imagine the taste of falafel.
We know the smell, the choucroute
of Germanness, the coq-au-vin,
o là là, that leaves no doubt about Frenchness.

Callaloo that points the finger to
Jamaica, West Africa, an exotic treat. 
You smile in recognition.
Curry, basmati rice. Our mouths swim
with the saliva of expectation.

The ghetto is where they know us,
if we want to be known. It’s the place
where no explanations are needed.

But you’ve fallen for the illusion.
The world is a big place, and you want it.
You get out.

Those who are at home where you are not
tell you theirs is the place
where you can fill your pockets
with different tunes, quotes and choreographies.

They would have you believe that their offering
is the better bet, they have lived it, drank it,
sung it, talked it. Our language is unique,
It can say so much more (than yours, that’s implied).

Sweet ghetto, I can’t find my way back. Lost my key
on the way out, seeking what I thought
was freedom. I have just found out my new cage
is my mirage and, like Hänsel, I better stick licked-off
chicken bones through the grate or I’ll be devoured.


John Cage has died

He would like to be remembered
as an empty book left open
for the wind,
as a tone-less symphony
waking the listeners 
to their very lives,
as a poem never written,
never read. 

As a silent presence
on a stage that has
been taken down
last year.

John Cage died a disappointed 
inventor of aleatoric music for
which he invented a string instrument
that had to be played by one tall person
with four hands.


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, will be published by Kelsay Books in July 2022.

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