ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Pink Poems, by Rose Mary Boehm

Pink at Thirteen

She always knew she was adopted,
and from the time when she could barely talk
did have her doubts about this
‘we chose you’ story.

Pink never knew whether her mother
didn’t overdo it all a bit.
But she was too young to work it out.

After school Pink stayed behind
with the bigger kids. They smoked
by the old oak tree behind the lilac bushes
and the boys touched her tits.
Pink knew that was the price
she had to pay. The group was
everything. The girls hated her.
They were as flat as ironing boards.
Her breasts gave Pink a sense of power.

At home she noticed her adoptive father
ogling her breasts. That’s when she began
to understand that the world was
not as she had been told.


Pink Discovers Punk

Pink discovered punk rock (Johnny Rotten
lived on an Estate in Finsbury Park, that’s so cool).
She was determined to mingle with the underdogs
and thought of leaving home and squatting.

She learned how to make her hair spiky
and standing up (the secret goo and a lot
of hairspray).
She got a friend to dye the ends glo-green.

There was a group of them always meeting
on the King’s Road. Either there or in Camden.
All black leather, chains, dog collars
and safety pins, black nail polish and coal eyes,
torn fishnet stockings, studded belts,
and Doc Martens, of course.
She could feel the power.
Waddayerlookingat, bitch?

The drugs made her paranoid.
Pink had to leave London
for a while or whovertheyare would find her.


Pink at the Rave

It had been a couple of little blue pills.
No Molly. At least she hadn’t seen any.
Molly’s more immediate.
They’d been at the secret rave announced
on Twitter. Directions given. She’d driven
through the night, beasts with large headlights
coming at her through the rainy windscreen.
Coming, passing, coming, passing.
Of course she had prepared herself. A spliff
or two. In the garden, so her mother
wouldn’t smell it and be a pain again.
Pink left the car somewhere in the muddy field
and stumbled into the barn.
She laughed thinking how they always
outsmarted the law. And no neighbours
to complain about the noise. Clever.
Soon she loved everyone and saw the
lights for what they really were: giant fairies.
Swaying to the techno beat,
her arms stretched high, her breath coming ragged,
her blouse and mini skirt clinging to her sweaty skin.
She felt his body pressed to her back,
his arm encircled her small waist and made her stop.
Throb. Throb. Throb.
The rhythmic bass notes reverberating deep
inside her bones, the guy’s erection
plastered against her ass.
Wasn’t this what she had come for?
When she tried to turn, he held her waist in an iron
grip and propelled her forward, out through
the barn door.

When she woke slumped against the barn wall,
she was cold and alone, the barn dark, her knickers
ripped, her head empty of thought but
full of the techno beat, now only a chimera.
Pink inhaled deeply, tried to stand,
wondered vaguely where she had left her car.

Her mother had been waiting up for her
and Pink had to pass the kitchen where she
saw that hated, accusing face.
She cleaned the bleeding as best she could,
looking at a dead fly in the bath with morbid fascination.
Then Pink haemorrhaged tears and for that night
forgave herself for loving her mother.


Pink Goes to Town

About two pounds of make-up, piercings—
nose, lip, tongue and nipples (she’s thinking
of doing her clit too), miles of false eyelashes,
and almost a skirt.

After all, she’s going to meet her mates
who’ll be competing with her.
She bets on winning!

They meet outside at the parking lot,
screaming and giggling, having already
created the mood. Five 16-year-olds ready
to be picked up. They count on it for the drinks.
It’s Friday night, everyone needs some fun.

Pink’s ‘suitor’ is a cocky young swagger,
tattooed arms like Beckham, silver earring
like a pirate, vaping like Errol Flynn.
--What’ll yer have?
Pink likes beer, but she knows that’s not
quite the thing here, now.
So she asks for Tequila. She even likes it

In the police station she tries to describe
what happened, but her brain is addled,
her body is sore and racked by sobs.
She can only say,
--A girl should be able to wear what she wants.


Pink and the Light of her Life

Pink had started to work as a barista.
She had toned down her excesses
when she applied for the job,
even had a haircut and lost that green.
Pink being overqualified, really,
they took her on.

Always a quick learner, she soon
had the job pat and loved joking
with the clients who enjoyed her wit.
She was safe behind the bar
and felt in control.
A new sensation. She liked it.

The blond boy with the crew cut
didn’t quite seem her type. But his
face was open and he was a little shy.
So Pink tried to put him at ease
and frequently made him smile.
He came more and more often
until one day he picked her up when she
finished work.

She fell into Jim’s regularity with
surprising ease. His flat was bigger
than hers, and soon they were an item.

Her mum and dad, Jim’s mum and dad,
friends of the family and not so.
The wedding was a success.

That night Jim hit her for the first time.


Pink at the BBQ

Pink could now be with her parents
without blowing up all the time.
She went home quite often.
An uncertain peace in the air.

Her dad had sent her a text.
There would be a BBQ in the big garden.
Everyone would be there, even George.
George was famous.

Pink decided she’d go. They would look down
on her, of course. They always did.
All her parents’ friends, especially Mum’s,
felt sorry for them.
After all they’d done for Pink.
The private school,
piano classes…
That’s the thanks you get—
Pink had heard it all before.

She offered to flip the burgers,
out of the way she thought.
Still, they came to needle her, especially
the middle-aged women.
Letting her feel her worthlessness.
And they didn’t even know
that she’d had found her birth mum
who makes men come by talking dirty
on the phone.


Pink in the High-Rise Council Flat

She’s in this architectural finger raised
between modest Victorian terraced houses,
two-up-two-downs and some neglected
backlots. She’s on the 17th floor.
There is the motorway, of course.
Even on the 17th floor she can hear the constant
river of cars and trucks in a never-ending rush.
Day or night, the murmur enters her
unconscious acceptance. That’s what there is.

They took her child. The Social Services.
A neighbour complained about the child’s crying,
and when they nearly battered the door down,
Pink was in a funk. Of course, who wouldn’t be.
That kid never shut up, and she did everything
to make it stop. Even shaking it.
That made it worse. It’s true, sometimes
she needed the money for a fix,
so the formula got a bit watery perhaps.
Still, she’d loved her baby to bits.

Now she’s trying to get clean
to get her baby back. At the Centre
they did some group sessions, and she was
relieved that she wasn’t the only one.
What others had to tell made her almost
feel good about herself.

When she follows the cars on the
motorway with her eyes, she dreams about holidays
from life. But perhaps there is another way.


Pink Looks at Her Anger

The pond in the park opposite her house.
There had been frogs—she’s almost sure.
Her bedroom with the flowers
on the wall. She had wanted pink Hello Kitties,
but Mum decided. She always did.

She remembers a time before she’d been angry.
She used to wait for her dad by the big window
in the front room, but Dad usually came home late,
and Mum made her go to bed.
Mum was relentless.
Relentlessly active.
There was a time she was an artist
and had artist friends.
George, for example. Pink thought that George
had mysterious powers over her mother.
George, she was told, was famous.

He used to come to the house a lot.
Often Mother went to the shops, left her with George.
George pulled down Pink’s knickers
and stuck his fingers into where her pee comes out.
After that Pink refused to be left alone
with George, and her mother smacked her hard.
Even today, Pink feels shame and anger rising.


Pink Makes a Home

Pink figures she first must get sober,
make a home worthy of her child,
earn enough extra to buy some stuff—
for the basics she receives help from Social.

She remembers a home,
weekly piano classes, BBQs, sleepovers
and generous pocket money.
There had been ballet too, of course.
Her mum had been so proud.

When she burns her hand again
filling another latte to go,
she shuts her motor mouth.
All she wants is her baby back,
and the court will decide
before Christmas.

She paints the baby’s room
light yellow. Thrift shops,
used furniture markets,
but baby’s little bed is new.

A beer or two. No drugs.
Group sessions every Thursday
at the Community Centre.
Some of the stories make her gag.
Her own life has been roses, or has it?

She looks at herself in the mirror and hopes
the judge will see a healthy young woman.
She’s removed her piercings.
Her hair is longer, with blond streaks.
She almost believes it all.

Her mother visits unexpectedly. Cleans
imaginary dust from the chair.
‘This place is a mess.’


Pink in Court

Brown wood panels, brown wood,
suits, some gowns, some wigs perhaps.
A knot of serious humans.
Voices, male and female, agitated
and not.

Pink can’t hear the words. She has
absented herself and rolled up into her panic.
The process seems endless, is painful.
Her legs and hands. Tremors.
Her new dress is chafing at the neck.
She must make a good impression.
It’s a bit like reading a page turner.
All she wants to know is the outcome.
Her mum elbows her.
Seems the judge asked her something.
He looks at her over his reading glasses,
‘Do you agree to supervision?’

When the Guardian delivers her baby
into her arms, Pink is stunned.
She’s grown so much!
Is heavy and wriggly.
The child’s little arms reach for the foster mother,
face crunched up in total grief.


Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru, and author of two novels as well as six poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS? (Kelsay Books July 2022) and WHISTLING IN THE DARK (Taj Mahal Publishing House July 2022), are both available on Amazon. Her seventh collection, SAUDADE, is going to be published by Kelsay before the year is out.

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