ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998

Poems by Rose Mary Boehm

In La Vega de Chinchón (Spain) – a year in five stanzas

It’s back again, the moment when all skeletal branches
don a bright-green hue,
just a hint for starters,
just a hint.
Each day that fine, light-green mist darkens some,
Please, Pachamama, control your wayward child,
the cruel frost of April.

Overnight the swifts have returned and are chatting
excitedly sitting and shitting on the washing lines.
Woosh, woosh, woosh. They flit and chat
and chat up, I suppose.
Now they are busy preparing their mud and straw nests
on walls and under roofs.
Soon there will be three or four to a nest.
The young parents stuff wide-open beaks
that are set in messy, scruffy, hairy, desperate little faces.
Like my daughter before them,
they show their desperation
only when one of the parents returns.
Pure manipulation.
The psychology of survival.

The honeysuckle envelopes us in its heavy summer scent,
the big summer rain adds petrichor,
the walnut tree tries to annihilate us
with small-caliber ammunition,
and many a morning finds me standing among
the wide-fingered fig trees
competing with the wasps for breakfast.

A sudden tornado-like storm harvests the peaches
and halves our old apple tree.
A branch from the tall eucalyptus breaks part of the roof.
The dogs hide under the yew hedge,
the one the previous owners imported from my homeland.

The wood-pigeon has grown silent,
the swifts are gathering, planning their escape
before the insects disappear into their winter lairs
and the worms slide deeper into a soon to be frozen earth.
We are raking russet and golden riches, burn the nests
of the processionary caterpillars
that live and multiply in the pines and can bring death to the dogs.
We cover the pool and put away the toys we used in summer.

It’s here. The unforgiving cold, the night frosts,
the whitish hue announcing the onset of stillness.
The vines’ knobbly stumps are like those of lepers
beseeching heaven to help them through this time
of emptiness. The moles are shutting shop, the wasps
are staying in their intricate homes, no bees are buzzing.
One morning the quiet is absolute, and a white mantle
makes beauty where before we saw only death.
Sleep, my friends, until the prince comes
and wakes you again with a kiss.


My Genetic Memory

The endless steppes of Mongolia are in my DNA,
the sweat of wild ponies, rape, and madness.
My blood remembers poverty and courage,
poverty and despair.
There is entitlement and pride,
knowing when to curtsy,
when to say the right words to the right person
at the right time, and not knowing
how to eat with a knife and fork.
There was nothing to cut, Sir.

My DNA contains wooden spoons
and endless stews cooked over fires,
the tales of old, of witches and fairies,
of princes and cinders,
the mysteries of righteousness,
un-called-for violence,
jealousies and hatred, unconditional love
and a language buried in centuries
of making good in the country
that gave shelter.
I come from incest, cruelty, and guilt,
from forgiveness and honour.

May my children’s genes express
a distillation of the best of this collection,
the stuff that makes for kindness and strength.


Author Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru, and author of two novels as well as eight poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was three times nominated for a ‘Pushcart’ and once for ‘Best of Net’. DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS? (Kelsay Books July 2022), WHISTLING IN THE DARK (Cyberwit July 2022), and SAUDADE (December 2022) are available on Amazon. Also available on Amazon is a new collection, LIFE STUFF, published by Kelsay Books November 2023.

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