Rose Mary Boehm

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The ocean is unimaginable
to those who have always lived in mountains.

The fisherman shudders
when I tell him about high peaks and no horizons.

The girl in the high rise, walls sprayed
with graffiti, twenty flats per floor,
has seen luxury on the TV
but she's smart. She knows it
for the make-believe it is.

The old man walking along the coastal
desert strip knows that you are lying
when you tell him about the rain.

In the rainforest the children giggle,
mouths hidden behind small brown hands,
while I explain frozen water.
But they are happy that I am
telling such tall stories.

She washes my clothes in the lake,
a small bird perched on her shoulder.
Glad to listen to me
but she cannot believe
there is another way.


I remember lipstick smears on empty wine glasses, kisses
blown into the air, muak, muak, how good to see you,
Dahhling. There were important decisions
to be made. Go for Dior or Cacharel, and the wonder

how some women would never lose that dark-red
which ringed their mouths and made them appear
like fathomless caves, dangerous suction channels
inhaling man and mammal into Dante's Inferno,

and the whispers behind long-nailed hands, ready
to claw and destroy, freckled breasts arching out
of low-cut silks and cashmeres, gold weighing
on bony hands. Can’t be too rich or too thin,

Honey, that’s what the Duchess said. And now
I am watching from afar, on the screens of lies
which used to be the 'small' screens, how mudslides

reclaim the riverbed. The poorest build their precarious
homes there every year against all advice and the offer
of other land. My grandfather, some say, my mother, say others.
Tradition meets ignorance, and they tearfully watch again
their houses, children, wives and husbands
disappear under boulders and mud.

Jorge Chavez Airport, Lima, Peru

There went Sally. They stopped herArtwork by Gene McCormick
in possession of ten kilos pure.
Blonde, taller than any of the police,
without tears, money, or lawyer.

15,000 dollars on delivery.
Ten years instead in Peru’s prison hell
without tradeoffs since the police took
her watch and her mother’s gift,
a small string of pearls.

As the bitch of La Gorda AsunciĆ³n
Sally had protection. La Gorda
only needed to stand up slowly,
hands at her hips.

When they finally opened the prison gate,
outside was scary as hell. Her daughter,
fourteen by now, lives with grandma in London.

Sally can't fly home until she's paid
'reparations'. There are no work permits
for convicted criminals, ergo nothing
in the way of legitimate jobs. Over forty,
thin and pale, her madam is delighted.
She calls her carne de pavo, white meat.

Postcard from Peru

The wood sold to the Chinese, permission
given to build adobe houses in the ravines
between deforested peaks. Heavy rains
in the foothills of the Andes. Mudslides
disappear houses, people, infants, trucks.
Next year we’ll see the same. Wrecked faces
will beg again for help from the gullies
of ignorance. The authorities conspicuous
by their absence. Wish you were here.


A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and a poetry collection (TANGENTS), her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in U.S. poetry reviews.