Rose Mary Boehm

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Conversation with my friendly neighborhood psychiatrist

Doctor, I need help.
I have this urge.
No, not sex, doctor.
I desperately want to write clich├ęs.

At the end of the day, doctor,
I’ll be barking up the wrong tree.
But there’s no business like
snow business.
No, I don’t live in Alaska.
I’ve worked in PR.
I’m a star.
Atta girl.

Doctor, let’s be honest,
we’re all in the same boat
singing from the same song sheet.
Come again?

It’s a bit like what you’d call obsessive.
You figure it out.
That’s what I pay you for.
Moon and swoon.
Stich and bitch.
Verse and worse.

You don’t find anything wrong?
Have a heart!

Then, to be honest with you,
I saw the light, doctor.
No, don’t say that.
That takes the cake!
Ok, here we go.
You too?

No, it doesn’t hurt.



For Queen Louise von Preussen, the Princess Diana of her time, who got married at 17,
died in 1810, age 34. She met Napoleon on his sweep through Europe, conquering what came in is way.

Perhaps I should worry.
The little pastor tried.
While I paid for heaven with charity
I had a chance -
or so I thought.

They married me off at 17.
I’m quite lucky Father chose well for me.
I was the perfect, dutiful wife.
Nine children, and I love every single one.
Ten, if you count my little ghost girl.
Will she have grown?

Bonaparte, mon Dieu, I loathe him.
Crude, slandering little Corsican.
I was flattered, however,
when he called me his beautiful enemy.
Our meeting in Tilsit.
I demeaned myself at his feet.
He laughed, preferred half my country to me,
though I could tell he was tempted.

I pretended it was for Prussia
but, when I felt his power,
I would have been his whore.


My Grandfather

He taught me the colours of the jay whose ungainly voice
jarred in the quiet of the glen, when the cuckoo allowed
competition in her endless showing off, having laid her giant egg
in the red-breasted Nuthatch’s nest.

Insects buzzed, dizzy in the shafts of sunlight that forced
their brilliance through the bright green leaves
of the deciduous trees mixed into the evergreen spruces,
conifers and firs. Our feet sunk into the soft, rotted carcasses
of fallen trees already covered by beds of moss. An unforgettable scent
emanated from open wood wounds, mould, mildew and endless
thick layers of built up ur-forest that teamed with life:
beetles, ants, worms, centipedes and, of course, mycelia,
the trees’ internet, blabbermouth and keeper of secrets.

In the autumn we hunted in the dark, wet, secret places
after the rains. He knew them all and sniffed them out:
boletus, chestnuts, umbrella mushrooms, birch mushrooms,
chanterelles. Watch out for the baddies. Some are obvious,
showing off their poison proudly like the red cap, others
try to dress and appear like everyone else. Make sure
you recognize them by their small give-away misses.

He presented me to his bees. Of course, I had delighted
in the stolen sweetness in his house. On the occasional piece of bread,
and secretly sticking my not too clean finger into that golden
stickiness and licking it. Slowly. My grandfather approached
his small friends without protection. Some alighted on his shirt sleeves
and shoulders. Hello, my girls, he said. At first, I kept my distance,
not quite trusting they would recognize their giant soul mate’s
granddaughter. But as he checked on the honeycomb,
the deep super frames, I approached better to observe,
and as I stood in awe, those hard-working, furry pollinators,
with wings too short for their bodies, danced on my naked arms.

Now, at the end of my life, the gift I bear for my grandchildren
is the poison chalice of the destruction of their world.


A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and seven poetry collections, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals.