Poetry » Rose Mary Boehm »

Hard-edged village

If I were to make the movie, perhaps
I’d start with that four-year old kid
reaching up to touch the stones of the wall.
I wouldn’t be able to let you feel
the hard edges of the stony folds
where the softer rock has pulled back
like receding gums, only to expose
a sharpness morphed over millennia.

I would let the camera pan
over the old stone quarries
and the men who broke there.

Where the child once stood, dwarfed,
the stone wall seems to have shrunk.
Were I to make the movie, I’d follow
the small child’s short legs as it laboriously
climbs up the steps leading to the garden.
The giant’s causeway.

Even the grass used to reach up to her
green knees. The dark shed held alarming
secrets. Today it smells of rotting wood,
and cobwebs like bridal trains move in the breeze,
an orange evening sun touching the sticky organza
with a lick of fire. Would it burn with a hiss?

If I were to make the movie, I might show you
slate roofs. Close in on the satin sheen of fine-grained,
foliated slate. Perhaps this would be the right moment
for science, defining the slaty cleavage which has ‘ten
microns or less of space between layers. There is a
variety of definitions for cleavage’.
Indeed there is.

I remember my big brother, a master
of cleaveage and grain. By the side of the shed
he used to split the stone into thin sheets.
Stacked neatly into the ox cart he’d be off
to replace shingles taken down by storms.

Thirty years ago he scratched his mark
on the slates of the stable roof. I’d let
the camera zoom in on ‘M’ for Matthew.


Dad used to put me on his lap and we’d scour
the encyclopedia. Maybe I just wanted
to know more about spiders. Soon the world
was a different place. Those heavy books
with leather backs and marbled edges
went with the fire storms.

Mum and I would laugh about using wrong words.
She giggled and tickled me. We were in hysterics
when I held my nose. She called them gases.
I hid in the big German eiderdown, the four-year old
an easy fit under a mountain of contained feathers.
They soon disappeared
together with what I knew as home.

Didn’t go fishing with Dad.
Mum didn’t take me to school.
There were no picnics.
No parties.

Johannes and Werner never came back
from what they called ‘the front’.
One day it was all lost.
Whatever it was.

Caterpillars go from instar to instar.
They shed their skins, molt to grow.
By the time of my tenth instar
when they called me a stranger,
I had learned to fly on my own.

When nothing is left

for Virginia Woolf

Those first times they would
on occasion run into each other
feeling something.

She’d noticed it one summer
night. The moon had penetrated
her own reflection
in the large sliding doors.

After that, her husband
would frequently reach through
her for the drink
she had placed
on the mantel.

Gradually he also lost density.
The house filled with mirrors
their essential natures.

One Wednesday morning
as he wished her good morning,
she grabbed his reflection,
walked out through the garden door

and drifted towards the millpond,
picking up stones
on the way.

Garage Sale

If my mother had been able to bottle
my farts, she would have had a collection.
In tin cans. Labeled and dated.
Here’s a box with about fifty of my old
drawings. Or more.
My school books from
around sixty years ago.
Folded, yellowed, breaking.

Mother’s ornaments,
all visibly old,
receive particular attention.
Especially from the young.
The antiques aren’t here.
Gone to auction.

When she could no longer see,
hear, walk, she made a decision.

Her clothes have gone
to the charity shop.
Her shoes have
shaped themselves
in the image
of her swollen feet.

My two-year old granddaughter
just gave me a drawing.
She says it’s her daddy.
I have a box.