By Heather Bourbeau

Point Reyes, Like Roses in Winter

Before me, green upon green, broken
only by fire-white forest skeletons
clinging, roots dead, trunks stubborn.

Hidden in marsh, birds call staccato,
overlapping, answering, trills and caws. Near me
chickadees dart, chest plump, colors bright.

I remember when I could not name
the trees, the hills, the elk and its fawn, bursting
from brush, causing my heart to stop.

Fog burn, ocean air, I am already nostalgic
for the almost forgetting of summits and shootings.
Words come. Words go. I forget to write them down.

Hummingbirds whirl low. My eyes ache to follow
peripatetic patterns to thickest pollen, sweetest fruit,
as if they will lead us back to Eden, pure and sated.


slippery see-saw secrets

she asked what he knew
that she didn’t
he wanted to share
but for the shame

he wanted to nuzzle
in her hair
she hugged her knees
when he was around

she understood silent
that she longed
for him, his pain
he wondered aloud
if she liked others

tip a little forward
move a little up
balance weight
weigh vulnerabilities

feet float in trust
of the other
not stepping off
you are ready

Brake burn

Truck brakes burning metal
down the Spruce Street hill,
away from my home,
still remind me
of 3000 miles and 13 years away,
of South Street Seaport rubble,
smoldering for months,
cool air carrying acrid scent towards
the home I shared with my old love—
one flight, two rooms, many fights—
an imperfect refuge
from a perfect storm
played across four continents.

Piercing the comfort of distance,
brakes’ burn reminds
of actions taken
in my name,
for my safety
that never really was,
of retaliation
I never asked for,
of the men
carted off to unknown cells,
unknown horrors
of countries shattered
unable to recover
from our anger—
lasting, honed,

Add to this my love,
unable to recover
from our grief,
from his writing 2000 obituaries,
from our tearing at each other
because we were tangible,
present, alive.

And to the me
that still remembers
that shock and awe
[and pain],
I want to say,
“Those are only brakes.
I am here.
I am whole.”
but we all are still
a bit broken.

Heather Bourbeau’s fiction and poetry have been published in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cleaver, Duende, Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Chalkboard, Open City, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. Her piece “Hopscotch” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was a contributing writer to Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond with Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.

© 2019