Heather Bourbeau


I paused along the path, caught the echo of skunk, its distinct musk that, in the brief instant before my brain recalled the source, was pleasing in the same way my own body odor at first warmed then revolted me.

I felt relief as I peed behind a bush, wind gusting all around. I took in a deep breath to smell the sage, then focused on the rivulet that ran over rocks and dirt, broken remnants that will outlive me.

In the time before, I stood in front of Monet’s hints of wisteria, emerging from a world of blurred purple and green. Through the pain of nearby bombs, failing eyes, and his beloved’s passing, he heard the call to water, to focus on the blooms.

I have worked grooves into the ground around my house, cursed and mourned the weeds that I pull. I have waited for a young stag to stop eating the oxalis so that I could enter my gate.

I wake forgetting for just a moment, delicious drowse. Then, like Claude, I seek respite and touchstones, answers inadequate to a why shared and solitary, beyond the will of man.

Thick fog, light rain. Days like this, my hair betrays my roots.
Curls twist, gain momentum, desperate to drink every drop.

I rush to plant ground cover, to profit from the damp.
But the ants, they swarm in upturned earth, frantic for cover.

One climbs into my sweater, waits for my tea to steep, my legs to fold
under thick blankets before attempting an escape, tickling my arm.

I appreciate the effort, the careful plotting or headlong launch that led
to my unwitting transport, but I have laid bay laurel and cinnamon

at my threshold, tightened all my caps, stowed honey on high shelves.
There is only so much outside I will let in. The dirt under my nails.
The echoes of fog in my hair.

Rains have brought mushrooms, softened a thirsty ground,
mulched and heavy with greying leaves.
My neighbor’s morning glory wraps round their trellis,

chokes trees that scratch my home, make roads for squirrels.
The earth shook last night, and I slept soundly soon after.
Should I worry—this messy line between accustomed and detached?

In my yard lie the remnants of my landlord’s neglect—fallen
bits of roof, broken path lights, balls from games played by children
grown and gone, a green toy soldier kneeling, rifle aimed.

Nasturtiums never planted sprout and spill, twisting
up my steps, covering what the oxalis cannot.
The sun has come too soon. I feel my throat prepare to parch.

bourbeauHeather Bourbeau’s work has appeared in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The MacGuffin, Meridian, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and SWWIM. She is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and the Chapman Magazine Flash Fiction winner, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia. Her recently completed collection Monarch is a poetic memoir of overlooked histories from the American West she was raised in.

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