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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Micro-Fiction: 379 words
By Roberta Beary

A Study in Contrasts in County Mayo


He’s always out back. Tending to the roses. Old knees wobbling on a plump green cushion. A spade in the hand that doesn’t tremble. Blue plastic bucket for the weeds. A tin can with a long spout, like we had. I’m not one for the mushy stuff. But I like to watch him water the roses, all tender, like Gran with her hydrangeas. On certain mornings, if my window’s open and the summer breeze is in a cooperative mood, I hear him cooing to the Queen Elizabeths. Often, he looks up and gives me a wave. Not when she’s there. Her back to him as she pegs sheets and pillowcases. They don’t speak. Once a Queen E climbed to my side of the fence. She strung it to a stick that forced the stem to their side. He cut it all down with his garden shears. Leaning over the fence, he placed the long-stemmed pink rose in my hands. I checked their driveway before I smiled my thanks. Her hatchback was gone. It pulled in an hour later.


After he died, she hired two men to dig up the garden. It took a whole day. A week later, other men made a lot of noise out back. Putting down gravel and tar. Caution tape up where the garden used to be. Like a crime scene. Murder by unknown assailants. But it was only so the blacktop could dry. I watched her pull down the clothesline. Throw it in the bin beside a cardboard box labeled Dryer. When her lights went out I crept over the fence. Opened the bin. I’m not one for the mushy stuff. But I bit my lip till I tasted blood. The garden shears were split open. Stabbing the watering can’s hollow heart. The bucket full of slashed foam. Slices of green fabric fluttering. Like little flags waving goodbye.


Now the watering can sits on my window sill. I hold it to my ear on days like today. When the summer breeze is in a cooperative mood. I’m not one for the mushy stuff. But I swear I hear a voice inside its hollow heart. Cooing to the long-stemmed Queen. Framed in glass above my bed.

Roberta Beary’s
Issue 9, August 2021

second collection of short poems, Carousel, is co-winner of the Snapshot Press 2019 book award contest. Her first short-form collection, The Unworn Necklace, received a finalist book award from the Poetry Society of America. Her collection of prose poetry, Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), was named a National Poetry Month Best Pick by Washington Independent Review of Books.

Long-time haibun editor of Modern Haiku, Ms. Beary is also co-editor of Wishbone Moon: An Anthology of Haiku by Women (Jacar Press, 2018), and she recently judged the Sable Books Haiku Contest for Women Book Award.

Her writing has appeared in Rattle, KYSO Flash, 100 Word Story, Cultural Weekly, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and The New York Times, and is also featured in A Companion to Poetic Genre (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) and Haiku In English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton, 2013).

Ms. Beary lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, Frank Stella, and tweets her photoku and micro-poetry on Twitter [at] shortpoemz.

Author’s website: https://robertabeary.com/news/

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Roberta Beary, haiku poet and editor, on writing Haibun, interview on YouTube (8 February 2021) with Mike Rehling, editor of Failed Haiku

Tiny Love Stories in The New York Times (8 January 2019); scroll five stories down the page for Roberta Beary’s “Now It’s All Fresh Fish” and her photograph of lobster traps in Clew Bay, Ireland.

The art of brevity, an interview by Ciara Moynihan in Mayo News (22 January 2019)

Lunch Break, a haibun by Beary in Rattle (#56, Summer 2017), Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness; includes audio (17 July 2017)

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