Susan McLean

Served Cold 

It shook me when I learned you’d died
four years ago.  I never knew
I’d feel so soothed and gratified.
It shook me.  When I learned you’d died,
I thought of you, the two-faced guide
who’d trashed me then.  I had no clue.
It shook me when I learned.  You died 
four years ago.  I never knew.


How can I praise the crocus
that noses through gray snow,
whose urgent, guileless focus
denies what it should know?
With suicidal daring
it plies its reckless art,
incandescent, bearing
a sun within its heart,
flaunting its brief elation
that ice storms may destroy,
shaking my resignation
with purple clumps of joy.

Fan Dance

You think you glimpse it, but the hand
      is quicker than the eye.
Like any trip to wonderland,
the journey doesn’t go as planned.
Just before heaven can be scanned,
      soft clouds eclipse the sky.

But if delivered on demand,
      the same bared breast and thigh
would bore you, seeming tame and canned.
Desire prefers the contraband,
shunning the obvious and bland
      for what’s oblique and sly.

Susan McLean, a retired professor of English from Southwest Minnesota State University, is the author of The Best Disguise, which won the Richard Wilbur Award, and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, which won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize.  She also has published a book of translations of the Latin poet Martial, Selected Epigrams, and is the translation editor for Better Than Starbucks.  She lives in Iowa City.