Susan McLean


We think we’ll endlessly recall
the tragedy that happened here,
and when it struck—the day, the year—
will always shatter and appall.

Yet even now, young brides-to-be
choose this to be their wedding day,
tossing a ribbon-bound bouquet
not far from the catastrophe.

Young children, eyes unclouded, sense
no taint of menace in the place.
They have no horrors to efface;
no shiver makes their present tense.

Time sweeps away the dust and flowers
to tidy up and carry on,
until we can't recall what's gone
or even that the dust is ours.

Better Stars  

I met a man who told me Munch
was just third-rate, as painters go.
It stunned me that he seemed to know
how to appraise, extol, or junk
singular talents. From the height
of his achievement, he surveyed
their output and assigned a grade.
I felt diminished in his sight.

When he walked out at night, did he
assess the stars? Were some not bright
enough? Would he prefer to see
a sky where just the brightest shone,
pillowed on velvet, each alone,
instead of multitudes of light?

Susan McLean, a retired professor of English from Southwest Minnesota State University, is the author of The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife.  She is also the translator of Martial’s Selected Epigrams.  She lives in Iowa City.