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rob mclennan :: Three poems


Four poems for battleaxe


This cartography of tissue, bone, was never meant
to eclipse landscape. Victorian swagger, allocated; 

to tame the gardens, menageries,
heathens. Tarzan, swings. If all you see 

is someday yours, what
have you? A heart- 

shaped box. This generosity of garbage, strewn.

Abandoned shipping containers. My love


An era of floaters: Garfield telephones
that insist 

on dialing ashore. Anthropocene: the human epoch,

staggered syntax, centred. This question
of lyric amplification. 



If any dead writer might take you into
their confidence. Re-tread. Read. To live in the past 

is to infer a lack of risk.

Anne Carson: Genre is basically
a matter 

of occasion. Goodbye, Norma Jean. What might it cost
to put this house in order? 



Blockchain. Lost again.


Four poems for Timber


This act of vanishing: felled, in
foul swoops. Once part of the Territory 

of Nebraska, aboriginal lands carved later into
six new states. Neither solid 

nor liquid.


An altitude. The rain falls. Silt
bears witness. 

Please. This phrase is withered, tired.

At times, I tell my daughters stories of my life.
They pick and choose, absorbing 

what, I could not know. A powdered trace
of who I’ve been, and am,

against their bones. A well
of drawn
and undrawn facts 

in parabolic orbit.



Where are you, mountains. Miners heft
and hollow, historic hustle 

burrow layers-deep.
Elegiac time: contrary to nostalgia, 

an avoidance 

of permanent facts. Fountain Formation

this endless, impermanent view.
Mork and Mindy: the music shop 

rarely saw enough on-screen customers

to subsist.



The buffalo. They followed, henceforth. One
by one.


Four poems for Ottawa Arts Review 


A sunrise, overlay.
The oldest door in Ottawa. 

Light orange, pink; curls
the locks, compress 

the grammar stone. Capacious
parents, stroller. Tourist, 

if you will.

The morning ringlets,
summer. Wind, 

a clear momentum.


These sandstone coffers,
brazen. Gargoyle. 

We would not
market death, the many bones 

this framework lays upon. Why
would they. Speak it, point 

to unmarked graves, a grace of curves
against these candied tulips. 


List, this limestone swell, girdled north
by the river. Grand,

in their estimation.

The past is language, sheets
of fiction. Whitewash. Even 

the anecdote might scare you.

of a practical joke.
Repurposed. Statues glean, 

a biographical life. This wall of whispers,
politics, nope. A sequence 

of promotional links.



Where Algonquin stood, and
Mohawk, staring down 

cascades, escarpment,
the northern shoulder 

of the Ottawa Valley. Laurentian foothills

interprovincial bridges, government
office complex; churches, hotels, this 

cauldron boil. A portrait
landscape. Breathing in, 

and in. I studied

the outcrop, for
an unknown amount of time.





Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019) and Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), with a further poetry title, the book of smaller, forthcoming from University of Calgary Press. In spring 2020, he won ‘best pandemic beard’ from Coach House Books via Twitter, of which he is extremely proud (and mentions constantly). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at


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