Bewildered by Susan McLean


The lilacs are confused. They don’t remember:
has winter come and gone now? No, a drought
has crisped their leaves like piecrust. Some, in doubt,
hold out flambeaux of blossom in September.

Their swoony fragrance pierces like remorse.
Did we not let them frizzle in the sun?
And now they’ve come deliriously undone,
throwing bouquets out as a last recourse.

The bees, too, seem bedazzled. A fall swarm
has settled on our pine. To leave their hive
this late means they’re unlikely to survive
the winter. Hurriedly, while it’s still warm,

we call a beekeeper, who nabs their queen
and lures them to a nucleus box. He’ll bring
it home and feed them sugar till next spring.
They’d die if someone didn’t intervene.

And us? The patterns change and we’re dismayed.
As glaciers melt, lakes dry, and species die,
we flinch and look away from reasons why,
trapped in a minefield we ourselves have laid.

by Susan McLean

Editor’s Note: This poem is an interesting blend of beautiful imagery and sonics and grim narrative. It’s odd how humans can create such beauty amidst destruction.

Plague Song by Susan McLean

Plague Song

Trapped in a solitary dance
where means and ends refuse to meet,
the desolated body chants
its mantra: Eat. Excrete. Repeat.

Muzzled and shielded, we advance—
till someone nears, and we retreat.
We’ve rolled snake eyes: we’ve lost our chance,
our time, our lives, our salt, our sweet.

Exchanging sorrows with a glance,
we wave farewell like wind-blown wheat,
while vultures wheel the bald expanse
and wait to eat, excrete, repeat.

by Susan McLean

Editor’s Note: Iambic tetrameter trips through the lines of this poem, chillingly reminding the reader of the singsong cadence of Ring Around the Rosie, another plague song we can’t seem to forget.

Burning the Journals by Susan McLean

Burning the Journals

Alixa shocked me when she said she’d burned
her journals. All those insights, lost. And yet
each time I’d kept a journal, I soon learned
someone had read it. Wary of the threat
of having candor peeled off like a scab,
exposing raw and stinging sores, I’d sworn
never to bare my secrets to the stab
of prying malice. I could not have borne
having each vagrant thought and wayward mood
viewed with amusement, prurience, or scorn,
like those whose webcams, hijacked, film them nude,
turning unguarded love to vengeful porn.
So now I light a match to every day,
and what I felt then, only I can say.

by Susan McLean

Editor’s Note: The speaker opens this sonnet as if it were a conversation with a friend who knows exactly who Alixa is… The reader becomes a friend, and thus the personal nature of the poem draws one inside the speaker’s ruminations.