Susan McLean—Featured Poet


Boy Larkin’s Pet Peeve

I had a goldfish in a bowl.
It acted bored, like me.
It swam around without a goal
and snuffed it rapidly.

I had a budgie in a cage.
It molted in despair
and dropped dead at an early age,
its small claws clutching air.

I had a bunny in a hutch.
It hunched and tried to hide.
Although I didn’t like it much,
I hated when it died.

So, Mum and Dad, please grant my wish:
don’t buy a cat or pup;
no bunnies, birds, or sodding fish.
They all go belly up.


More Than an Ass Can Bear

I’d drudged at donkeywork all day, while dreaming
of munching hay in quiet, yet the minute
I reached my stall, I heard some woman screaming,
and then my manger had a baby in it.

I waited for someone to shift the brat
so I could finally eat my evening meal.
In came a man, though, in a metal hat,
and then two more, and they began to kneel

all ’round the manger. I could not get near it.
Peasants pushed in then, with a flock of sheep.
They raved about some message from a spirit,
and soon the place was crowded seven deep.

I won’t say how he fouled my hay and manger
while beaming at me beatifically.
But someday, if he needs a ride to danger
or getting hammered, he can count on me.


John Donne on Safe Sex

This flea sucked me and now sucks you,
blending in one the blood of two.
So why not sleep with me tonight?
It’s safe: I promise not to bite.


Richard III on Insulting the Dead

It’s been the custom—long before Achilles
dragged Hector’s corpse—to stab your enemies’
dead bodies, gouge their eyes, and dock their willies.
Why should I stoop to whine of tricks like these?

Nor does it fret me to have been paraded,
tied to a horse, a sword stuck in my bum,
jeered through the Leicester streets, naked, degraded.
Such are the losers’ rites till kingdom come.

But centuries have passed, and so should spite.
It seems ungenerous and downright surly
for those who found my bones to spread the slight:
“His back was crooked—and his arms were girly.”


Emily Post Goes to Africa

Whenever you see a rhinoceros,
don’t try to invite it to tea.
Its lack of decorum’s preposterous:
it won’t even RSVP.
The manners of many hyenas
are not what you’d wish them to be.
Their maniacal laugh will alarm the giraffe
and they’d rather drink blood than bohea.
Just to get chimpanzees to say “thank you” or “please”
or to learn how to balance their cups on their knees
is a nearly impossible task.
That is equally true of a warthog or gnu,
which will not state a preference for one lump or two—
and as for an ostrich, don’t ask.


Diminishing Returns

On noticing that, in rejection slips, size matters  

Most journals seem intent on conservation:
a half sheet for a personal rejection,
a quarter sheet for stock elimination.
What future shrinkage waits for my inspection?

A fortune cookie’s squib for my perusal—
Same chance in hell as last year’s ball of snow—
or, worse, the grim confetti of refusal:
a rain of dots, each stamped with a small no.

(First published in Perceptions)


Scarlett O’Hara Addresses a Turnip

Before I will eat a raw turnip or beet,
I’ll cheat and I’ll lie and I’ll flirt.
I can’t gnaw a carrot; I just couldn’t bear it.
I’d rather wear drapes as a skirt!
I’ll vamp and I’ll steal to acquire a hot meal,
but I won’t chew on roots from the dirt.

I’m finished with tubers, with parsnips and goobers:
they’re fit for a hog in a pen.
I don’t give a damn for a radish or yam,
but I’d kill for a barbecued hen,
and unless I’m struck witless, as God is my witness,
I’ll never be hungry again.

purpleLSusan McLean teaches English at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her humorous poems have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, The Chimaera, Bumbershoot, and elsewhere. Her latest collection, the winner of the 2014 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, is The Whetstone Misses the Knife (Story Line Press).