Susan McLean


Royal Pains

Richard II
may have been gay or just not fecund.
He died childless, but then
his queen was only ten.

Richard III
was found interred
under a parking stall marked R for “reserved.”
It was the least he deserved.

James I,
according to his courtiers, reversed
how England’s monarchy was seen:
“Elizabeth was king; now James is queen.”

Small Wonders

Charlotte, tiny and homely, didn’t care
that heroines must be gorgeous. It’s ironic,
but plain girls’ passions, too, can be Byronic.
She built renown that’s lasted, on thin Eyre.

Emily—short, intense, and much alone—
because she never found an editor
who comprehended what to make of her—
made something of herself—unseen—unknown.

Edna, known as “Vincent” to her friends,
broke every rule she knew, jumped every bar,
went where she pleased and always went too far,
burning her candle brightly at both ends.

Dorothy looked petite and perky, but
her takedowns left men gasping. With one quip,
she’d leave a gash as biting as a whip
or razor. Does size matter? Size of what?

Susan McLean is a retired English professor. She has translated a lot of epigrams from Latin, including works by Martial, Catullus, and Sir Thomas More. She is the translations editor at Better Than Starbucks.