Susan McLean

A Poet’s Garden of Vices


Envy, I was wrong about you:
you’re the air a writer breathes.

No ambition thrives without you,

Envy.  I was wrong to doubt you. 

Even through the longest drought, you

stay as green as laurel wreaths.
Envy, I was wrong about you:
inspiration writhes and seethes.


The pink half-moon,

the mango’s blush,

the scalloped dune,
the moss’s plush,

the cardinal’s call,

the opal’s shine—

I’ll swallow them all 

and make them mine.


If, like amoebas, we could bud,

there’d be no angst, no broken heart.

There’d be no wars, no rape, no blood.
There’d be no art.

Secretary of the Interior

We sit on an island, Pride and I,

and gaze at a page, in which I see

how—with each bend and trim and lie—
I’m shaping my self, like a bonsai tree,

to be the fairest of them all:
twisted and perfect and very small.

Trickle Down

The pot of honey,

the dangled prize,
the ones with money
who patronize.


Anger, you’ve spurred me on to fight,
with switchblades, bullets, and grenades
of words and wit. Through every slight,
Anger, you’ve spurred me on to write.
Your stubborn flame’s the pilot light
that fires me when conviction fades.
Anger, don’t leave: hold off the night,
which welcomes me with razor blades.

In Short

Given my indolence, I am

inclined to stick to epigram.

Susan McLean is a retired English professor from Southwest Minnesota State University. Her
poetry books include The Best Disguise (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and The
Whetstone Misses the Knife
(winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize). She has also published a book of translations of Martial’s Latin poems, Selected Epigrams. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.



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Bruce J. Berger

Joe Bishop

Dan Campion

John Delaney

Katherine Fallon

David Lee Garrison

Ted Jean

Laurie Lamon

Michael Lauchlan

Sean Lause

Peter Leight

Laura Manuelidis

Susan McLean

Nicholas Molbert

Jesse Morales

James P. Nicola

Jean Nordhaus

Patric Pepper

Simon Perchik

John Perrault

Roger Pfingston

Mark Rubin

Michael Salcman

Andrew Szilvasy

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