rob's website


See rob's interview with Gil McElroy in this issue.


rob's poetry in Spring 2001.

a little white li(n)e

a poetry chapbook by rob mclennanrob mclennan

The next step I tripped to my knees on barbed wire.

— Stephen Brockwell, The Wire In Fences

the first thing to do is abandon style

so many themes come up, storm
   & resolution, coasts on political science courses,
who dont know the goings on of the world

whether the debate is bad or good

making, by the end of the day, a case built
   in less than five minutes


an attack on preliminary senses, a plane goes down
       but an earthquake hits just as hard
(tho gets less coverage)

                         the fires that raged
from hull across the lumber yards
   the booth street bridge providing limbs

for homes & the razing of          fire
crossing water

& taking how many generations of ash down w/

(wanting to be, then, anywhere but here


a little white lie meant to be read
a little white line

the spaces as improbable
      & the poems themselves

she says
             : give me a little


shine on, sweet prince

taking rhyme                  one blue eye
& one brown

(my mothers eyes are hazel, both

the questions i have abt the prairies
can you see each way to ocean, or
   is it more the crater, where there is

only sky?


w/ visiting interludes & the whole of this short life

                            (the urge to rebuild)

                     spring loaded
       & burning dead grass back

trying to cross the borders where there are none, natch


the silence that breaks, & then the flood

                               the crowd goes wild
& streams into the middle
            , who once calld phil esposito
                  canadas greatest poet,
pray for me, now, paul henderson
, the full script of man
            & knowledge of all things

                                  the earth
making waves to correct, influx
   of weather & the wider spray

earthquakes, floods       first time winter

telling me what i knew (all along

/make my day

               break out a system

& buy a lot of cannd goods, just in case


there are no borders, we          have to face that

how the cold wind blows, or which way
(apart from the noise)
& mercury making reference to the trade

                                   drive across

a day trip         spend ten dollars
instead of twelve

curl a smoke ring round a sensitive

or knows the fate of happiness

                         , taking stock


& discoveries, along the way

            kid his first play at the metal detect,
            a buried bag of russian coin
               in his fathers field, o england

what do we find here, old bones, remains
   of viking ships off newfoundland or nova scotia

or arrowheads in magazines

               of 1950s bottles in the family cellar,
               among the jars of pickles, jam preserves
                  & rotting books, the mound

of rancid wood & earth eroding
that once was cabin here

   for grandfathers sugar camp, well back

into the century              forties, even


a matter of reconciliation, past & future

                   (if we are to live -

array of wares from old books (that rarely
                            wave back

      historical plaques that designate need
      , what once remained
            & enjoyd by

(till we tore it, down


the memory of comets & a barrage of          -ologies

               (you in t-shirt, jeans            radiant
                          in simplicity

                        red deer, alberta            where we saw
                                                     no deer

harbinger of note, what doom or new birth
                         (clandestine superheroes

the challenger & halleys tail, where some of us
      even saw the links

                           , touch

                      & merge



we remain by the fire small eyes watching
       - Clare Latremouille, outlaw

the time & the seasons change

i tell stories, to walk you in/to

as the space takes shape, turns

i read the papers, but

the angel soars, but never walks


to be alive, what has to be done

                    grandmother slips, sees
the past so clearly but forgets

                            (in flashback)

a walk across shaky ground,
& photographs that display a previous life

                 christmas & birthdays, first
                          days of school, or

primordial soup              left

   for mice to chew & insects

break back into the earth (at the end


designed to be both informative & provocative,

      theory & practice
                              /all language arts

& unladen swallow (african or european


deciding the stretch of days early on

   moving w/ instead of against the grain
   childbirth & domestic strain

                          - in that direction

& appeasement of comfort in that
   sullen space

/the world again from ground

               - girl rolls her eyes
                                       says, daddy

                              , grow up


but the wreckage has never been found,

             talking abt amelia earharts plane,
the dozens of theories on her disappearance been advanct

where she has gone
                             & 63 years
                of wondering

/or glenn miller, the plane
   that never lifted english airspace

so much in, of mysteries
   to be


need this bother anyone but historians,

                              new information,
          changing the tint of previous wrath

               or where my mum was born

the official stance on louis riel, where GG
says okay,

    or the taste of love in the prairies
ringing in the ear            dry lips        velocity


           & paying a price
                                   for that freedom

/eats at you

            (to step into yr own misery


& puts on two shows a night -

                  the calgary airport announcement,
      has left a viking helmet at security

                                    (what authority


what the norse invaders did when they hit dry land
,they flew

   & not a footfall to trace them by
   bits of clothing left to keep it fresh


but turnd out sour, like the best
      love songs do



I will forget where I'm leading you, lapse // & feel it
       - Margaret Christakos, the moment coming

when sentences become harsh, & phrases
begin to repeat

stories & the boundaries of

log rings in the english surf as old (or
      older) as stonehenge

i guess you lost that when you got
      the other job (astronomers,

& the movement of planes

& book reviewers always miss the point (its what
      they do


a presumption of internal & external body clock,
& finding out the thinking of the thots (he
         screams, i scream:

(the reason for the season:

absinthe, & orillia (dont mix           (& where
paul has disappeard to, a plane
   from prague

/tut tut             - the discovery
of radioactive gas in old egyptian structures,
dangerous levels that kill,
built up over centuries

the king tut tomb 25 in 1922,
& rumours of malevolent spirits

& curses
(i dont believe it)

/the marriage of the sun & moon


where the (historians) figure into it, the mark
        of multiple zeroes & a looking back

(the year my voice broke)

january first, two thousand & my computer
        flips back to 1980
                               /i woke up
                    wearing brown courdouroy pants & mumbling
                    elvis costello lyrics
                                             (i wish)

not even ten years old

& john lennon still alive       mere months
since old dief put in the soil

(max, the two thousand year old mouse

- i was there


duped w/ every paycheque,

      sister a block from international bridge,
turning left (see: cornwall) to american border, somewhere
underneath the vision of surface light

      : reflected water, st lawrence


messing up the waters edge

                               vancouver calld
            'the happiest place in the world'
                        (by somebody)
                  backdrop of mountains (north)

(when only the best will do)

w/ a wind chill of -30 in the capital
cartoon characters older than my parents try to sell me
   sandwiches, cars

damn you, time-warner        (me

shaking my oversized fist in the air


everything to do w/ the moment here
& the moment past            (forthcoming

   heritage bits on the cbc (badly
                   dubbed) telling us
the little things that mean a lot (or should

secrets of a war service, what my grandmother keeps
as her mind continues to deteriorate,
   & what bubbles forth, resurfaced

: flashes of london, casablanca

:       "            "              (echoes)


: no matter what time the game begins
the coverage starts televized at 6 hours previous
      w/ singers & dancers & all stars
               & presidents & sponsors & celebration
               & replays & trivia & prizes
               & ephemera
                          & maybe on the game play

                    / what all of this could be
                                    ,after all


or looking back thru 50 years
of the capital
                temporary buildings from the war
          replaced 3 decades or more later

             /historical plaques - we tore down
this beautiful victorian house owned
by a confederation poet
                               to build
   white stucco government blocks

the matters of progress that happen

the bus pulls up in front of my window

annual chinatown fire taking down

looking for a shopping mall

daily girl where she gets her coffee & ignores me

: or whatever else the hell im on about


or curry & jen in minus degree weather
         watching the street freeze solid

& buildings next to them burn,
once evacuated

: to watch bad television
           in my living room
   to warm up,
               both sides now
of their red brick turnd

: empty lots


IV We keep one path clear when space turns thresholds temporal
      - Judith Fitzgerald, 26 Ways Out of this World

at the edge of questioning & discovery

british engineers moving tons of rock (by hand)
      in old positions, tracing to learn

the problem solved w/ base technology (rope
                              & wood)
           thousands of years back

the mongol pride tearing limbs apart,
                    & keep hands clear

tracing the silk roads forever (then)
   smooth texture as soil rubs across the face


flushing out the schools of resentment, demand & lore

                  (how does one study?

& early manuscripts put on the internet
an access to info moved extreme thru signals
      the positions of learning & carrying grace


too large to roll into squeeseable tubes
      (because she doesnt like roses)


metal spears sunk deep
           into corpses & sand
in pre-war china, the wipe
      of memory & teaching years (they just

wont say              ) erase
                  of a certain pride built in

/the brain to small to get the pieces fit


like being coverd in cat hair, when you dont even
         own a fucking cat)

                              the highland clearances
& irish potato famine
   filling the other side of the ocean w/ ships

halifax & new york,
st johns & montreal,

               (the biggest part of history, what cant
                     be seen

                                    ) probably pushing
my family out too
& three generations of john that resulted
      (& then one,
                     w/ a brother john

   (tho different middle name)

                    like two teams of rough riders,

saskatchewan & ottawa,

                         a deplorable

             lack of inventiveness


                    just as the horizon isnt necessarily a safe goal,

pushing one to fall & let gravity spoil,
a constant theme
                       (when i skin my knee)

like photographs ive never seen or dont remember
that have me in them
           did you get those?

               (all that i need....


to see how explosively we have arrived
      & alterd our surroundings

                              calgary, nearly
one million souls, & ottawa,
already there
   as saskatchewan

                ) finding old equipment in a field,
& wondering what it was for

the internet stretching like dog years,
expanse of seven pusht into one

   some of us still write letters & poems by hand,
   enjoy the thickness
          of unprocesst milk, or popcorn
   a pot on the stove

/arranging our days out by latitudes,
& the shape of the wind


               bringing me ever closer to my own inner truth,

the new yorker up to 62 feats, in the guiness
book of world records

   including a pogo stick hop for a mile

aware of mans versatility & potential,

                               awakening something,
& new kind of impetus for events

                       how quickly a building
can rise up or fall
                            bank street, ottawa
   since ive been here, evolving
& shifting


as well on the home front,
                dad sells the quota, cows
      & wonders what to do now
& otherwise factors)

,the stability of homestead

                              (not out of nowhere,
but sudden, not even
fifty nine years)
                      & afraid
for what might happen next,

            that quality of the unknown


          what leonard cohen used to claim,
                          returning to montreal
to keep up neurotic afflictions, & mine too,
a familial base,
                     his sister
   long still in their westmount home

                          & what might happen to mine,
the two of us wanderd off,
& wondering

               or what i saw
of my grandmothers A frame
                    after she died, me
   barely a teen, the house

the hired man & brood became

/where my father arrived, a touchstone


         how much of any path do we keep clear,
snow falling behind
& covering tracks
we see weve lost it, the trail


& frighteningly close to nightmare, blair witch
   or hitchcock walking thru the poem

w/ dogs
           (tell me when you notice)

(i expected more darkness)


& what now in clearing, occurs

           email my parents have but never return,

& phone a twisted phobia i wont get into
                        (havent the space)

                    /the kind of forever that cant be quantified

sundays child is full of grace
but spills out days all over the place