Robert Mclean

New Zealand

Robert McLean - Poems published in Glottis, Catalyst, PNZ, Jaam, Bravado, Spin, Poetry Aeotearoa; online at Trout, Bathysperic Review, BMP, Pemmican Press, Cordite.  Email me at       


Bid heaven stoop, Lord, and come down to earth:
greywacke and adobe. Adieu à Dieu!
Jets streak Yves Klein's International Blue 
with vapour trails. A perspective on birth

is what I imagine from this altitude,
on this kaleidoscopic monochrome
my parents decided to make my home
for the last thirty years. This is a rude

awakening: Presbyterians fought
with Baptists for my soul. Diazepam
and a 747: it seems tame
by comparison, but a sunset ought

to put things in place - but your fingerprints
are everywhere in what has happened since.  


Locust (or perhaps cricket) chirps -
not quite melody, meaningless
in fact: fortissimo, it hurts
our ears - it hurts, demeaning us

and our neighbours alike, liquor
our blood - Ecce Homo, low-cost
crucifix or icon. Don't stick your
nose into another's holocaust:

volleys of birdsong ricochet
down Manchester Street, as cars trawl
curb-side for prostitutes. A stray
slug embeds itself in my skull.

It quivers. I'm a nervous wreck,
the insects are all fictional.
I see a Commodore select
its teenaged prey with untrained skill.

Within the embrace of a poem,
goose-bumps dimple pubescent flesh.
Within the confines of a car,
a special someone fulfils my wish  

as the street sweeps itself aside.
This was denied by Mallarmé -
now there is nowhere she can hide.
We sleep secure till yesterday.       


As Leinster Road exhales exhaust
in unison, a brief respite
from uncharitable weather,
we brace each other for the worst,
for what seems the worst - overnight
stays in Christchurch Women's, where her

low blood pressure can be improved,
the babies' heartbeats monitored.
The heavens open. Toxaemia
reduces us to tears. We have loved
and will love no more than this. No more
now seems beyond the pale. We are    

in a private courtyard. The rain
rekindles soppiness and much
more besides - if I am erect,
and no doubt I am, I contain
myself within myself and touch
her in the way I would expect

she'd feel to be appropriate. 
Guttural spurts of thunder shake
us in the wake of lightening. Her womb
contracts. Neither early nor late,
now's the time. Now's the time to take
someone with whom I've made a home

to a disinfected hospital.
With time to spare, my Celepram
puts my mind at ease. If the twins
are fine, then so are we. It's all
we care about. The cot and pram
are safe at home. Then the room spins.    


You and I took
a chance on it,
hoped it would work
ok despite

our patent lack
of expertise -
so when it broke, 
we weren't surprised:

the thing itself,
left undisturbed,
sat on your self
until some verb

or an other
effected change
on it: anger  
had rearranged

its parts into
a chaotic
albeit new
pattern. You stuck

the pieces back
together, but 
you couldn't make
them fit - no doubt

no fault of your
own, but the thing
was now a poor
copy, looking

nothing like its
unbroken self.
And now it sits
back on your self,

reminding you
that a raised fist
is nothing new.
And you insist

that our thing has
become what is -
but what'd been was
nothing like this.


The mechanical purr
of a wheelchair,
an electric motor
enabling her

to get from A to B,
reminds me of
Iron-side of TV
fame. I had loved

the crippled detective's
as a child: people's lives
somehow passed him

by in a flash. I walk
beside her wheels.
Uncomfortably, we talk
of how it feels

to be different. A lot's
changed. Even so,
she still can't tell me what
I need to know.


As abstract nouns become concrete
when experienced as discrete
bodily sensations, as we create

our own reality, as pulse-rates
register distress, as our thoughts     
manifest in physical states;

as, in the darkness, a fern-frond
unfurls in the moist shadow-ground
of the forest-floor, where we're found

half-naked squatting in the bush,
faces screwed-up with every push,
our guts wrung dry into a ditch;

as I, in our each and every dark,
take-up a stick and make my mark.


My body does
not burn for you.
It is cold - yet
warmth, a soft-blue

heat that burns clean
as virgin coal,
shimmers beneath
your skin. My role

in all this is
physical. I
attend to you,
maintain the fire

that heats me through,
your flames fuelled with
brittle branches,
combustible filth

and newspaper -
the part I play
is to feed your
public display

of affection.
Now, my frosted
breath pluming,
our room ghosted

and half-empty,
but for the hearth
and you and I,
your tinder-heart

offers its heat -
winter returned.
The chill in me
required you burn,

as, sitting here
warmed by the glow
of your embers,
I melt like snow.     


Look at me - LOOK AT ME! I'm dressed to kill
all that which falls within my circumference.
Without knowing, I exist purely by chance.
And the precise measurements of my circle

escape me. Deciduous fidelities
flutter down from my limbs. I watch them curl
and crinkle in unconscionable heat, still
and unmoved. Even when last winter's freeze

upset my equilibrium, as plants
died while people flourished, as disease
spread, as thermometers registered degrees
of pain, I stood firm. And if heaven grants

you anything, it is to be as we
have been. I understand you like a tree.


My Grandpa was an Engineer:
a builder of bridges and tunnels,
a freemason and a family-man,
a man for whom his work was done
without complaint for someone else.
Days into months, months into years,

he revelled in his honest toil
long after his children had left
home, but soon after his wife died
he found it difficult to hide  
his lack of interest. His wife's deft
hand in the kitchen (she would spoil

him when he stumbled home from work
pissed after 6, yet still polite
enough to ask) served every whim
and want. It had been left to him
to feed himself. He spent his nights
in the kitchen. Walks in the park,

odd visits to the RSA:
aside from that, he'd no idea
of what he should do with himself.
Retirement and worsening health
went hand in hand. An Engineer
without a job - one more today

must have seemed like one more too many.
He ran himself a tepid bath
and stayed in the Coromandel.
2 weeks passed before my uncle
found the body. He looked like death.
  Hugh Fletcher had sold his company.  


If charity does not extend
to all, (a helping hand without
is a 'hand-up not a hand-out')
circumstance moves towards an end

in which we have been implicated
by default: even so, graffiti,  
political or otherwise, I
now consider to be outdated

if compared to the Locust songs
which once amazed the startled flocks
at ease with ancient paradox
that foreign policy prolongs

at the adulterous expense
of less sceptical seraphim.
Effete behind an electric fence,
he parades his stock. I see him

electronically, dividing sheep
deftly from our martyred goats,
dragging the horned ones by their throats,
piling carcasses in a heap.

A spray-can emits noxious fumes,
squirting slogans onto the walls
that stand upright in urban sprawls:
sequestered in our living rooms

safe from harms way, every city
can seem the same. Dividing south
from north, the Beast opens his mouth
and spits-out one word: CHARITY


I think of you and Egon Schiele
transferring into the library
of puppetry -
I wonder where you are

now. I'm just helping a friend
the disbelief of technocrats 
on invisible wires
and video (that's
his job!). As dishevelled choirs

of catholic schoolboys carry from
the room
next-door, the Pieta which I
noticed on the way in
insists on my
attention. Without sin

and Joseph, Mary holds her son
for one
last time. Lurid yellow and blue
slivers of glass capture 
the scene. And you
know what comes next. If your

love of calligraphy and Der Brüke
could break
a man's heart or this windowpane,
I suspect you'd never 
repair your pain
with art. Not now. Not ever.

Jason's slipped a disc in his back.
I pack
Punch and Judy into my car, 
still thinking about our
friend Christ: you are
both too close and yet too far.


As black-shirts storm the steps of parliament
(elders poorly dressed in expensive suits
linked arm-in-arm with muscular recruits)
disenfranchised as sheep for goats, we vent

spleen to exercise good will: heaven-sent
or stuffed with newspaper, elected brutes
forthrightly geld the godly mob as hoots
of glee and jeers of joy thrill the innocent.
My pharmacist's calendar indicates
Christmas is round the corner. In Texas
absolutely everyone will celebrate

the birthday of Christ. In Palestine, as
England shivers, his season came too late. 
In New Zealand we celebrate Christmas.