Four poems for Peter Van Toorn
Famously abrasive, O, old rumpled legend, this
retired poet, contained and stationed past the Seigneury of Rigaud,
in Valois, a village within the village
of Pointe-Claire where, as they say, nothing
ever happens. Baudelaire on the hill, the mountain tea
of cylindrical stone windmills , the limestone quarry
below the Beaconsfield Golf Course.
Within his smoke-glazed kitchen walls; tobacco-stained,
the sharp abrasions
of his voice a thing you can still hear
for kilometres, years. Or the underbody of cars.
Hail Mary, encased in stone, bound up
in stark, depleted pages; no one singing Mass. The wind at his back,
into his throat, or where the soul lay. Roll-your-own, his burnished
fingertips might parse out scrapbook lines, to carve
your breath away. His, a storm that never fully
lost its teeth in the ethical mud. Chaotic fall,
such divinity he understood, as deep and thick
as Vermeer: introducing light and heavy dark into
this cultured monochrome, this landscape
of Quebecoise snow,
: long-loined and sublunary curved.
This peerage of wind, where
there’s hardly air. He’d smoked it out. Of fire, water, earth;
of stone. A body of poems homespun, forged
in iron, clay, half-whispered prayer. Of steel. Combustion,
, this tempest fit for striking, swinging. Through gravel scratch,
he plucked flame from the matchbook flash,
his one true, lyric offering.
O, this damned climate of cardboard, lumber lads
who sweat and know not why; of measured, rakish swings
and corresponding slaps, he sang
until his voice broke. Steerage, grisly, threadbare
bees and sterling chorus. What you take from this shaved
and single stone , steeped fresh,
this life-long book. An orbit of clouds, determined countenance
of cannabis fog. Wrung out, seismic, sudden. Where
and when the wind wins, finally. Where it marked the smell,
and coaxed it into morning.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019), Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) and the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022). In spring 2020, he won ‘best pandemic beard’ from Coach House Books via Twitter, of which he is extremely proud (and mentions constantly). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com.