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.

Author’s Bio

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