Two Poems by Christine McNair and rob mclennan


flash backward


Red ochre cracked. Leaf after leaf as big as my head. Yellows reds oranges pinks browns. Underfoot, they murmur. I step on them to hear the crackle. Smoke pervades, woodsmoke, leafsmoke, barbeque smoke. The lights carry dried leaves in the shade, pressed botanicals. I confer leaves with my brother for the thanksgiving table, centerpiece. The smell of turkey and stuffing. Cranberry stains along my dress.


My cousin Elisabeth in the woods behind the house, her hair to her hips, or I thought it was. Brushing her hair, sitting on a rock, I hover, worshipfully. She statues, mermaid, siren of the trees, long brown curls and long limbs. Her brothers and my brothers break-up our forest hutch. I turn furious and swear at them, a world too old for my mouth. They gape. First sense of fiery. Righteous indignantion. Sword weighed.


A paddleboat in the lake, knees kick thwap thwap thwap thwap.

Or straddling the windsurfing board. Conscious of my thighs. 10. Love the heft of the bar on the sail. Leaning into the curve, cutting across the lake.


The uneven move of the deck, the dock that is, wobble back. The small craft hooked to the side. The tiny fishes in grey water. The fishes. The weeds we’d swim away from. The tickle of the fishes. Long ago, my waterwings. Puffy brave upper arms. Popeyed.


My mother’s dramatic bob, her lips.


Hiding in piles of leaves and the slow woody smell. Crunch grey smell of dead cellulose. Dead.


Watching raccoons cross the road, lolling curved walks, bouncing, large. Little masks and eyes.


Fondue and crackling hot oil. And raclette, the importance of not saying ‘raclett’e as it aggravated my brother. The importance of saying ‘raclette’.


Crying at the water park. The drops in the river too fast for me, on the tube. The monstrous wave pool. Chlorine on my tongue.


The sky opening up, family beneath, walking walking over the lawn, white sheets of something fluttering and crinkling, growing across the black sky, obscuring the sky, fanning out. Moving, unknown, fright, beauty. Unknown. Northern Lights? Unknown.


Giant bubbles lazing up into clouds.


Driving to Ste Adele with Sue. Teaching myself to knit with Zellers pink brown rainbow wool, metal needles, purple. Sue trying to learn stick. Stopping in Quebec City and posing near a statue, something to do with the arts. The move and shuffle of cars. Humms.

The hammock with Sue. The hammock falls. The tree falls. There’s no more hammock.


My rock, in the forest but view of house and most of the lawn. Hang back behind dripping evergreens, low lying. Rock moves. Rock watches the grass. Rock watches the sprinklers.

The lawn long and yellow, burnt at the ridge. The lawn long and green, sprinkler infested. Perfect quarter inch blades. There’s a guy.


Satellite swans. I have no TV at home. Yet.

I cloister. I haven. Weep.

Sleep in the basement, under earth, cold.

I cloister.


Naked and the yawling gaping moon, monstrous silver disk. Stars. And more stars.

The wind rushes through leaves. They bustle.

The bed was rich of metal, sleep

Put my fingers in my eyes to stop them thinking.

Can’t ever keep up with our timelines. They confuse me.

Time gets eaten. I make no sense. We make no sense.

Frantic and calm. My feet weld to the wobble dock you haven’t seen yet.

I wait out the winter with you here in our castle.

My eyes grow old. Lush sudden suspicions. Oh my lovely.

Sacramental deep dish apple pie. Blue ribbon hearts.

Holy footfalls.

About the Authors:

Christine McNair’s first collection of poems Conflict was published by BookThug in 2012. The manuscript, and then subsequent book was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, the Archibald Lampman Poetry Award, the Ottawa Book Awards, and the Re/Lit award. Her poetry chapbook Pleasantries and Other Misdemeanours (Apt9, 2013) was shortlisted for the bpNichol chapbook award. Her chapbook notes from a cartywheel was published by Angel House Press in 2011. She works as a book doctor in Ottawa and blogs at

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014), The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (, Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( 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