TENDER: for Paul Squires (in memorium)

“I miss you and I wanted to write / you a letter to tell you I miss you / but there is no silence / like hello unanswered”

Paul Squires from: “A Small Boy Holding Flowers


What is paid?
What is offered?
How is that spot
when pushed?
What are we looking after?

Via Clivio

the tile lined roof on the last villa

of the petty nobles of this town

sags like the jaw line of a matron.

her voice sings out

a spinster’s peevish tweet:



(distant falling daughter of whatever local saint

though aren’t we all?)

shames her poor dog.

he of:

nothing to do but go mad with barking;

jamesian psycosis

closed shutters

infinite empty rooms.

Series I : Polyvalence : context is everything

Series I : polyvalence* : context is everything


Burial at Sea



Speaking Truth toPower/The Admonitions Scroll




Morning Shift




*pol·y·va·lent (pŏl’ē-vā’lənt)

  1. Acting against or interacting with more than one kind of antigen, antibody, toxin, or microorganism.
  2. Chemistry
    1. Having more than one valence.
    2. Having a valence of 3 or higher.

3. (fig.) having many different functions, forms, or facets.

Seated Nude Speaks Up

Now is the time

I play the game

of let’s pretend

that you’re all here

to draw my face.

At this moment,

before beginning,

I still have hope that you all

will not

randomly cut off

my head.

my hands.

my feet.

Do you mean to perform

these amputations or

is it fear and lack of skill

that leave my multi-copied, uni-facet self


unable to grasp a fork;

helpless to walk away

or even cast an angry,

or tired,

or curious glance

back at you.


all diligent charcoal and eraser

perfecting the sine curve

from my armpit

to my breast

as if

it could


my breath.

Atlanta and the Golden Apples

And now for something fun…a story. For anyone who’s interested in the non-poetic version check Bullfinche’s Mythology, there’s also a brief bit in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Meanwhile read on and enjoy the race:


Atlanta and the Golden Apples

Since Meleager killed his uncles (both)
For the sake of your pretty face,
You’ve set aside your silver bow
And traded hunting for the race.
The man who wants you to wive
He must take up the chase.
But what prize to win?
your pretty head, your blushing hide
the land, the cash, the pride
that will dower you.
Ah! but if his grasp this fleet maiden miss?
No blushing bride he’ll own
but pay his debt to Dis.
If only they had the sense to leave well enough alone…
you never wanted this.

Still they’ve come –
stand pawing at the starting line like Phoebus’ horses
primed to haul the weight of day across dawn’s broken rim.
You flash a pitying glance at them
then gird your softer self with iron will
to win –
“What idiots,” you think
“would gamble death for lust?

You set aside your cloak and stand;
slender virgin, lilly pale, in your running dress
fringe grazing your thigh
as you play teasing rabbit
to their panting hounds
but rabbit is swifter than breath
and dogs will die.

Will you stay to watch the executions
By your father duly meted out?
No, you’ve seen enough of death,
The Boar, Meleager and his kin, and now these fools
Who traded life for the chance
To own your glowing skin.

But who is this?  Striding willow light and straight
Across the field like Eros unwinged;
face as gentle, fair, and blue eyes just as bright.
It’s Hippomenes! the boy who, standing at the finish,
Called your foot first across the line.
Now, enchanted by your fluid grace,
He’s come to offer challenge
You see it in his face though he’s still six steps away.
You want desperately to press your soft fingers to his sweet lips, saying:
“Hippomenes – No! My thigh, my breast,
my blushing cheek – no part of me
can be worth this!”

But it’s too late,
The words escape, he taunts:
“What, no trouble for you to outrun
that rack of tortoises?  All clatter and no meat!
I think that I could win you running, as I can,
like Zephyr’s sigh and twice as fleet!”
“Proud as a lion,” you think, admiring.
Still the oracles warning like a tocsin clangs:
“Atlanta, do not marry; it will be your ruin…
and his.”
and so you say:
“I’m ready when you are – Tortoise!”
shaking your head, wondering which pazzo god
has willed this youth to death.

Is he speaking to this god now, eyes up, head tilted
and what is that in his hands?
But now they’ve called the start
And you are running hard out…
but still, he’s managed, somehow
to     catch
What’s this he’s flung aside?
glowing golden in the grass –
an apple like a jewel of heaven?
but wait! Now he’s far ahead
and you must panting run to  nip
his heel’s again!
From the laggard’s place you see
his legs are strong,
now closer,
the golden curl against his neck…
his foot strikes the ground
no firmer than a feather.
He flies but you fly faster!
quick, quick!  he casts again –
what now! does he have another?
Your foot falters in consternation and
in fear:
What god’s game is this,
played with magic fruit?
Who is meant to win?
Who is meant to lose?

Ach! Damn, he’s ahead again!
You run,
you run,
you see that he’s begun to lose his wind!
The goal is near; you register the terror on his face
The prayer in his eyes though he’s looking through you,
past – at something else…
his arm
his hand
he drops the final golden treasure
at your feet.
You stop dead
in shock
and then it’s done
in that one
brief intake of breath
he’s beaten death,
and won
the race.
With it comes your hand,
and, unknown to him, your unlucky fate.

But you’re not thinking of that now.
You’re thinking that he’s beautiful;
Strong and slender, perhaps a hands breadth
Taller than you – perhaps, he will make a fine husband?
Together, a matched pair
both swifter and lighter
than air.
Sweaty, your muscles stiff, you hold the unnatural apples in your hands;
gamely hoping they are a blessing…
Hippomenes comes to kiss his prize;
You are tired, his arms are warm.
As you lay your cheek against his own
you hear, for the first time,
the roar of the crowd – they sound
like lions…

poem copyright Bonnie McClellan 2006 first publication in CC Writer 
magazine. Fall 2006.

The Geologists’ Sacrament: The first to become a mineral wins


I would I were a wingéd thing
And these white stones not bruised my feet.
From half sky’s arc this groundscape see;
Like girasoleil and moth at once.
Face then Gomorrah’s candled sun,
And false to God like Mrs. Lot
Turn arbre-form in Halite caught;
Qualcosa utile, quotidienne.
Ground down and lightly sown across
Unrisen flower and fragrant oil;
Then in the mouth of Adam lost
Mineral dust to dust returned.

poem copyright Bonnie McClellan 2009

“The eye comes always ancient to its work, obsessed by its own past and by old and new insinuations of the ear, nose, tongue, fingers, heart, and brain. It functions not as an instrument self-powered and alone, but as a dutiful memeber of a complex and capricious organism.”

– Nelson Goodman from “Languages of Art

This poem is one in a series that I am currently writing that takes it’s inspiration from the rhythms and subject matter of sacred texts varied and sundry. It is also the fruit of my continuing struggle as a poet to reconcile the three languages that jostle for position in my work as I am searching for exactly the right word. This particular piece is inspired by the rhythm of the Latin Hymn “O SALUTARIAS HOSTIA”. The content inspired by conversations had with the Artist, Matthew Broussard and the film director, Michangelo Frammartino about Pythagoras’ four states of being: Human, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. The concept of the observed walk as a transformative experience  is also inspired in part by the work of sculptor Richard Long.

MONTE ROSA or The Picturesque and the Sublime

hayfield in Lombardia with Monte Rosa in the Background made invisible by sunlight.

Paint everything which is not
only sky only
the tranquil green of a hayfield
tumbling towards a horizion
of what it’s missing.

It is this void, superimposed upon the mountain
which instructs the heart:
There is the possibility of absence.

Bonnie M. McClellan

Monte Rosa

I have lived in Italy for three years now and it never stops being beautiful. The concept of a quotidian and yet extrodinarily beautiful vision continues to fascinate me as did the daily magic of the sky when I lived in Texas.

I wrote this poem parked in the parkinglot of the cemetery of the town of Orino, Italy. The cemetery is along the local road that I drive down on the way to and from my daughter’s daycare in Castello Cabiaglio. I encounter a vision twice a day on this drive: Monte Rosa. The mountain is the wallpaper of my everyday life. Despite the ubiquity of this beauty, I feel an ache in my chest that has the emotional resonance of loss everytime I round the curve in the road that brings the moutain into sight. I’m still working my brain around living with something so beautiful that it hurts to look at.

Listen to the podcast here.

When something extrodinary becomes part of your ordinary.
When something extrodinary becomes part of your ordinary.
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