Five Poems

Kyle McCord

dead fish poem.jpg

[Stick around a while, and I’ll school you in the art]


Stick around a while, and I’ll school you
in the art of reckless spillage. 
In time you will learn to call me master
but for now Mt. Insanity will do. 
Take this bouquet of chardonnay
forming a hideous Pollock on the linoleum,
the Rothko of the cat’s passing. 
If there’s anything you’d like to say
to Mitten’s final ideas on form,
don’t omit his career as a domestic slave. 
We installed these rugs together. 
I once spoke so boldly to him of physicalism
like the brazenly-dyed hair of democracy.
This was during my uranium period. 
Ahead, the wallowing hippo stains
on the t-shirt
of my annual high school haymaker. 
My friends and I were expertly removed
by the school’s Vigilante Justice Club. 
There were cats on the catwalk.
The dead leaching snow. 
This was the '80s
and several unsundry metal bands
referred to me as Dead Fish Beach. 
But my feelings aren’t a toy.
They’re the continuous striking
of one piston on another
as we collide on the highway
with who we really are.       


[You dream the scrawniest dream ever examined]


You dream the scrawniest dream ever examined
and now it follows you everywhere. 
Passersby have compared it
to a looming dental exam, 
but smaller than the cannon balls
on a ship in a bottle
in a snow globe. 
The boat’s christened The Sandman,
but when has any schooner
nodded off at the helm?
Well, I’m not here to speculate on the id
like some game show prop
retired for bad behavior.
I’m here to purchase
the finest bondage gear you sell.
This skeleton facemask
would make a poor gift
for the wife of a reformed grave robber. 
This painting of a war
where men lie dead
with pigeon-shaped pebbles
in their open hands
is what your dream wants to communicate
to the violence of me. 
He grasps the canvas by its protons. 
If his purpose
is to utilize my extensive knowledge
of the Falkland Island War for good,
then this parasol
will be of only marginal benefit,
those ships softening in the bay, 
my winning poker hand of five surly mallards, 
this paper plane bewitched
by a penny-sized sorceress
of marriageable age.     


[This morning the big, slutty ocean]


This morning the big, slutty ocean
puts the spurs to the shoreline,
and I am one happy exclamation.
Happy as the flag-colored dog
trotting divots of crab real-estate. 
Happy as the double-helix
who for all its universal propagation
only today received its high school yearbook.
When you crawl into a conch shell or cave
and discover row upon row of radishes
seeded by an unknown spirit,
this is called a gourd world. 
Like say you’re cleaning
some mysterious cake stains
off the ceiling
and unplaster a wallboard
with a tiny gymnast gnoshing
on a pretzel rendition
of the U.S.S. Constitution.
You can see now
the kind of problems I have.
What others call inner-peace,
I call losing Guatemalan coinage
to this overly-suggestive seacape.           
When at-risk youth pull my fire alarm
it can take hours for fire teams
to safely remove me
from this single-celled tapas bar.


[Ten out of ten doctors agree I am not a doctor]


Ten out of ten doctors agree
I am not a doctor
but that doesn’t mean
we can’t have nice things.
This barrel of pork rinds,
these maypoles deluged
by the racing dogs
who’ve enlisted them as launch pads. 
It’s my house, and I’ll perform
whatever operation seems appropriately seasonal.
Happy Halloween, removal of vestigial tail.
Once I came home to you
with your cheeks stuffed with muffins,
the wind like the whipping boy of a former life. 
Now we approach our days like people paid
to watch children’s programming
for sexual innuendo. 
My patients talk about living
every day like it’s their last. 
Later they hold an international debate
over which candy bar to purchase
from the vending machine.
I let them write a line to add here
which could be hummed
to the eclectic stylings
of the apocalypse.


[I didn’t come here to make friends]


I didn’t come here to make friends,
I came to astonish you
with this oversized African parrot.
Specially trained parrots
detect cancer by smell
meaning what fiend laced
these pralines with cancer?
Or lightly misted cancer in your beehive
after the Jeff Goldblum marathon?
Prepare to be disappointed
by Sr. Nutmeg swooping in
like the Rockies intruding
through the sun-stained window.
In the scene where Jeff Goldblum
stands over his own
cannibal-eaten doppelganger
and says in his most machismo voice,
you’ve only grown more lovely
in our time apart,
I always shed a tear for evil
doubles around the world.
No one talks to them at the office. 
What motherly arms extend
to scold them? 
Pry those talons
out of your scalp,
and I’ll affirm you
within an inch of your life.
The kitchen has done you
some great wrong.
We’re infected
with the pathogen
called Unbridled Hope.
Our demise is all but certain.

Kyle Poetry.jpg

Kyle McCord is the author of five books of poetry including National Poetry Series Finalist, Magpies in the Valley of Oleanders (Trio House Press 2016). He has work featured or forthcoming in AGNI, Blackbird, Boston ReviewThe Gettysburg Review, The Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. He has received grants or awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Baltic Writing Residency. He has an M.F.A. from University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas. He served as associate poetry editor of The Nation and is currently Co-Executive Editor of Gold Wake Press. He is married to the visual artist Lydia McCord. He teaches in Des Moines, Iowa.