Kyle McCord



My father wanted golden lions
the size of Pomeranians 

to guard the house and he found them
on a daytrip to the Ozarks— 

a roadside stand down the path
from a collapsed plantation 

where manure carried through the wind-
break’s teeth through a picturesque

graveyard littered with dolls:
row upon row of bronzed bobcats 

chipmunks   elephants   whose trunks
thick as a child’s lisp beckoned

the lot reeked of cow dung
but what a marvel:

a mile of lions
lounged in uneasy array—

imagine the hours shaping pewter chipping
out eyes sanding tails round

as worn biceps wouldn’t you think
someone would have stopped him

a son a wife but they lined the
acre with monuments to obsession

and soon Sunday afternoons meant
for baling roasted in the kiln’s fire—

the son watching Salem’s Lot
on the old couch curled into himself

remained that way until morning—
he helped us hitch the two lions

to the Aerostar’s roof and as the sun
measured shadows on the lot we surveyed

legions of antelope clustered
in a rain ditch the Lord’s hand

obsessively and viciously
blessing the grass




Envisioning My Grandfather in the Shadow of Hopper’s Lighthouse

After Lighthouse Hill, 1927


It’s an old voice coming back
the footpath parched to rot
by winter’s late puberty 

the voice of the town pastor
my grandfather
his cologne is the cling 

of pipe tobacco
he is carrying a basket of reels
he’s found more cheap gold rings 

to imprint on a child’s wrist
on a lippy woman’s face—
my mother more than once—

the fever dream of afternoon
breaks into cinnamon
across the gulch of Russian sage

in the museum where drafts
are mutters below the breath
(think of the onlookers at Woolworth’s

when she paused too long
at the makeup counter)
I imagine him wheeling around

that impossible clime
I watch the reels teeter between
digits of a hand which pats

the Testament tucked in a shirt pocket
maybe he’s come to be forgiven
his solitude which kept him

distant as subject from audience
whatever pain he carried
back from the Pacific like a trophy

wait here while I work my way among the Rodins
upstairs the statuary fills with families
the blasphemy of their bodies

isn’t the pain they hold
but what they conceal—
massacres and patricides

no stone skin can show
I turn the corner and here he is too
with a dark-haired boy frightened

and frantic for a bathroom
my grandfather stares down at him
as he journeys to the edge of perspective

with a familiar malice
with the boy’s hand trembling in his
though I imagine he’d rather without


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 in AGNI, Blackbird, Boston Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and elsewhere.  He is married to the visual artist Lydia McCord.