Kyle McCord

[When a man loves a woman, he sits her down…]

When a man loves a woman,
he sits her down and grasps her hand
in the manner one might hold a seashell.
Darling, he says, I confess
I’ve felt my whole life
like a serpent among babies
in a barren waste of human excrement.
To which the beloved shall nod.
To which the studio audience
shall be instructed to brutishly shout.
To which a mighty army of the dead
shall be conjured to skull mountain.
And distantly a black wave
clacks its tongue against a sea cave.
No, no, the painter thinks
and reaches into his wicker basket.
He paints a crib at the crest of the wave,
a crib at the trough.
A throng of babies
will overtake this beach, he thinks,
but at least I’ll die beautiful.
The woman re-enters the portrait
to find her lover lost in thought.
Darling, says the woman,
bending to her knees,
I confess for as long as I’ve known you,
I’ve been a pine
chopped down
and loaded onto a truck
for a Christmas extravaganza.
When I breathe, I can feel tinsel
flooding my lungs.
When you prune me,
I can make out the voices of carolers
fleeing the fjord.
And they fall into each other
like clumsy ghosts—
the man shimmying his rattle,
the woman dropping her cones.


Kyle McCord is the author of three books of poetry, including Sympathy from the Devil from Gold Wake Press. He has work featured in Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He’s the co-founder of LitBridge and co-edits iO: A Journal of New American Poetry. He teaches at the University of North Texas.