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Dolphins, the Scientists are Discussing Your Enormous Brains

They break out champagne in the break room, in the lab, in the streets
they are talking you up at all the parties. 

But, I’ve never seen you
in the library after hours when I am shuffling through the awful cement maze,

never witnessed a dolphin tending the wounded at an accident.
Bring me the one you call, Dr. Dolphin. 

Outside my childhood home was a decrepit barn
where the floor rotted in and all our rain corralled there. 

In the grotto, you could see yourself, the barn
all upside down, broken in. 

This is my world to you—
vandalized, nails jutting one odd direction or another? 

A child points to the horizon where one of your kind clears a fiery ring 
while Johnny Cash plays his best despite being entombed in a small town in Tennessee.

At the great conferences of the world, the scientists have forgotten themselves
in furious debate over your frontal cortex. 

They worry you will come to worship data as we do
while your beak’s stuck in some plastic bottling.

Meaning, in the heat of love, we may forget to love. 
There are reasons to fear what is tender.


Epistle Written in the Shadow of a Metal-Mache Horse

The poems discolored my life also, Frank.  Honest.  And now
these friends, this scrap iron horse is all I have to show. 
I’m proud, Frank.  Tired, Frank.  My father’s house is a frame
whose functions I hear but can’t accurately interpret. 
Sarah dated a skinny goat by your same name then broke his heart—
banging a fifty-year-old plumber while he
passed out on a pile of coats.  He was one of the good ones, Frank
so buy him a scotch at the next convention. 
Sarah was beautiful in a way that’s hard to forget
which was all I asked for for my birthday and got it
buried myself in another woman in Maine.  Then the poems
dissipated all that into an afternoon of dusks, and it was 2007.
I had tape on my fingers and glue in my hair.  Mangled innards
of a shoe.  Many hopeful impressions of you.  Let’s go back
to your image of a mesa and your unwritten novel of Sancho Panza’s
exploration of the Mexican West.  Why did you bring me here?
Sancho asks.  To have a heart is to risk it.  To forge ahead, to live alone. 
To go up as fire you must be frightfully burdened
and more human than anything.


Poem for My Thirty-Seven Mistresses

Poor, dirty, and wretched, living in a city full of crumbling ceilings
is no way to spend your early twenties. 
I’m prepared to test an ordinary existence.  To grow basil or sage. 
To cultivate hobbies into age the way a sailor might carry
a compass even after it shatters.  You arrived at this earlier.
Brewed sweet tea, baked biscuits while I shaved my head
in pursuit of black-haired dervishes.  Lean, angular women fit for wit
and worship, not Sunday afternoon at the store
and so I spent it by myself writing bizarre fanfiction where Pikachu suffers from pica
and the whole crew learns a valuable lesson about the dangers of ingesting
                                                                                                       paint chips.
I keep my soap in a bag, my books in boxes; hide in the bathroom
and run water just to blot out my thoughts.  Skin stained
from washing, a halo of epidermal products above, and I conceived all I wanted
was Illinois.  Like my cousins who marry young
separate old and behind the high school the wind blows
new women into town.  But, Robert, I’m a fool
for the stars who go down.  My pillow’s a face
I don’t remember.  You’re looking at the last Soviet superman
eating a bowl of granola.  


Kyle McCord is the author of two books of poetry.  His first, Galley of the Beloved in Torment, was the winner of the 2008 Orphic Prize.  His second is a co-written book of epistolary poems titled Informal Invitations to a Traveler forthcoming from Gold Wake Press.  He has work forthcoming or featured in Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Journal, Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, Volt,and elsewhere.  Currently, he reviews for The Kenyon Review and Pleiades.  He lives in Des Moines, where he teaches and co-coordinates the Younger American Poets Reading Series and edits iO Poetry.