Trio House Press
Publishing distinct voices in American poetry

Magpies in the Valley of Oleanders by Kyle McCord

2015 Open Reading Selection
Kyle McCord is the author of five books of poetry including You Are Indeed an Elk, But This is Not the Forest You Were Born to Graze (Gold Wake, 2015), and Gentle, World, Gentler, from Ampersand Books. His work has been featured in AGNI, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. Kyle has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Baltic Writing Residency. The founding editor of American Microreviews and Interviews, he recently completed his Ph.D. at University of North Texas, now lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and teaches at Drake University.

Dürer in the Valley of Oleanders


            After Arco, 1495



One wastes time

                        loving anything


this much: the foliage             

                        won’t still,


shuttering and trading            



in the coronary earth.

                        The pigment


and sugar get it wrong, Agnes.

                        Like my language


in the Venetian’s mouth.

                        To translate                


tires me—oleanders to forks,

                        cliffs to decapitated


generals.  It’s the errors; always

                        the clumsy tool


in the clumsier hand.  I am

                        so much a man


before this makeshift easel.  Agnes,

                        on the outskirts


of Arco there is little to traffic.

                        Laughter of women,


one muscling a wheelbarrow,

                        others basketing


oranges: all indifferent as the cries    

                        of pelagic birds.


Don’t fear when I tell you I love

                        this monotony.


I’m coming home.  Because

                        what is this love


wasted on vineyards and watchtowers

                        haunted by owls? 


Down the Alps—a rumble

                        of horned deer. 


I swirl the pigment, add the tarred road.       

                        The deer grow louder. 


I feel mad with the rush of it.

                        A craftsman of hares.


Carver of blood-hungry steeds.

                        Do not name me a god.


 I am not.  I am those animals,

                        reckless and ragged.


Speak my name, and I will tear

                        this mountain to your will.