Welcome Back, Marc McKee!

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us in the past six months—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.
Today we bring you Marc McKee. We’ve already published two of Marc’s poetry collections, and we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve now got two more McKee collections in the works!

mckee_16The Author

Marc McKee is the author of the chapbook What Apocalypse?, winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM 2008 Chapbook Contest, and four full-length collections from Black Lawrence Press: Fuse (2011), Bewilderness (2014), Consolationeer (forthcoming, 2017), and Meta Meta Make-Belief (forthcoming, 2019). His work has appeared in several journals, among them Barn Owl Review, Boston Review, Cimarron Review, Conduit, Crazyhorse, DIAGRAM, Forklift, Ohio, LIT, and Pleiades. He teaches at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he lives with his wife, Camellia Cosgray, and their son, Harold.


Excerpt from Consolationeer

Every Day You Rebuild Your Wheelhouse
Suffering is useless.
All this time trying to convince a diamond
with a hammer, laboring to make
flowers peel from the air
right in front of the beloved other,
and you hear a fire hatch behind you
and go to work on your figures.
Just try explaining that,
even to your friends.  We stand
on one side of the swollen intersection,
in the heat, asking How many shopping carts
must I cradle and carry back to you?
It’s an old question, but suffering
is useless, it’s the smoke pouring out
of the burning church that makes it
so hard to save the singing children,
it’s the cracked peach pit
at the center of the expensive cut of meat,
it’s useless, it’s useless
and we can’t smash it against the sidewalk,
we can’t make it run screaming.
Your sister curates every hook
she’s ever swallowed
and you can’t talk her out of it.
A subtraction moves through the night
independent of the way we touch it
with our speaking voice, with our hands
tiring our forearms tiring our respiratory systems.
In the middle of the dance you forget the dance
you’re dancing, in the middle of the stitch
the stitch breaks, the wind rakes
over the wound.  It takes everything
you can marshal to kiss at the grey fingers
morning pushes into the night.
Suffering is useless.  You make
a bowl of cereal, it tastes a little better
than you thought it would.  You think
of your father, maybe, or an empty day
whose cool was like licking a battery.
You think of someone else, who had never
spoken your name, and the way they touched you
on the shoulder, just once.
You are even where you aren’t:  viral
benevolence, cataclysm
in well-made shoes forging tap scars
on the Real’s deep carpet—I
open a book and it becomes
the doffed glisten of a top hat,
becomes a rabbitoid fury
startling patrons from preposterous drinks.
Look around:  What fallible machines
we pilot through furious swerves
and soft clearings as the clock clips
wing after wing.  We are bound
by failure, by tarnished lockets
and photographs torn and torn again—
On our trek through this tunnel
overgrown with spoons
licked into blunt spears, the intercessions
of various music are stars
luminously breathing
across strings of river.
Energy stays put and colossally
doesn’t.  You get to work on time.
Time can be anything.
Anything starts to matter.
The first step is such a wound
but there you variously are.
Even the iceberg looks like you
coming down from the stage
to gently embrace us.
Sequoias bolt from our hearts.
Silk roses flicker from our palms
where before there were none.
This I Believe
I believe that we become who we are
chasing who we want to become
second per second, I believe
a mastodon ransacking a dump truck
is a person in love and hungry, pawing at
their own shadow sloped into
by a number of other shadows.
Is some god extant
opposite the negative space we make
by making what we make matter
and perishable?  Or maybe just
monstrous silhouettes
thrown to the floor
past the dust specks dancing
like atomized 1/16 notes
in the skylight?  This is the part
where the certainty like movie glass
shatters into sugar rain,
I believe.  The piano gets played
and the people start crying
so we know they are people
who knot their overcoats as if over
broken ribs.  Who pop their collars
over scars.  I believe the more I tell you
the hospital shimmies from the showerhead
the more the pills stutter from the ceiling
like cracked rosary beads, the more
what I believe pulls in the wine-soaked sky
until almost we fall apart—I love you
but who are you. I but who am I believe
when I lay down this instrument,
my little little song sweating into rock,
whistling along the gutters
as I believe it must,
you smooth the hair on the wig,
maybe.  Even as the patient sleeps,
even if they will not wake.

Excerpt from Meta Meta Make-Belief

Bereavement Company (0):  At the Grief Recovery Academy
Here we indulge our full grief
and take notes, we gauge the flex of sorrow,
the way it lives in muscle, the way it licks
briar-tongued upside your softness, how
it makes of the lung a sandbag
barbed by an impossible lure.  We tabulate,
we make charts, there is lunch.
We skate in the afternoon
in the period of suspended weeping,
wrinkling awhile in the suggestive air.
Once you step through the turnstile
and achieve the metal detector,
you must answer to all you can carry
from the darkest rooms.
They ask you and ask you
like you swallowed a shovel
they are taking back, until nothing
belongs to you, until you ask yourself
in the practiced manner of an assassin
or nurse and even then
it’s only possible to tell
that where now there’s a stale taste
there was once a grief
preening like an awkward lily
that may any second blossom
into the head of a dragon.
This Will All End In Tarantulas, I Know It
and it can be hard to know anything else
though we try harder than that all the time
to make beliefs we insist secure us.
You could be standing in a thick, dark night
raked by hovering helicopters.
Their nervous searchlights trace the city blocks
in disappearing squares you think
for a second you are the center of.
You could blink it all away, blink it
all back.  “It” could be a phone
conversation that feels like a bear
pawing your prone form
while your insides go berserk
remembering inhaling margarita snowcones
against the giant shoulder
of Texas summer.  Such shadows, they
are forever in my mouth until I think
how shadows could be filled with spiders
until I further think how soft they would be
if they just remained motionless and now
I can’t stop shouting.  How far does your arm
reach?  Isn’t there something a little further
that you want?  You could be kneeling beside
the open mouth of a bomb bay, the falling teeth
nearly silent, dumb tumbling, baby acrobats.
I hope you aren’t.  What bright tarantulas
result, after all.  What gaudy parasols they throw
over each of their shoulders, tethered to you now
with a leash you’ll never let go.
Fan Mail 2: Nanny Time Approacheth
After the nuclear war, the only people left
will be ex-celebrities and out-of-work nannies
I expect, and my intuitive calculations
concerning nannies are never wrong, totally—
mildly errant would be a better way to describe
my intuitive calculations concerning nannies,
a gift I discovered after your turn as a nanny
who brokers a cessation of hostilities
in the Middle East—a farce with no superheroes
in it, in this day and age, oh my god—via
much toughness and falling down
and exaggerated accents and a fat, gold,
democratic heart. Or brain. It must be said,
I am less accurate when it comes to
ex-celebrities.  Sometimes at work I find
I am drawing a picture of your heart
only it looks like a fat brain, it’s gold
but it’s damned democratic and then
I am inventing new colors for it, gold
is not enough, oh my god. The Times found you
cloying, I find the Times a cinderblock
covered in moldy oatmeal and anyway
those of us who understand
the secret hardiness of true nannies
know better. Now: who writes your red carpet?
What will you say after the nuclear war?
When it happens I think everyone
should pretend it never happened—red carpet
will chase the horizon, and we will need
to say many meaningless things.
Sometimes you seem sweaty
and completely dry at the same time
and I feel that this will come in handy
as we begin to rebuild. You might say
that nuclear winter is where nannies
separate the wheat from the chaff, the nannies
from the baby-sitters. Life will grow
more competitive: fewer children, greater
tasks, the gathering of groceries
suddenly Herculean and violin lessons
an exercise in nerve-harsh
that would dismantle utterly
the most frozen-veined black operative.
You know, like the one you played
in your first comeback, the one
whose dismantlement by a random children’s
violin recital first made me feel
like all the missiles could launch
and still something would be, in the end
or after, okay. Or that we could act like it was
so convincingly, it almost
would be.