Marc McKee


Marc McKee is the author of What Apocalypse?, winner of the 2008 New Michigan Press / DIAGRAM Chapbook Contest, and Fuse (2011), Bewilderness (2014), Consolationeer (2017),  and Meta Meta Make-Belief (2019), all from Black Lawrence Press. His poetry appears widely in online and print journals such as American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, Conduit, Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, Forklift, Ohio, Los Angeles Review, Memorious, Sixth Finch, and others. He is the managing editor of the Missouri Review and lives in Columbia, Mo.


Who isn’t trying to put themselves back

together?  Who isn’t a cloud of particles

wounded and blue from the first explosion,


trying to explain themselves to butchers

or policemen in front of departing trains

or a spilled box of pasta elbows, a piece


of tape, trying while crying to keep from

crying?  The sky fails us, on Mondays

the restaurant is closed.  You’re a squeezed-out


tube of toothpaste or why aren’t you? 

Who is carbon-based with stars for ancestors

and still not disappointed?  Gods keep being


made, restless, demanding finer blades,

but what does any deity know?  They would

settle a dispute by opening the earth


like a dark jaw.  Who doesn’t prefer

a flying squirrel, a road flare, the dare

that hangs between the supple


and the threshing machine?  Anyone can know

how best to cross a field of poppies

and snakes around improbable curves


toward costly estates, but is such an anyone

on my contacts list?   Who leaps when called

always but still maintains a cavalier grip


on the thorned stalks of lovely flowers?

All this way is a half-step in a fuming tar parking lot,

drawn on by crippled mythologies except


is it?  There are those who can deny being 

a raveling of notes and rests

trying to decode allure, but can you honestly say


you’ve never been a Happy Meal flung

from the passenger window of a struggling

station wagon?  Even now you wonder


over the incendiary thirst

that drives the disquieting lope

through these punishing shades.  Probably.


You know who we are at least half as well

as we know you.  Who isn’t in a little in love

with even the worst of it?


Good night, stranger.

The welts risen in the abused sky

call out lacerations and rue, call out

and ungentle the shutters of the house—It’s alright. 

The ash does not yet enter your mouth,

the capering tide of razors remains an imaginary

biting into a far concentric

and only later will the end of one world or another

roll its player piano Braille

into the tips of your fingers.

You wake before a delicious perishable,

a boulder pulses in the scullery of your attention. 

Stranger, good night.

Your tongue is my tongue backwards,

your sweet my salt. 

We skate awkward across an eye

through flora of exploding eyes

while folk in fleet memory

ascend and descend ladders,

phosphorescent and silvered, mute

with their mouths open.

There is a ferocity moving toward us

for which we do not have the proper gloves,

the right greatcoat,

the final, big-enough word.

Good night.  The sun will be there

but there will be no newspaper.  The moon

will rise, but there will be no nightclub. 

The lightning we believed ours

will decathect itself from us.

We will charge through what we thought was the night

and what we prayed was the next morning

into what waits,

what advances even by not moving. 

A glance is a gaze is a waving-goodbye-to. 

Many-guised stranger, I love you.

Your night comes swift to my dawn

like a desperate, wasteful kiss

that tells me we are still alive,

and won’t be.