Kyle McCord


Bobby's dad showed up late,
so the other coaches gave him
the kid in the wheelchair.
They gave him Scott
who wanted to punch his dad—
and the kid who had brain damage
and couldn't stop twitching.
They gave him Bobby because
they had to give him Bobby
and me because not one
of them had a single
shred of decency.
And Alex, whose dad
did accounting
for the state, played
worse than any of us
until Scott smashed his face
into the fence.
It was a type of mercy
when you think about it,
not having to lose any more.
No one made him
try out again next year.
How long does it take
to become men that small?
Men who fired bricks
in the washed out factory
and told Bobby's dad
someone has to lose.
I think about the unweeded lot
where they drank beer after games.
Bobby's dad pretended not to care.
I think about how we'd watch
them from the snack table
as the sun sank behind
their trucks until
they were scarecrows.
And how I wanted birds
to settle on them,
to tear at their clothes
till there was nothing left—
a yarn of hair,
leather patch of skin—
as if they'd ever been
anything at all.

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 (Ampersand Books 2015). He has work featured in AGNI, Blackbird, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. He's received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Baltic Writing Residency. He lives and teaches in Des Moines, Iowa where he runs the series Decorous: Art and Poetry.

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