Nathan McClain


Nathan McClain is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from Sewanee Writers' Conference, The Frost Place, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and a graduate of Warren Wilson's MFA Program for Writers. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New York Times Magazine, Poem-a-Day, The Common, West Branch Wired, upstreet, and Foundry, among others. Source

Love Elegy in the Chinese Garden, with Koi

Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.

Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;


each bending an ear-shaped cone

to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,


you could make out silvery koi

swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge


where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.

To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,


as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,

I missed what it was to be so dumb


as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,

that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,


after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed

his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—


loved so intently even after everything

has gone? Loved something that has washed


its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,

that I’m enlightened somehow,


but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,

still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss


those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Love & Relationships

Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


a meditation on death, often in thoughtful mourning lamentation

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered