Relations by Ben Kline
I grew up on a cattle farm where
we were mostly men
wearing white tees and faded jeans
around women tough enough
to win with withering glances.
My mother wore pink because
my father liked her looking
softer than she really was.
I grew up under my mother’s thumb.
My friends were mostly family,
cousins on other cattle farms
also spending springs and summers tilling
between hills, creeks and treelines
that served as fences
maintaining good relations.
I believed in the inherent goodness
of our relations. We were
in the image of the oldest civilizations
despite our overwhelming whiteness
and habitual fake faith barked
louder than late June thunderclaps.
Life under thumb was a thick indigo.
On its twilight edges where Orion loomed
and the moon revealed patient starlings,
deep hollow lesbians wore overalls, smoked pot
and warned me of Manhattan dangers.
Any other gays maintained disguise or
tread chin-deep denial in
the far end of the swim hole.
I liked skinny dipping for reasons
right, wrong, and illicit.
I watched two cousins drown and emerge
altered by resuscitation.
Jesus crushed the head of their inner snake.
I became a blue racer, splitting the grass.
My red ringed neck warning all the vipers
I would bite if interrupted, which
I did to one cousin’s forearm
when his restraint faltered.
I drew blood by force, snagging hairs
between bicuspids and incisors
better used for grazing foreskin
like fun little electric shocks.
He was of bearish proportion and heavy
with obvious disdain. We were
related by a future marriage.
I had only ever seen one bear before,
in the west Scioto woods where
the neighbors used shallow limestone caves
to stash burlap potato sacks
filled with ziplocked dime bags they sold
to frat boys in Huntington and Athens.
Ben Kline originates from the river-flows-north side of nowhere south southeastern Ohio. Raised on a busy cattle farm as part of a large family, he dreamed of skyscrapers, city smells, and downtown dive bars. Now in a mid-sized city, he writes, muses, and drinks too much bourbon and wine. His first book of poems—GOING FAST IN LOOSE DIRECTIONS—was published by Queer Young Cowboys in 2014. A follow-up—GETTING LOOSE IN NEW POSITIONS—is coming soon.
(Front page image via)