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.


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