Dead Uncle, 1979

Hail Marys lobbed at the altar
from the last pew. Only twenty five.

Light sentence mumbled fast. No beads.
No sweat. I knew Father heard the grin 

inside the sleeves of my white tee
rolled like James Dean, cool 

red vinyl of the kneeler seeping
into my torn jeans, the sizzle 

of votives, naked Jesus. Amen.
He never looked me in the eye 

outside the dark booth. I squinted
like Brando in the woods 

full of tall, graceful tamaracks,
grateful men. He insisted You believe 

and behave as if eternity can be that easy
with repetition. Blessed art thou 

among men who want to in ways
they’ve been told they shouldn’t. 

I practiced languor, forming pearls,
sweat. Men who shouldn’t always do 

like Montgomery Clift, ruined
by a turn too fast into the hour 

of violet sarcomas, dumpsters
overflowing with shriveled uncles,

other men from the park. I walked
in the lavender dusk, in swelter 

that feels like heaven and hell
whether you believe or not.


—Ben Kline

Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, writing poems and telling stories, drinking more coffee than might seem wise. His chapbook SAGITTARIUS A* will be published in 2020 by Sibling Rivalry Press. He reads poetry for FLYPAPER LIT. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Juked, Alien Magazine, Bending Genres, Impossible Archetype and many more. You can read more at