“Oil & Ambivalence” by Ben Kline

I lost track of all their names
mumbled around still-glowing roaches,

cheeks bloated with waning chew, tongues
suffering undiagnosed dystrophies

and that alkaline taste of bad fate.
I lost track of all their names

proclaimed on many warm Friday nights
at the hilltop pullover where Turkeyrun Lane

intersects Black Hollow, that steep curve
where one regular most often stated

his name was Mike, just Mike who parked
his silver Ranger on the muddy shoulder,

strolling hands in pockets to the pine grove
in his trucker hat and stiff denim jacket.

I hoped we were not related. Our relations
were trouble enough that I snuck out

the half bath window after ten, traveling
nine miles memorized by starlight.

I lost track of all their names
and I hated the way Mike’s fingers

tasted, coated with dirt and ash, oil
and ambivalence he pressed through

my lips onto my tongue, keeping me
quiet, pressing against my teeth

as I fumbled into the jagged copper zipper
of his tarred dungarees, keeping track

of the most important thing—my name
discharged, its residue staining their hands.


Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, works in a library, and drinks a lot of coffee. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Beech Street Review, Love’s Executive Order, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Figroot Press, Poetry Is Dead, Pretty Owl Poetry, (b)OINK, Umbrella Factory Magazine, and many more. He tweets @PineCreekPoet