Ben Kline

Wake Black

Drowning by cytokine, my husband
mumbles around his oxygen mask,

Which worries    go first?
breath fogging its plastic dome.

Having a flat    stomach? His laughter
a cricket at dusk. I tuck his sheets, slip

back to when dark rooms had more
than one person per six feet

dancing, our bare chests glowing, fingers
touching, toenails stepped on waking violet

black.        Not
old lovers, he says. They remember you

in the park, use your former name,
hug you too easily, talk about their kids

and college parties you attended
in flannels and khakis you no longer fit.

Maybe debt     if we’re lucky.
Then: Are you who you thought you’d be?

I dab drool off the rim of his mask.
I think I am     who I expected.

My glove on his arm, my mask covering
my grimace, I watch nurses pass

the hours in charts, a child crying, the news
anchor tallying more dead. I don’t have time

to change as slowly as usual. His irises
relax, low water wells in

which nothing, it turns out,
takes precedence.

Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. His chapbook SAGITTARIUS A* lands in October 2020 from Sibling Rivalry Press. A poetry reader for The Adroit Journal and Flypaper Lit, he is the 2020 recipient of the Christopher Hewitt Award for poetry, as well as a finalist for both the 2020 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and the 2020 National Poetry Series. His work can be found in The Cortland Review, Lunch Ticket, No Contact, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Juked, A&U Magazine, and many other publications. You can read more at

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