Epistle, Dearly 

Poetry / Ben Kline 


:: Epistle, Dearly ::

I never addressed you as Dear or Dearest. 
Why start with a lie, why try  
to pistol belief in the blood  
vs water myth. I took your advice  
about Asics, but remained a Nike guy,  
my skinny heels suited for stilettos, 
though I look awful in drag.  
All shoulders, too thick for cinching.  
I took your word on mutual funds  
vs saving, which worked  
until my knee surgeries 
and the younger boyfriend  
who wanted me to daddy him.  
I’m still unsure how  
I held you. At a distance, yes,  
a day’s drive, many arms 
extended for a side hug  
when I entered your home 
for a holiday visit, your squirm 
when I named men in my life,  
worse when they joined me,  
unless they gave you a gift,  
and even then, still on your heels 
until you laced up and struck 
mile after mile of gravel, 
asphalt, grass, cow paths, the air  
compressed between you and the earth 
where all your happiness 
gathered power. I’ll never forget  
the 10K we ran early 
in our runner eras, I kept your pace  
the first three miles and halfway  
through Mile 4 you said, Go, go on,  
go ahead, the first permission  
you ever gave me without condition,  
my laces double knotted  
and ready to leave you  
in the blur where you wanted to 
be yourself, smiling in the finish line 
photos hanging around your craft room. 
I never told you I ran the same race 
the next year, placing sixth 
out of two hundred and three  
in my age group, my first 
and fifth miles under six minutes,  
a feat I never repeated. Now, 
I address you as Dearly departed,  
heed your advice about chewing gum 
on cold weather runs. I try 
the new bamboo Asics in red. 
I hope the internet in the afterlife 
has the answers you didn’t find  
in the miles blurred behind us. Start  
with searching “chosen families”  
and “conversion therapy,” laugh at 
“hedonist” and “heretic” endlessly  
looping into each other. After finishing  
“failure of the Roman Catholic Church,”  
I hope you scroll my socials 
and flag every nude I posted 
when I believed beauty   
vs truth was the route to eternity.  

From the writer


:: Account ::

I pre­fer my poems to use fam­i­ly as inspi­ra­tion. Noth­ing fac­tu­al. Noth­ing grudge­wor­thy. Noth­ing to prompt a fist fight at a sec­ond cousin’s third wed­ding recep­tion. 

 Then, in late Feb­ru­ary of 2023, my mom died unex­pect­ed­ly, twen­ty-three hours of car­diac arrest that began dur­ing one of her week­end runs. Every­thing fac­tu­al threat­ened a fist fight in that first week. Every­thing I wrote in the months after tried to be a fire inside grief’s cave. 

 Epis­tle, Dear­ly is one of many (too many!) poems I wrote from the cave. Draft­ed dur­ing the dai­ly hus­tle of Nation­al Poet­ry Month 30/30 exer­cis­es cre­at­ed and shared by séa­mus fey and Dr. Tay­lor Byas, the poem is my first ever attempt at an epis­tle, a form I find almost painful­ly inti­mate. The speaker’s eva­sive­ness, even in this moment of direct address, per­me­ates the line breaks, the tid­bits of a life nev­er shared, rec­i­p­ro­cal dis­ap­point­ments that sud­den­ly feel like too much for the brisk cou­plets to sus­tain as the poem pro­pels toward con­clu­sion. Toward an even­tu­al accep­tance, though like­ly not the accep­tance the speak­er might have hoped. 


Ben Kline (he/him) lives in Cincin­nati, Ohio. Author of the chap­books Sagit­tar­ius A* and Dead Uncles, as well as the forth­com­ing col­lec­tion It Was Nev­er Sup­posed to Be, Ben is a sto­ry­teller, Madon­na pod­cast­er, and poet whose work has appeared in Poet Lore, Pit­head Chapel, Cop­per Nick­el, MAYDAY, Flori­da Review, DIAGRAM, Poet­ry, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can find him online at benklineonline.wordpress.com.