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Second Cousins by Ben Kline

I watched two drown in their preacher’s grip.

Have you ever heard someone gasp back

to life? Like gargling a scream. But Jesus

crushed the snake’s head, their preacher said.

He believed in what he couldn’t see or hear.

He held me down and repeated my first name.

I held down dioxides and a blue racer interrupted

the ripples, splitting sawgrass, zippers, cheap

cigarettes by the quarry. My quick shimmy

a fake rattle. Danger only wants to be believed.

I only returned to skinny dip and peekaboo.

To see what I hadn’t seen, even if it looked like

what I had. Everyone watching from the shore

had my last name, knew the same dead too.


Ben Kline (he/him) lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Author of the chapbooks SAGITTARIUS A* and DEAD UNCLES, Ben was the 2021 recipient of Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry and the winner of the 2020 Christopher Hewitt Award for poetry. His work appears in South Carolina Review, Autofocus Lit, bedfellows magazine, POETRY, Rejection Letters, Southeast Review, The Shore, fourteen poems and many other publications. You can read more at


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