August Aubade

First beams spread through the haze last night never lifted, the heat and humidity surprising young grapes and black eyed susans, hugging

suddenly tall, verdant west county senior running backs so often shirtless and appearing malnourished if corn-fed and resilient, boys who ride

forty minutes one way on the bus for two-a-day scrimmages after pre-dawn drills, who huddle and perspire while shouting playbook Morse, helmets clanging against concussions, keeping time like a redneck hi-hat

right before fall semester, new homerooms and names to scribble in the margins, varsity teams in new white tights, quiz bowl squads practicing all those questions

whose answers I find in dictionaries and newspapers, because my street knowledge only covers punching with the base of your palm like a ninja, never selling black mollies to drunk college guys, telling that east river junior to slide his tongue further back, reversing a breach birth in a second-year heifer without showering in her broken water,

as the bottle gentians continue to refuse the honeybees’ advances, those holler boys chug soft drinks from gallon milk jugs, calling each other nicknames

revised from the previous years when I too was a dandelion not yet to seed and spreading too easily, when that tall blond Freewill Baptist hurdler leapt up the bus steps, grinning while squeezing in against me,

our bare arms and denim thighs convecting temperatures without known unit, despite my research into plasma, because we are not those ions adrift in dark matter, not yet, despite the warming troposphere between us

and the sun sinking into a lower arc over the valley, drying the second cutting alfalfa just a little more slowly, coaxing the sneezeweed into bloom, their toothy yellow petals grazing my hips

as if to tip me off to what might soon confuse me, what might later undo me and the other boys wiping their faces on their already-soaked shirt fronts.

Hailing from the farm valleys of west Appalachia, Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, toiling away on his full-length manuscript Twang while drinking just the right amount of bourbon, but more coffee than seems wise. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Grist: A Journal of the Literary ArtsRiggwelterThe MantleGhost City ReviewaptImageOutWrite Vol. 7, The OffingImpossible ArchetypeInk &ampNebulaThe Matador Review and many more. You can read more at