Prosody, or an Origin Story

Ben Kline

Dad blued my glutes with the big paddle,
the one with holes, my younger siblings

giggling in the hallway, not in the terror

ten swats intended to garner, Mom adding

I’d have to spend subsequent TV nights writing

I will not attempt to choke my little brother

to death over rocks bombs or forts walls

while he has a machete five thousand times

in blue ink, full cursive, every loop inspected

for closure, made to restart on any page with a mistake.

I didn’t mind. I conquered my errant use of won’t

by the 4th page. Between the lines I doodled

Psylocke’s butterfly, Storm’s hair pluming,

Gambit charging an Ace close to Havok’s crotch,

and my favorite, Dazzler in the Gaultier cone bra,

the gold version from Blond Ambition. Pages piling,

I practiced my o and r sounds, “brother not bruther,”

and possible rhymes for machete, “sweaty” the first

my fingers felt, then “confetti” over Dazzler

severing the 623rd machete with her photon blast.

Mom said nothing about the margin art or the legal pad

of poems I started when my hand needed new words

and fewer swoops, when I glamorized Lady Deathstrike

shoving her blade fingers through Wolverine’s neck

under the 986th death, the hatched pool of blood

obscuring all but the o in the next choke. The bruises

dotting my butt greened to yellowspotted brown.

Three of those poems earned a scholarship.

Some of them I adapted into short stories

about Mystique mourning Destiny, who saw

her death approaching like too many of my uncles.

I stowed some poems for a future collection

I’d attempt after my parents died, the 4998th sentence

beginning a new page, ample space for the last

while he has a machete to fall into the maw

of a Brood queen, her fangs piercing the h’s,

the birthmark on her triangular exoskull

Mom’s initials, unnoticed as she flipped

the pages one last time and dropped them

into a metal bucket on the patio

with a struck match.

Ben Kline (he/him/his) lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Author of the chapbooks SAGITTARIUS A* and DEAD UNCLES, host of POETRY AFIELD and POETRY STACKED, Ben is a poet and storyteller whose work appears in bedfellows magazine, Pangyrus, South Carolina Review, Southeast Review, Autofocus, POETRY, fourteen poems and many other publications. He tweets at @BenKlinePoet and you can learn more at

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