Why I Write – Ben Kline
I write because of the farm, where my grandfather planted sweet corn and cut his hair based on the moon phases. Where Skunk Tail hurdled a double-wire electric fence and stomped a dog to death for being too close to her calf. The farm was abundant living and everyday death. Grandpa had seizures between the celery in the family garden and while driving the 75 Ford into the hay field. His son my father explained how to pop the truck into neutral and engage the e brake. Skunk Tail liked to have her neck scratched with a rake. The farmable plots snaked between the hills ripe with beauty that might one day be art, despite all the stray cats, drunks from the dry township next door, nosy relatives and shit needing shoveled.
I write because of 1990. The queerest year of “Vogue,” the summer I attended driver’s education three mornings a week at the junior high, and my first STI, for which I feigned ignorance of origin despite knowing exactly who, where and when. My older female second cousins who were nurses in cities looked at my exposed loins with quiet dismay and suppressed worry my mother did not detect. Molluscum contagiosum is no joke. Truckers are the loneliest lovers. Of the seven of us taking driver’s ed that June and July, I was the only one who remained childless by 1992 and the second of three receiving a penicillin shot.
I write because of sex, rich with taboo and risk. Sex with other boys saying no but whispering yes once we were alone in his dad’s Jeep. Sex with men without names at the rest stop by the dam. Sex fast and busy with appendages, parts and actions like asanas flowing through to a zone where the body blurs with the mind, when the sweat splashing near the finish is the holiest water a man can ever know. Because even a fuck can be artful, of value beyond itself. Before the internet sex seemed another dimension. I wanted to know what vibrated beside me unseen.
I write because of Catholicism, which taught me that contradiction, hyperbole and paradox make for the best threesomes and the best short stories. During Lent and Advent, my mother made us kneel around the living room and recite the Holy Rosary. My father would be snoring by the third mystery. My siblings would fidget. I wrote poems about butts in my head during the boring Hail Marys. I cranked my volume on the Gloria Patri, as if it were the chorus of a pop song.
I write because of every issue of Uncanny X-Men between issues 138 and 275. Chris Claremont created a universe, weaving myriad ideas and characters’ lives through and around an epic story that spoke to concepts of social justice and equality in a fun, engaging, soapy serial format long before anyone knew what it meant to clap back.
I write because of John David, my uncle who died of ARC in the summer of 1992, who mentored me on culture, clothes and divas, whose open queerness terrified and thrilled me. He encouraged my writing. His lovers, friends and he died too soon. I dream about what their lives might be.
I write because of Betty Fisher, my freshman year English teacher, who read my first short stories and poems, who said “Do this,” who provided stinging yet constructive feedback.
I write because of Michael, Prince and Madonna. The only holy trinity I will ever need.