Three Poems by Tyler Kline




The question was: define tree.
Cellulose and photosynthesis said the front.
A living being answered the left.
Then came, it’s just a tree, from the back.
A tree is just a tree; no taglines required.

It was the girl who said everything is an argument,
so the tree is an argument
who ended the debate.

So I begin to think I’m lost
since the science of poetry insists everyone invent their own world:

maybe each thing is just an argument for something else.
Stories packaged and abandoned at the foot of a door, awaiting opening.
A rosy connection lost in the cushions of a loveseat.

Eventually I learn,
it’s perspective that argues us:
my view of trees from a fourth-story window
defined as matches, teeth of a comb,

or listening to a girl in bed
speak to her mother about lung cancer
and surgery and recovery,
her hair tangled like dried grape vines
or veins.

I marvel again and again
with each word
so easily packed into boxes of conversation,
then stored and forgotten.


One Long American Chapter

The morning highway knots into a bamboo finger trap,
each lane pulling us
to an inevitable loss of punctuality.
The dog driving the Toyota looks pleased.
His owner threatens the Dashboard Angel
who is streaming song and blowing AC –
with a life absent of gasoline or tread.

Yesterday a student shared
the only reason she is excited for college:
to pee anytime she wants.
The nicest boy in class wore DYING FETUS across his chest
like a cartoon tombstone with a reason for hating flowers.

During the Pledge I hear – the second time this week –
about a pregnancy and a selfie, in that trending order.
The movie where the teacher smokes
by the chain-link fence near the softball field
never tells enough,
or at least not well.

Outside, the neon window paint asking for prom
has found way onto all the worms after it rains.
I could say the parking lot spreads its black and white self
all over like fishnet and Codeine – but really,
the black seems to be permanent marker
and the white,
missing chemistry beakers.

In every instance someone is losing or filling up.
This traffic, which is finally ending
like one long American chapter,
will spill, will run itself out.
We of course emerge to find
everything right where we left it.


Campground, Where I Learn Her Sister Has Gotten Worse

Gold sits over the horizon,
enough for wishing
and sad song
about hallelujah and salt.

Gray boat moored
by the highway
like a woman
with no last name –


Magnolia near the entrance
becomes just space for eyes to practice smell
in the dark.
Face down,

she opens a dream:

white dress worn to pieces
like branches
lightened by moon.

Doesn’t say or did –
but the trees muted –

the first color we see
we always leave with.

Her sister –
pill in the briar.

Winged, floating white.

Scars everywhere,
even the water.

Tyler Kline balances his time between working on an organic vegetable farm and studying English at The University of Delaware. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Saint Katherine Review, Rust + Moth, and San Pedro River Review.