What Was Supposed to Be Ours

IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF you and me, forty-six months since Obergefell, we arbitrate fifteen years in three hours with Zoom attorneys, digital contracts, formulae for liquidated distribution populating spreadsheets with 



not ours. The PLAINTIFF, in your complaint filed as a resident of San Francisco, California, asserts that the fifteen years were enough, that what was supposed to be ours wasn’t what you thought it would or could be. The DEFENDANT, in a response filed as a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, asserts no objection other than requesting the Court note that I tried,

FINDING(S) that I contributed to what was ours, hereafter referred to as the Good Decade, the Condo overlooking the river, the timeshare in Saugatuck, the Labrador, Sexual Elasticity and Polyamory, long weekends toward Familial Acceptance, the Tesla, the Mercedes and the Debt, the Wrangler you bought when you took a liking to your trainer’s, my teasing that it looked like “something my mother would drive,” almost

CAUSE jealousy and unrecognizable differences.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the marriage is hereby terminated and held for naught. No fault assigned by the court.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, remaining assets shall be divided equitably, excluding 1) the blue two-story on Ord St., its big window toward the bay, by reason of my name never being on the deed with the hyphen I refused, and 2) the gold wedding plate engraved We have the opportunity. It shall be melted and sold; the proceeds placed in trust that we tried.

IT IS FURTHER ADJUDGED, hereafter, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 must accompany blue mud on my brow, and the friends who were mine must text about What next instead of Why.

IT IS THUS FINALLY RESOLVED; I must remember opportunity likes to change the locks. 



Click here to read Ben Kline on the origin of the poem.

Image: photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Ben Kline: In June of 2015, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision from the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same sex marriage across the United States of Americas and shifted what was possible, shoving our culture and my consciousness forward. I had come of age in the 1980s, the decade of latchkey kids and infant MTV, Greed is good and the onset of the AIDS Crisis. I watched too many die, saw liberty and freedom retreat. I couldn’t imagine living past 30, never mind marrying another man. I couldn’t imagine being…so mainstream. So acceptable. And as I grappled with the momentous change of Obergefell, I went through a strange, weeks-long break up. Another failure, but it felt more relevant than ever.

Reckoning with my choices past, present and future, I wondered what my break up would’ve been like if we’d been married and wrote the first draft of “What Was Supposed to Be Ours.” After research and conversations with divorced friends, early drafts resembled an actual divorce decree, but the structure limited some of the narrative elements I wanted to include. Years passed. Attitudes, technology, and forty-plus drafts advanced. I added fresh elements to the poem’s universe. I spoke with eventual queer divorcees and read about their cases. I settled on a prose poem employing sparse legal jargon because I wanted the speaker to have daydream space within the procedural narrative, to stay true to the disappointment and spite I felt that joyous summer, to render the history real and the feelings relatable, right down to the wedding plate and the sense of having tried.

I imagine the speaker of this poem learning the lessons, trying again if and while they can. As the poem portrays, nothing is promised. Life astounds as often as it dismays.

Ben Kline
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