How it is to miss the particular loneliness of a past
landscape. One you left
because it might’ve killed you. How you want
that loneliness back
because it means that you do not have to endure
the landscape in front of you:
hills, strange with fog. A family that has taken on the shape
of sadness—all long O’s, all mouths open
to snow as if trying to drown in a season
where drowning is scientifically impossible
without walking out onto a frozen lake and begging
something to break. How the landscapes
keep shifting beneath you, but not enough
that you notice. Even your own body is dense
with fog, and loneliness is what you stretched
your body around in Florida
when you didn’t know anyone and time was fragmented
by weather systems. How fear
and anger are now the seasons you bend to. All
deformations map the trials before.
You believe in the body. Or nothing. You touch
nothing to feel where it hurts.
You are asked to help others at all costs, but you can’t
help remembering the lawn through the back
windows, the doe and her child that visited the yard
every afternoon, the streets brown with pollen, and loss
was whatever had drowned in the ponds while you slept.
Who can you help if you cannot
help yourself? Move forward. Move away. Move back
to the places where you began. Did you begin
with your mother, or did she begin with you? It’s hard
not to tell landscapes apart, you are so changed
by them. Rise anyway. Your bones will hold. Nothing
is guaranteed to last and there is still time to go
where loneliness is easier. Where the streets,
like mouths, are not pocked by snow.
Oculum Pro Oculo
A skiff of light—or is it snow—& my mind
hives into hidden rooms, a queendom
where I cannot be told. Where I cannot be more
than sad. Sore-edged. Burned for burning. A life
for a life—tell me how to live
with this, I say to the missing. The dead
rendered in fog over the lake. Where I remain
to be seen. Looked over. Accused
of myself. Of breath & weather.
Of daring. The nail I swallowed with salt,
a test. Unloved, the dark that twines
in the harness of my hips. Where I am
insolent. Stolen. Molting. Night, a rosary
at my wrist. I pray. I become prayer. It means
I am secret. It means I am nothing. I have
taken no lives but my own. I have been condemned
in this home. Accused of bravery.
Of suicide. Of sloughing off the future. Am I
what I deserve? The eye, the sternum,
the foothold. The field I will be. A solstice.
Laid before the sky like a sacrifice. I am
pooling in my own sin. This reckless
winter. Wanting. Stifled by voices
that demand a consequence for the dumb
shadows the sun casts. For a woman to exist. Whereabouts
unknown. Deserving of a fate worse than. The field,
cold & starved. Shorn of decency. Stripped
to a plea, with the smooth expanse of river.
A starling, eastering inside my pulse.
Ready for revival. Ready to flee this
night where I am terror; where I am torn.
Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her second book, Through a Small Ghost, won The Georgia Poetry Prize (University of Georgia Press, 2020). Her work can be found in The Southern Review, The New England Review, and The Kenyon Review, among others.