Chelsea Dingman

On Dead Fetus Syndrome

The absences in this room
don’t sleep. Like gods,
they walk through rooms
unnoticed. I’m learning my gods
are pastoral, are lightning
bugs, are not seen in daylight.
A body broken & ruined looks
whole in the dark. I rearrange.
I count my bones. Save yourself,
a voice on the radio says. But
how do I save what I can’t see?
The bed is empty. The bassinet,
bare. I want the walls
to whisper the truth about
what happened here. Every day,
absences add up like salt
& water. I examine the tender flesh
on my breasts. The plea in every second
of pleasure. These absences
that can’t be named. I run
my fingers over the window
glass: the gardenias, the fox
-gloves, the white sky. I wish
for winter. The will to bear it.


Highway of Tears Murders (1969—)

“Dozens of women have disappeared along its route, most of them First Nation indigenous peoples.”- Sebastian Moll, Der Spiegel


She is last seen—

leaving a bar         the woods            the highway

            she, the southing star

                                                                  a prayer

tree in a provincial park

                                                     limbs unfurled like a flock

            of loons. She is almost

found. Unfeathered. A house

                                    without windows. The graveyard freight

train. She: the woman who lies

            down in the snow and asks nothing.

Say her name. And hers. And hers.

                                                Say decay. Say dust-flames.

Pretend there aren’t more names.

She is last seen—


                                                           and failing


                                                                       and failing



Tell me to lie down in the snow.
Tell me to track the deer, if only to run my fingers through their fur.

Tell me about regret—

            the sky, always on its knees. The slight breeze
            brushing the backs of my hands
            not evidence of angels.

Tell me about death. How a daughter dies
inside her mother. How the clocks kneel.
How the sky is a thing to be worn.


A wind chime on my mother’s porch.
The prairies. The constant wind
tears through me like a new language.
Like it’s whispering empty empty empty


Daughter-haunt: forgive the ground,
calling & calling. You couldn’t stay here.

Here: the crows circle.

Here: there’s blood in the drain,
clogged with hair.


Late fall: my eyes, tongued open. Hands,
hopeful for the miracle
of a hot shower.

A new war on the news.

Windows open at dusk, the musky air is just


                        I hear a small nightsong in the hush
                        of snow. I don’t know if resurrection
                        is real.
                                      The birds, gone

                        south. My breaths disappear
                        into the night where my daughter is

                        a distant stranger. This distance I have
                                                            no name for.



Chelsea Dingman is a Visiting Instructor at the University of South Florida. Her first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved, is forthcoming from Madhouse Press (2018). In 2016-17, she also won The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize, The Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, Water-stone Review’s Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize, and The South Atlantic Modern Language Association’s Creative Writing Award for Poetry. Her work can be found in Ninth Letter, The Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, Cincinnati Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Visit her website: