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
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—
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
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: chelseadingman.com.