Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her second poetry collection, Through a Small Ghost, won The Georgia Poetry Prize (University of Georgia Press, 2020). She is also the author of the chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018).
When Cancer Tangles Itself in Bone
I don’t know you well. I look at your wife
& wonder how she can withstand
not knowing you, skeletal now, a dream
of a butterfly. I want to sit in your bones
& know how it is to be loved
the way the human mind loves
to connect two seemingly incompatible
things. I don’t think I’ve known
love & you are dying to keep it. How monstrous
am I to envy someone dying
by inches in front of me? Further, your eyes sink.
More time she spends bent over
wounds & more wounds. Unwound now,
perhaps living long isn’t what I should
want. Perhaps, I should want someone
to see me as you are seen. Before
I am an ache in the night. A fly, one
-winged, trying to walk.
Elegy in Bone
For how many has the sea been a grave?
Like letters on a page, my children
twist at arm’s length, salt air
in our mouths. They go & go
& go, the surf swilling.
I wait for what it brings back
to me. The doctor, on the phone,
saying cancer like it’s a country I’ll be
visiting, The sea, as memory. A black dress
coat, the tie my husband will drop
into its dark to forget flies, flitting
over my open mouth. It’ll be
a good death. To be buried
without these bones I want
never to be free of, my sons’
hands & spines like elegies
they’ve written. The flies hover
over us already, touching
wounds with wounds they carry
from mouth to open mouth.