Chelsea Dingman is a MFA candidate at the University of South Florida. Her first book, Thaw, won the National Poetry Series and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press (2017). In 2016, she also won The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Auburn Witness Prize, Arcadia’s Dead Bison Editor’s Prize, Phoebe’s Greg Grummer Poetry Award, and Crab Orchard Review’s Student Awards. Other forthcoming work can be found in Washington Square, American Literary Review, and Third Coast, among others.
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.