Chelsea Dingman

If Only Vulnerability Were Not a Flaw of Memory

You ask whatever happened
to—? I mention a plane.
Its various parts falling
from the sky over a field.
What does it matter that the plane
carried someone who touched me
wrong? It’s raining again.
I say enough to the violence
of water as it sifts me
into tenses. I stand
in the garden, gloved
hands on a spade. The trees,
dead where they stand
after cutting them back. April
wind low at my back. I’ve been
many women by now.
I don’t have names to contain
myself. But who can forget
the first time one is touched
& how & where light fell
instead of blood? A hare
instead of a halo. Prairie
wind instead of sobs. Stars
that cannot be otherwise.
Grass so brittle, it cut right
through my shirt & cutoffs.
On my back, how awful
I became. Delicate,
the belief in the self
afterward. The hare,
stretching between hedges
now. Belly down. Unafraid
as I grab a hose to water
in hopes that something might die
back. Perennials. Raspberry
bushes. The cherry tree.
The I, defiled lyric left
in a field under rain.


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)Visit her website: chelseadingman.com.