I will never believe I am only one animal.
Hungry as time for a sacrifice, you held my life
in your fist when you fell asleep on my chest
the first time. I tried to live as though
death did not exist only to find myself
barbed: cysts constellating inside my chest—
& you, laying there. Diminished
by my lack. No thick rope of colostrum.
No milk. Just these points of tenderness.
The clocks inside the day where no amount
of sleep is reparations for parting. The trees,
felled where they stand, held upright by wind.
They say productivity occurs late at night
depending on the animal. But I am worn through.
Unwilling to risk more time. A mother may be
the only country one knows. Swear your allegiance.
If not for you, then for me. Promise to visit,
even as I let you down. The let-down
swelling my underarms again now. Each cell,
a past self. The truth of clean sheets, crisp
between us. Lilacs on the bedside
tables. The blur of light coming through
the bathroom window, not the angel
of death, but a mother somewhere
longing a way back to living.
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.