OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 1

Chelsea Dingman

Estrangements

 

In the evening, a funeral. A bowl

of fake lashes. A plate full of fish

bones & leftover spinach. The moon

 

in ruins through the window. Bodies

splayed in wild grasses: a snake,

a spider, a Saw Palm—its loneliness, tied

 

to the short life of the sun. I look for

someone living in me, but my name

estranges me from the hibiscus,

 

centipedes, streets that measure themselves

by people they’re named for. I asked the gods

for a long life, my first child

 

in my hands, but I haven’t heard back

& however kind, the night

still blackens everything it touches.

 

In my mouth: millions of names

for bodies I’ll mourn before I leave

here. But my child doesn’t know

 

that way a name can estrange us

from the world. The cockroach, upended

in the garage, a cockroach. Still.

Pretenses (marriage: year 20)

Confession: if I close my eyes,

I can pretend my open mouth

 

wants to be left empty, the afternoon

sun slitted through cracks

 

in the blinds. I can pretend

I want to give you up, your name

 

sharpened against my teeth. This mouth,

the last peony in a summer

 

field. What do we have? I have never asked

to love someone else. I took

 

what you gave me & made myself

into a storm drain, silenced by afternoon

 

sun slitted through cracks

in the skies. Confession: I sometimes want

 

to fight. I want to know I’m not

the wind you shut out completely, forced

 

to leave & return on someone else’s

calendar. I want to feel less

 

numb—the sun touching my skin,

briefly, if only to leave a mark.

Chelsea Dingman is a MFA candidate at the University of South Florida. Her first book, Thaw, won the National Poetry Series (2016) and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press. 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, The Normal School, American Literary Review, The Adroit Journal, and Sugar House Review, among others. Visit her website: chelseadingman.com.