by Chelsea Dingman
How many shapes the dark takes—
my father, drinking at a bar near the train
tracks in the east end. 1985. A quiet suburb.
The leaves, shorn from the birch trees
by the river. My brothers & I waited
all night in the truck for him to come back,
the wind galloping. Downtown Nashville
tonight, I drink to forget how foreign
I sound. My vowels, winterfull.
To forget the gateway of sky that hung so low.
The mountains held at bay by water. How fog was
a time of day. The two boys back at the hotel
that my father doesn’t know. My mouth,
a warm cathedral. My body, my own. I drink
to forget the song a woman strums on guitar
strings. The melancholy wind. The three-day-
long rain. These labyrinthine streets.
How the many shapes of a mother are
like the hours: fluid. Indecent. Forgotten.
How suicide is the slow burn of a field full
of leaves in fall. How I smell them still.
I’ve never been able to say what’s real.
The water. The woods. The soft grass,
softer than skin. The sad, solemn river
so far from its own beginning.
Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the
National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). In 2016-17, she also won
The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize, The Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize,
and Water-stone Review’s Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in Ninth
Letter, The Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, Cincinnati Review, and Gulf Coast,
among others. Visit her website: chelseadingman.com.