Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Chelsea Dingman






Where confusion finds you, burnt up
hangar, shackled to this vagrant snow.
Where we drive a snowless road. Where
winter lands inside you. Where we are lost.
Where little avalanches are known
only by the ground that moves
four thousand feet below. Where the west
used to begin & end with us. What skyline
did you hope to reflect? In your last fight,
I saw the twitch in your hand. The fist
driven through the bones in your face.
The cartilage floating free in the fluid
on your brain, I imagined. The tin
ringing in your ears will never leave
you. Hopelessness is a marriage of light
& dark. Again, someone you fought has killed
himself. Was the belt at his throat a religion?
Our heroes: bright as emergency rooms.
Who did you become while I looked past you?
Only the past remembers now. Fight. Run.
Train. All verbs meaning love is hard.
Hurt means I feel your pain. Where love starts.
Where in your brain the past aches.



Wanting to be anything else, the sky
            disguises itself as weather,

& I hesitate to call myself woman
            when some man online says he wants

to shoot me dead for wanting a woman
            president, the scope of his rifle

an argument I will finally lose for lack
            of language, however much I refuse

to believe that language doesn’t hold all
            meaning. I refuse to be that passive

willow standing in a field of snow, the blue
            horizon surviving below-zero

temperatures. I refuse the stink of future days
            like a wound open & unclean.

I refuse the long hallway in the past of pasts
            where I wanted to be the fury

of wildfire, the devastation of the uncontrolled
            burn. Control is for the weak, god

-dammit. Last year, a man ordered me to go
            do my job, by which he meant

go be a mother. My ovaries, in bloom, ached
            with their own weight. I was teaching

four courses, running youth sports programs,
            writing. I already had two young children.

Some things will never change without a revolution
            that ends anywhere but where it began.

I’ve spent most of my life wishing the gender
            of hope & progress was a body of light

anyone could possess, rather than a dream
            as bright as the sun on snow, but mistaken.


At the End of a Cold War

Starved are the wolves.
            The wood unweathers under snow,
a stain of sky on the lake.

It’s hard to be safe
when someone chases the north
star with a fifth of whiskey

every night. I’m trusting you not to /burn
the house down, your mother
used to say. Poverty is earned

in a grocery store aisle. The clink
of hard-won change
as it hits the tile, & is lost.

            Call the snow: weapon.
                        Call it a beginning.
            No one dies without

beginning. In this backcountry,
wars aren’t fought on distant shores.
Don’t go home. Each night,

you see your sons flee
in your sleep. The man in your bed
who wants to kill them

walks free in the woods.
            The scope, a fixed eye
on his shotgun.

In stealth, on a cold day,
the ice on the lake closes over its heart.
You always knew what weight


the surface would carry. You
            cross the ice to hear the world
open. The moon, a ghost-

eye at the bottom of a fishing hole.
There is so much you wanted
from this life. Gone,

in a stroke of winter.
Let the water remember.
Let any war refuse you shelter.


Photograph of Chelsea Dingman by Agostini Photography.

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 and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press (February 2020). She is also the author of the chapbook What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018). Her work is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, and Triquarterly, among others. Visit her website: More from this author →