CONSIDER THE MESS OF STARS
Like a legion of ghosts, I swear I can taste them
some nights: the burn & tickle & fade.
What does prayer do, if not call the dead back to us?
Most days, I treat the dead poorly. I hide from them
in orange groves, rotted oranges at my feet. I have no choice
but to eat. I have never been the sow, heavy-bellied,
grazing over grasses in a field. I have never been the field,
grazing the horizon. I have never been
older than I am at this minute, or more
alive. When you lose a parent, people pity you.
When you lose a child, people avoid you like the spring
freeze that comes to kill anything that grows wild.
Let me be clear: living isn’t the question.
The wings of the mosquitoes fall to rest
in the dirt. With rain & the remains of a heaven
that has been hollowed of prayer.
What is the desire to live, if not a desire for failure?
In the groves tonight, the stars are so clear.
A horn sounds on the highway.
The endless wind stirs the dirt. In my mouth:
the mosquitoes, their wings. A father.
A mother-in-law. A daughter.
Strangers who were once friends.
The mingle of stars, oblivious, & already gone.
Chelsea Dingman was born in Revelstoke, British Columbia and later raised in Edmonton, Alberta. She is currently a Visiting Instructor at the University of South Florida, teaching Poetry and Professional Writing. Her poems are forthcoming in such journals as the Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, and The Indiana Review. She is the author of Thaw, chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (2016). Her chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved, is forthcoming from Madhouse Press (2018).