Of Those Who Can’t Afford to Be Gentle

Poetry / Chelsea Dingman

after C.D. Wright

I say coyotes. As in, the shadows that follow me
in the fields. I say fuck it. By that, I mean:
in this age of isolation, I am tired

of being a mother. I’m not supposed to say
that. The mouths, open. The house in ruins.
And how is history any different? Empires rise /

people suffer / empires fall / people suffer. I walk
the same fields, asking the sun why it leaves.
Asking god how can we be so deserted

by someone we’ve never seen. There is a man
I’ve loved since my eighteenth birthday,
but we don’t know how to be alone. Our parents

die in another country & we can’t afford to live
here. To live there, or anywhere. Next year
at this time, I’ll be in the same field. He’ll ask me

to forget someone we’ve lost. I’ll pretend
my shadow doesn’t hunt. The sun will show
itself. I will suffer this age like light.

People will wish me harm. I’ll count the days
I’ve been lucky. I’ll kiss my children. All
midnights will add up to fire. When we hardly

matter, we’ll revise our wills. We’ll record
our voices. We’ll pretend any ending is gentle.
The world, made of everything and nothing.

Featured in Verse Daily’s ‘Web Weekly’ series (Januaru 1, 2018).

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.