Back to Issue Sixteen.

letters from a war



After another man’s name
            found your mouth, after
                         the bodies laid down

until they couldn’t rise, after
            I began to see men
                         as streets and mountains 

and moving skies—I starved
            just enough to stay
                         hungry. Not to kneel

before deep voices, reaching
            for any word that didn’t
                         force its way into my mouth. Why

is my body still empty
            with another inside? I used to think
                         I’d go thirsty to see you

break like a highway’s bones
            under the winter snow. Maybe
                         mornings you forget braiding

thick bundles of hair over
            old bruises. But I’ve forgiven
                         how your whispers sound 

like regret. How a mother leaves
            when the night is long. My belly brims
                         with someone, slight and soundless, 

who I can’t refuse. I know now
            how briefly we are beautiful. How the first 
                         death, for women, is our own.



Chelsea Dingman continues her MFA and teaches in the University of South Florida graduate program. In 2016, her work can be found in Washington Square Review, The Normal School, Phoebe, Harpur Palate, American Literary Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Sou’wester, and Sugar House Review, among others. Her first book, Thaw, was a semifinalist for the Lexi Rudnitzsky First Book Prize for Women and the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. She is originally from Western Canada; visit her online at 

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