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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Chelsea Dingman

What We’ll Be is What We Allow

Sorrows like little goats. Starved by loss.

Heavy-bellied, even still. And arrival, a wind-

storm between houses while we slept. We woke

to fire instead. Ambulances in the distance.

Fines for the living who break laws

by leaving & arriving nowhere. How long

will this leaving continue? Horses, slain

in the pastures. Attacked by disease & blood

-ridden water. Copper, the corpses of the trees

next to drowned children in a creek behind

their mother’s house. How did cruelty become

timeless? Light, split by the pane that holds

the world apart from us. Rain, a memory

of rain. Repeating itself. Tomorrow

will be yesterday again, our daughter

trying to free herself from me in the pitch

each night. Hefting her smallness headfirst

toward oblivion. You must know by now

that we are lost. The lake with the illusion

of control, swelling the clouds until the sky

falls to become otherwise. I want no other numbers

now: one or one million. The wretched paths

through the woods. Redbirds in the oaks.

Clouds & moon sunken below the treeline. Wolves,

starved as sky near the mountains. It is duty

that keeps us some days. Not love. Sewn

to this gender, I am impossible. Left to rain

& ruin in some territory I don’t want to call

home. Here, traitorous is the wind. Hear

it wail at the panes. Hear it wane.

When Birch Autocorrects

to birth today, I give up
one argument for another
as finches weep among
branches outside. How is it
to bear something to its end?
The birch will bear the time
that is left after we are lost
to the world. Its root system, a prayer
against disappearance. Still, I am paper
sloughed off the tree like after
-birth. My mind, trembling
in its own shade. And you, the fog
dissipating at my fingertips.
We cannot practice desire
until the sun leans in some
days. However momentary. But,
say this warmth on our arms
is love. The earth, small
too. That we will each stand
in the shadows
of the other. Blurred
animals. Reaching beyond
what we’ve been.


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 (University of Georgia Press, 2020). She is also the author of the chapbook What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018).

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