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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