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Recovery is Memory

Whatever the sound, where it comes from, what it makes 

you feel, you want a surrender that doesn’t sound

like any other privacy. The ways you’ve been lost 

to the fields warring with the wind back near the highway—

between Kelowna & Tijuana, the cow your mother hit

destroyed the front end of the car before pulling itself back

to standing. Before walking away from you on some dust

road. Fuck winter, you thought as your mother drove south. You went

to sleep, holding on. When you woke, the fool

trees were live oaks. Spanish moss, strangling them

without a sound. Didn’t your mother warn you? 

The boats, the bougainvillea. The burns from riding three

wheelers along the beach at San Jose del Cabo, your thigh 

pressed tight to the hot engine on one side. How desperation

makes a thing unbearable. How you’d wanted instead

to uncurrency time. The old gods too much like the old

gods. That angel left in the snow back home, not playing

dead. What about the ways you’d been hurt 

was warranted? You wanted to gather your mistakes close,

not to know who made you, but what you were

apologizing for. The rain, uninterrupted by its own falling

on the Baja. There, your mother, turning away until you 

couldn’t see her face, even in sleep. A deck chair 

thrown through the kitchen window while you were 

gone, the car in the garage loaded up with a TV, your dead

father’s rifles from the bedroom closet, the sheets

they were wrapped in, a computer and silverware,

all ditched in another city. Even then, you were to blame—

not knowing when to go, when leaving is different.

Would you have been happy had you stayed in that Gulf

coast town? Asking no one for forgiveness. Your hands, 

not windows. The water all around, not giving up

the sky. Not giving up on your anger. The sound after

gunfire, which is a silence unlike anything else—

there is no end to it, and no describing it. It just hangs

unboundaried in the air. Like the kind of surrender

that tears you apart, then asks you to invent again

the ways you’ve been left. The ways you’ve been a child.


CHELSEA DINGMAN’s first book, Thaw, won the National Poetry Series (UGA Press, 2017). Her second book, through a small ghost, won The Georgia Poetry Prize (UGA Press, 2020). Her third collection I, Divided, was published by LSU Press in 2023. She is also the author of the chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018). She is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Alberta, and her current work draws on research supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).


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