For My Son: A Forest of Stars

we give up our country to give you
a country of your own. You can’t have

my eyes, but we’ll speak
with the same tongue.

you’ll hear sand in my voice
when searching for what is lost

onshore. I want you to have the truth,
but truth is as seductive as a storm

settling over the earth. Many nights,
my mother cried in another room.
I heard lashing. I saw fire—

how scalded skin, to some, is
                           love. I hope you don’t need to pray

for cinderblock walls. For the sky’s colours to steal
our words. You can’t yet know

that men can be bent
like branches. That women must kneel
too often, their eyes on the red shore

behind. There is a moment when I touch you
and you are real, not a shadow

of shed skin as we turn to dust
on the hardwood. If you go somewhere
without me, my face candling

into melted wax, you must understand—I fell
in love while we were falling, the devil

wind tearing at my mouth and nose.
All I could do was smile.

When you step away, look
at the ground I’ve given you. Dig

until your shovel hits
the trees’ twisted roots, spring

water gurgling below. This is the proof:
our hands on these shafts,

my words held in your mouth
                           like stars that forget

                                         they have to fall.


Chelsea Dingman continues her MFA and teaches in the University of South Florida graduate program. Her work is forthcoming in Harpur Palate, So to Speak, The Adroit Journal, Grist: A Journal for Writers, The MacGuffin, Quiddity, and The Raleigh Review, among othersHer first book, Thaw, was a semifinalist for the Lexi Rudnitzky First Book Prize for Women and The Philip Levine Poetry Prize (2016).