Unsigned Letter to My Stillborn Daughter Nine Years Later

Chelsea Dingman
After Jamaal May

Dear body of my body.Dear fluid-breathing fauna.Dear drowned isle in a mine               -field of organs & feces.I think of you often.There was a moment in 2007, late fall, while your father worked              overseas, that you moved, dividing yourselffrom me, divorcingmy ribs, forcing my stomach upunder my full breasts.Was it that I always wanted to be haunted?Wanting not to be left is different.I had a son before you & another son              after. But the sequel is only a reminderof what came frst. Do you remember?The kale & broccoli & hard-boiled eggs.The punk rock anthems & lunges & jump squats.They told me how healthy we were.Your skinny limbs, the thumb in your moutharticulated in the ultrasound. The eerie grey              glow of the future I was feeding.We were in Stockholm.We were in Alberta.We were in Clearwater, where the gullsflit about the beaches & the ghost-sky hangs             the sea.Then, in Copenhagen, I closed my eyes, your facepressed to my pelvis, & wokehomeless, child-less, less & less             a miracle.The ugly parts of me might’ve been the ugly parts of you, might’ve beeninescapable. Like war & gunfire. As people,we can’t seem to figure out how to livein the same spaces without killing someone              to make more room.My grandmother used to say: there is a price for livinga long life that you don’t know yet, girl.Dear amber light, dear angel-haunt, dearsiren—,there are days I must motherdespite the rain that chasescockroaches inside the house. Despitethe breaths your father counts              instead of counting heads.I am writing to say that human is a fallible construct: I am sometimesterrible, sometimes fiery, sometimes feral.I am sometimes unable to celebrate the dayssomething has tried to kill meand has failed.                                  Look at your brothers: their footfalls, tinybones. Their kindness as they tuck their hands in every crack,as they touch us back to brave.Here: water haunts the fields.The dandelions, greyed & fraying.Leaving is always delicate.Tell me you would’ve given anything to stay.Tell me, again, anyway.

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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 and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press (February, 2020). She is also the author of the chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018). Visit her website: chelseadingman.com


Summer 2018

Warrensburg, Missouri

University of Central Missouri

Jenny Molberg
Erin Adair-Hodges
Phong Nguyen

Pleiades is a literary biannual featuring poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews by authors from around the world. Past contributors include winners of the Nobel, Ruth Lilly, Pulitzer, Bollingen, Prix de la Liberté, and Neustadt Prizes, recipients of Guggenheim, Whiting, National Book Critics Circle and National Book Awards, and many writers seeing their work in print for the first time. The Pleiades Book Review (PBR) is a literary supplement to the magazine that features both essay reviews and shorter reviews of books released primarily by independent publishers.

Pleiades Press also publishes a book a year through the Unsung Masters Series, each volume of which focuses on an important writer who has been unjustly neglected.

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