Chelsea Dingman


In a glass room, I wake in the sweat of lions. Angel-white

lilacs lie facedown 
in my blood where my daughter cries at her representation 

in mirrors. I don’t know if she fears the rain is her

autobiography as it shudders the glass 
wall between us. And yet—, I was 

born in my mother’s eye, and died in my father’s

Though the rifle is committed to silence. 

Though I don’t know what home looks like, if not dry 
vermouth and gin. A glass in each hand that I held as a child. 

If, in that glass, I’ve been trying to go.

If I am not man enough to live happily
as a woman.

If I fear the absence of loss is desire.

In the sweat of lions, I wake & wake. 

The lake water in my ashes is only one representation of time.

Though the self is mediated: by which I mean glass 
is only one representation of sky.

If by memory I mean that which has no inside or outside. 

If sex is apologia.

If, after my family became myth, giving birth was grief

If I am become glass, is that not moving toward love?

If by afterlife, I mean the text is a gesture toward immortality.

If by afterlife, I mean the aperture that lets a line appear
unbroken. The eye or the I.

Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Memory is metonymy: 
to say defensive

wound and mean the mind. When driving a pitch

-dark, single-lane

to say I want death 
that does not involve a body. If, beyond

pleasure, bone returns itself
to dusk, the breast rendered

inanimate without a mouth 
to fill. Still, I want to unfigure the possibility 

of unpleasure. That soil I dug
from inside you—is it desire

that will rupture a constant

that has no face,
no name, 

yet repeats itself, night and day, behind my eyes? 
When I think of you 

now, I see instead yellow
stamens. Dandelions I rubbed on my forearms

in the field behind our house. Does desire wear 
thin that impossible

shadow lodged between tenses?  In cell division,

instead of immortality, we found
annihilation. If we are each held 

in the tension between love
and hate. If desire 

means I am is a whole
sentence. If life itself is excess,

might we mistake the past
as present. Might I tell you in a dream 

that beyond that dark road 
all I found is rain.

From the author: these poems are part of a larger project that I began this year in my PhD program, while doing research on trauma narratives, memory studies, literary theory, and psychoanalysis. In relation to Freud’s ideas about trauma, “Derealization” engages Fredric Jameson’s ideas about the referent (event) as destabilized and unavailable to the speaker. It has no authoritative force or factual belief, so it cannot solicit belief. Yet, the poem also questions this possibility. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” particularly engages Freud’s ideas from the essay of the same name, while also engaging the aporias or “plural logic” in this work. Both poems ask what is beyond belief, as well as what constitutes the self when subject formation is impacted by outside stimuli and behaviors.

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, is forthcoming from LSU Press in the fall of 2023. She is also the author of the chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018). She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Alberta.Visit her website: