City, Surrounded


From a balcony overlooking the bay in Safety Harbor, one can see nothing but still water & long, low-lying bridges that cover more miles than I’ve traveled south, miles more covered by the sea floor. There are children playing in a pool next to salt water & a man saying I love something under his breath in a woman’s hair. Anything is possible in Florida winters. Not land-locked by snow & sleet, we have no seasons. A potbellied pig & swans wander grasses behind the sprawl of this estate. Someone says swans are nasty animals. Someone says if our flag falls during a storm, stars will shoulder the sea. I know only that flag is to stop and flag is to tire. That future is another word for failure. That I am so fucking empty on this balcony, I can’t believe I’m not wind. I tire of faces peopling beaches & restaurants & supermarkets & everyone I haven’t met whose faces grace the evening news & children left by faces in cars & strip bars & crappy apartments overrun by roaches & whatever rattles in the cushions & behind a bathroom stall This is the Florida I’ve come to know. Water that carries what we discard. Twin sounds of wind & rain at the windows for months, forcing us to seek shelter. Someone says to run is to have the past forgiven, but there is no forgiveness for runners here, hot sand under our feet, hot sun on our faces. The truth is this: someone is dying for a break from the rain. Someone is dying for rain to break. I am someone who wants to be forgiven.

CHELSEA DINGMAN is a MFA candidate at the University of South Florida. Her first book, Thaw, won the National Poetry Series (2016) and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press. In 2016, her work can be found in Washington Square, The Normal School, Phoebe, American Literary Review, The Adroit Journal, and Sugar House Review, among others. Visit her website: