City, Surrounded

by Chelsea Dingman

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: