Chelsea Dingman is a MFA candidate at the University of South Florida. Her first book, Thaw, won the National Poetry Series and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press (2017). In 2016, she also won The Southeast Review's Gearhart Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Auburn Witness Prize, Arcadia's Dead Bison Editor's Prize, Phoebe's Greg Grummer Poetry Award, and Crab Orchard Review's Student Awards. Her forthcoming work can be found in Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, and Third Coast, among others. Visit her website: chelseadingman.com.
Each morning, I try to abstain
from waking until I have to.
I abstain from looking out
the windows. From touching the door
-knobs. From pulling lace panties
over my hips. I abstain when abstaining
means I'm a river, unmoved. I'm the bird,
crushing its own skull against a framed photo
of the sky. I remind myself
to abstain when I want nothing
but the new religion of a body buried
between my thighs. When my body is
the earth that water thrums inside.
When love is an unnecessary relic
of the earth. Of this stillness,
inevitably mine. Of this aliveness
that means everyday there is less
time, though time isn’t finite.
That means I am already a shrine,
whether or not I abstain from breaking
myself against a pretend sky.
I have been writing the female body quite a bit recently and exploring issues of time, aging, infertility. I wanted to write the body, in this poem, as artifact. As something sacred that, though time is infinite, for the body, it is finite. I am also speaking to issues of faith and love, as opposed to biological need. That denying ourselves a degree of living is what is encouraged for women, rather than being sexual or independent. This poem is a refusal of those expectations, though abstinence from participation in the world is only denying the speaker access to her body.