If I Had Given Her Just One Bottle, She Would Still Be Alive

       “who mothers the mothers
       who tend the hallways of mothers”-Catherine Barnett

The breasts are a temporary food source.
I am a starved city.
I held my daughter, grey, curled into a comma.
Her hair caught fire in the hospital lights.
Someone said this isn’t normal. Babies don’t scream this much.
Someone said breastfeeding is best.
Someone broke.
Someone explained dehydration. A heart attack. Asystole.
I said amen. Amen. Amen.
And still, the doors open.
And still, the night comes.
And still, the terror of headlights stream past the passenger
side of the car.
And still, the babies in other cars.
Men are broken by less.
I offer her cremated body to the lake.
I offer the night our gods.
I offer myself to mothers. Others. The mouth.
The eye. The nipple.
To the dark gathering like children in the corners
of the room.
To the children in the corners of the room still
I remember—, those who die a little
at my breast everyday. Those who survive
like a city on fire.

Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win 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, The Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, and was a finalist for the Auburn Witness Prize, Arcadia’s Dead Bison Editor’s Prize, Phoebe’s Greg Grummer Poetry Award, & Crab Orchard Review’s Student Awards. Her forthcoming work can be found in Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, The Colorado Review, and Gulf Coast, among others. Visit her website: chelseadingman.com.