Chelsea Dingman is the author of Thaw (University of Georgia Press, 2017), which was selected by Allison Joseph as a winner of the National Poetry Series. She teaches at the University of South Florida and lives in Tampa, Florida.
Reconstructing the Saints
Church of the Holy Spirit, Rohatyn 1924 You enter to escape the cold & find a canvas of St. John, his hands unsealed to write. Other icons, painted in vibrant reds, mounted on wooden walls’ slick gloss. All white men, suffering and suffered. Christ, stripped. His chest: ribbons of bone. Archangel Michael, Abraham— young boys again. You ask them about hunger. How to outrun changing flags like a child outrunning its name. A war, past, yet still humming. Your mother thinks God must be dead, but you ask the sky to show its hands. For manna to frost the cemetery’s leaning statues, forlorn rows. To frost wood, overrun by lifelines like an old man’s palms. For red water to spill forth from the Hnyla Lypa cursing below, its name already lost on new maps. You search the saints’ eyes before turning, light ivying their faces. You think a house can keep you safe. The bodies, buried. Doors that won’t spit you out. You search their hands, empty as spoons. They can’t take away what you pray. This weight: fist & bone & wail. In their silence, you hear blood, as it spins like air through a windmill’s vanes. As it coppers the chambers, makes them flame.