When Ukraine becomes a girl
whose sadness can't be taken
off like a dress, we disperse. My father,
to Canada. To the trains running
from coast to coast. When I follow,
I don't find him. A new boxcar
each night, the sky swooping
down like a vulture to pick bones
in the cold. When my mother & sister
can't feel their hands, rifles
at their feet, there is no fight. Legs
carry them until their stomachs empty
to dry riverbeds. Until they have pebbles
for eyes. Until the Carpathians
are the last gods they know. I hear wind rush over
the plains & wait for the next stop,
steel door open to a prairie, wheat
stalks & cattle. Leftover potato
scraps from the wood floor
mix with dirt in my mouth. This dirt
I carry like a scar. This dirty skin
a shade darker than can be forgiven.
But I'm not sorry. This sadness
is sacred & all that I have.

Chelsea Dingman continues her MFA and teaches in the University of South Florida Graduate Program. She is originally from British Columbia, Canada. She has lived in four countries and countless cities in North America. She currently resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband and two small children. Her first book, Thaw, was a semi-finalist for the Lexi Rudnitzky First Book Prize and the Phillip Levine Poetry Prize (2016). (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761