The Werther Effect by Chelsea Dingman


Do you think the saying is true: when someone dies, a library burns
down? – Alison Benis White

Maybe I am the verb.

To have a child is to learn we are all dying
by degrees. I want to bring my child

home. To wrap her body in bedsheets
& hold my hand over her mouth

like an open flame. Is there a heaven with less

razor wire & blood? In the next county,
a woman slips while cutting down a razor wire

fence on her property. With each
small movement, she tears herself apart.

I want to hurt like that.

Why must our sentences burn?
A sentence, now, the slag of fog

over the fields.
The safety of a secondhand.
Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series, published by the University of Georgia Press (2017). In 2016-17, she also won The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize, The Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, and Water-stone Review’s Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, The Colorado Review, and Gulf Coast, among others. Visit her website: