I thought I used to know
what that word meant –
to give up my resistance
abandon my revolutions
for any scrap of peace
that would be afforded


was delivered on perfectly circular lips
that brokered no negotiations
as she kissed me into submission


was a secret affair
love notes folded into hearts
under ruinous bills
stealing any moment I had alone
for herself


was a ghoulish possession and I her medium
for the steady procession of spirits
my doors were always open to
her dominion over my limbs
my thoughts became her vassal
her devotee her Renfield
my soul became a haunted house
with bottles stashed in the walls like corpses


I become undead
living only with her blood in my mouth like mother’s milk
but I can never have enough
and I fool myself into thinking
this is what I want
this gothic love is all I deserve


sometimes the enchantment will lift
and I see that I am going to die
this isn’t love this is control
and she will talk me into
my own grave


is a zombie walking onto holy ground
looking to be smitten
painfully – pitifully aware
of their rotting flesh this living death


is accepting I will never fully lift this curse
that it will always be waiting
by back-lit liquor
ready to pour me back
into her boneyard


is hearing just how much more wretched I can become
but knowing it’s not as horrid
as the monster I became


is being born cursed
and I am holding onto my own death
this glass is my spindle
splintered into my hands


is learning it’s easier to live
with open palms

in my Surrender
I drop my poisoned shield

and live

© chris DINGLEY 2016
first performed at Alt101 – Slam Poetry, Ottawa


Wendigo Songs

They sat that midnight is the witching hour,
when today becomes yesterday
and tomorrow becomes now;
a time of transformation
and I was freezing!

The wind tears chunks out of my ears,
laps my cheeks dry,
singing a song I pretend not to know
as my heart counts down
to the next bus.

my breath flees from between shaking teeth
escapes the matted fibres of my scarf
into the night that may yet be morning,
swallowed by the wind —
I chant impatient oaths
and the wind eats those too…

I am hungry for warmth
by the time that coalred bison won’t stop
I want to charge it
ram my antlers against its horn
feed on those candlelight eyes that rush past mine

my joints crunch in time with my footprints
that I can’t hear for the
crackling of my muscles
the shattering of skin like glass

i dont know how many toes i have left
maybe i broke them off somewhere back
or they melted into black hooves
my hands claw my arms
for any scrap of heat
breath has burned my eyes snowblind white
im not sure if the munching is ice
or skin      flesh      bones
or lungs still trying to breathe
midnight air

the burningfreezing cold tears mouthfuls out of me
and i biteit eatit back

the wind sings wendigo songs

at midnight i will howl them back

© chris DINGLEY 2014
first performed for Words To Live By, Ottawa


I don’t want roses
I don’t want department-store affections
your sickly-sweet scent
I don’t want to stab the pads of my fingers
on the thorns you forgot to remove
I don’t want roses
you’ve cut from their sister-blooms
and left for dead in shallow water

I want you
to plant a dream-big seed
or a hope-small sapling
dig your fingers into damp earth
sift through the stones and the worms
I want to see your nails trimmed black
as you tease hair-soft roots loose
into a cradle of earth

I want you
to tend to a trust-tall ash
we can shelter –
then be sheltered under
where we can sacrifice our fears,
our blind eyes for wisdom

I want you
to make mulch from eggshells
to grind bones into bread for a cypress
that will grow however it wants
over the names we leave fading
on our graves

I want you
to give me wisterias vines
so I may brush aside their pastel-soft queues
from the windows of your inherited home
and peek inside

I don’t want roses
wrapped in ink-fresh paper
that will stain my palms

I want you
to give me something new
in wrinkle-crinkle pages
from your diary

I want your lifelines
to touch mine
and grow
into new dreams

© chris DINGLEY 2014


it’s an unexpected visit
a sudden face you recognize in a public space
that calls out your name
and waves

it’s a song you haven’t heard in a while
that reminds you of hours spent
writing lab reports for that class you hated

it’s the smell of humid plant life
after the first warm rainfall
that transports you to sunny lanais
and failed attempts at making juice
from the neighbours grapefruit tree

it’s the way your hair curls just so
that makes your throat seize
when ghost hands try to cop a feel

it’s the tang of aftershave labeled for men
that smells like your father, your uncles,
like strangers on the bus
their thighs pressed against yours

it’s the sight of the first shoots of spring
that make your limbs shrink
your hands stinging from the acrid sap of flowers
that your mother labels as ‘plants’ or ‘weeds’

it’s the displacement
the way your sight shifts ad distorts
and you have to chant your new name
listen to some new tune over the radio
anything to bring you back to now
away from the names you can’t quite put faces to
and the faces you’d much rather forget

© chris DINGLEY 2014


The siege is broken, and the enemy retreats.
The land is marked where they stood,
dark stains upon the asphalt
thick with the smell of wet and rot.
They fall in upon themselves
stained black and grey and brown
no longer the pristine white
of fresh troops.
They pull back,
revealing the cruel deeds that had been hidden
beneath their cloaks;
death in waterlogged cigarette butts
and crushed aluminium.
The siege is broken, and the enemy retreats,
but I still have to wear my coat.

© chris DINGLEY 2014


Two years ago
I stood on a fiber glass cliff
and wondered

It’s the slow inhalation of water
the build up of fluid in your lungs
the flood that creeps up your ankles
and the ocean that sinks your bones

When I dream I hold a shell to my ear
the sound gives me nightmares

my heart is an Italian city
slowly submerging
in its own sewage –
what good is the strength of my foundations
when the waves try to swallow me whole?

a bathtub is a burial at sea
only without the mermaids

When I recognize the omens
and hear the raindrops for what they are
it’s already too late for sandbags
I can’t remember what dry feet were like

I toss white coins in my well for luck
and pretend not to hear them shatter

I stand on a fiber glass cliff
and wonder where the water goes

© chris DINGLEY 2014
first performed for Words To Live By, Ottawa

HAIKU collection – March & April

we are a mess of
these heart-stopping confessions
that we’ll never say


what have i become
in the cocoon of my skull
what wings have unfurled?


the snow lingers here
but the summer in my heart
blinds me to the cold

I wield you ‘gainst foes
use you as bait on a lure
or a healing balm


a one-eyed doll screams
“do you want to play with me?”
no, I really don’t


remember that you
are the descendant of stars
and are full of fire


who’ll remember us
when we have erased ourselves
from the inside out


i hold ancient wealth
in the orbit of my palms:
dry leaves, refined root


once we’re ground to dust
under time’s relentless wheel
then our hurts will mend


i love you my friend
with my heart and with my soul
but not with passion


when the air is thick
with fog that sticks in your lungs
i will breathe deeply


an ashen perfume
combing through the sunny hair
of a spring morning


the top of your head
smells like a lazy morning
under soft covers


the sloping curved bars
of this cage that ne’er opens
hiding a red bird


bear the weight of days
on the ramparts of your back
until nothing breathes


watch how we transform
this flesh into bones, drowned black
for a pointed crown

© chris DINGLEY 2014