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

body of work

Are you ever surprised
when you look in the mirror?
Do you wonder what doctor,
what mechanic, what fey spirit
came in the night
to change you?
Do you notice that your heart
beats more distantly
that your breath fills
someone else’s lungs?
Do you ever think
that your shoes fir too tight
or your clothes sit
too low from the lines they’ve pressed
into your skin?
Who moved the borders
when you weren’t looking?
What force invaded, signed over
the familiar landscape of your body
to foreign dignitaries?
Who are you?

© chris DINGLEY 2014

Grippette, you little sh!t

shouts my roommate

another one giggles
the first sips her tea
she is not going to miss the toilet
either of them
the last one chews on something
but her grasp of the English language
is not good enough
to take the hint

this roommate
the one that poops on bathmats
and doesn’t speak English
refuses to let me
go to the bathroom alone
I get that the Girl Code is a thing
but this is too damn creepy

stop it

no, I don’t want to hang out right now
it’s 2am for godsake
go to sleep
or at the very least
shut up

I have a roommate that’s never been outdoors
can’t make her own food
or trim her nails
poops in a box
and, sometimes, on bathmats
and never pays rent

cats are weird, I, the dog person, say
cute, we agree, but also assholes

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


confessions of a genderqueer

My gender is not a political statement
how I choose to express this is a reflection
on no one but myself –
I have nothing to prove to you
and you have no right to call judgement
on the outcome of a battle you’ve never fought
on a war you never knew existed.

My identity is not a social theory for you to dispute
you have no grounds to tell me
there there is not battle to be fought for the likes of me
Do not tell me I have nothing to fear
when every scrap of polyester-cotton blend
is an expectation a justified assumption
and every mirror is a question of

Do not tell me that labels don’t matter
that the difference between gender and sex
lies only in semantics
that I can’t exist as I am
because the English language does not have
grammatically correct neutral pronouns,

My revelation is not a revolution
I may be a feminist a queer-rights activist
but don’t you dare tell me
that my coming out is all part of some plot
to bring down the cisheteropatriarchy.

Do not tell me to be quiet!
Don’t equate my self-discovery
to political propaganda! To that zealot on the corner
that screams for the redemption of sins
you do not believe yourself guilt of.

I speak up
because I should not have to expect and inquisition
every time I correct someone who calls me “her”
because I am tired of being misgendered
addressed by a name that no longer reflects me
having to choose between “man” or “woman”
every time I go to the bathroom, the gym, the clothing aisle
every time I fill out a form in this country.

I may be female but I am not a woman.

My name is chris.
My preferred pronoun is the singular “they”.
And I will keep repeating myself
until you get this right.

© chris DINGLEY 2013
first performed for Words To Live By, Ottawa


this one’s off the Rictor Scale
bones trembling and pale,
leaving splintered shelves
to burn

hear the howling of the flames
as the black smoke claims
in a hot-tar sleep

the waters gorge themselves high
on the bleeding sky
wet lungs gasp star-bright
and shout

a spark leaps across chasms
oxygen spasms
embrace your lover

this is how we end

© chris DINGLEY 2013

Not Quite, but Close Enough

It will come to me in a tide
slowly crawling up my ankles
back and forth
higher and higher
’til the fish nibble at my toes.

I will focus on those memory fish
darting back and forth
staying still long enough only
to catch a glimpse
and sink lower and lower.

I may not get their colour right
and they get bigger with each retelling
but I remember the feel of its teeth
the brush of its scales
well enough for inspiration.

And maybe there are fewer clouds
in my rendition
smelling more like salt than rotting kelp
but I will catch my wonderment
just right.

It’s not quite the truth,
but it’s close enough.

© chris DINGLEY 2012