Intersection #9


With Intersection, her monthly column, celebrated poet Chelsea Dingman enters a place of questions left hanging—of lyric understanding, of addiction, and womanhood, and politics, and death.


Chaos, Meaning & Theory

There is always a moment before the moment when.

The breath. The birth. The crash. The market in turmoil. The market where I fear to touch my baby daughter’s face with my hands. The mark of what is to come.

A halo blurs my vision. At the end of my pregnancy, I was rendered sightless some days. The doctor was worried about pre-eclampsia. I worried I would have a stroke like my maternal grandmother after her last child. Now, migraines nag me. This will continue for months, or years, hormones like tectonic plates shifting beneath me.

And yet.

How strange it is to not be able to see what is right in front of me.

What do scientists mean by chaos? I’ve been writing a book about complex systems. About the body as elegy. About the sky that takes and the ground that receives. About what is given and what is given back.

About the fact that failure is what we measure ourselves for.

I’ve been reading about chaos. How a word for a void came to mean a confused mass, according to Webster’s Merriam. I’ve been trying to figure out why we believe we control any outcome. Especially as the world around us devolves into crisis. Why. Why?

By Ovid’s estimation, this void called earth or life is its own confused mass.

Thus, it follows that a storm surge is the broken pipe in the basement / the dark

buried in the cellar / the ants crushed / by the weight of stones placed around the yard / the fences / split / the screams at night when the mind is not sleeping / the rivers filled with oil & human waste / burning as they pass / the skin that falls from the back of the child pulled from the fire/ the toll that the dead pay as disease rates rise with floodwaters / as shores are stalked by hurricanes / as an ice shelf breaks off into the ocean / entire ecosystems lost /or is it abandoned / the toll & toll & toll foretold by patterns / by behaviours / by births—

If this world is an abyss, I don’t know why
I’m surprised to find myself alone.

And yet.

It has been a full year since I was able to see. Where were the predictors? The markers?

History: cancer / addiction / stroke / high risk pregnancy / pandemic & & &—

Brad Pitt’s character in “The Big Short” states that for every percent unemployment rises, 40,000 people will die. In March before the US economy reopened, unemployment rose from 3.5% to 4.4%. The rate rose to 14.7% in April. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,  “the US saw 87,0001 excess deaths—or deaths above the number that would be expected based on averages from the previous five years” from March 1-April 25th. Only 65% of the deaths were due to COVID-19 itself. Steven Wolff, one of the researchers on the study and a professor at VCU, surmises that the other third are “deaths caused by the response to the pandemic.”

And yet—

In 2002, a Yale researcher named M. Harvey Brenner found a direct correlation between mortality and unemployment after completing a three-year study on economies in Europe and North America going back to WWII. He said the study was “the first time generalized fiscal economic policy [was] being made contingent upon public health implications.” He further urged that society invest in educating people in jobs that led to lower mortality, being those that encouraged use of knowledge, personal interaction, and stability.

What force do we know to be stable? What interaction will not cause harm?

According to the Butterfly Effect, a tiny initiating event can be construed as cause.

I can’t help but think that everyday is Memorial Day for someone.
I can’t help but think about cause.

About the conditional.

—: If.

If at all we are safe somewhere.
If at all we are safe.

Chelsea Dingman

Author’s Website @chelsdingman