Poetic Field Research · Cindy Childress

For years, I wrote about a boy,
who didn't realize that his girlfriend
existed apart from himself.
I did not know, either.
As I cried over the way my meaning changed
in the revision she suggested,
my creative writing instructor said:
You may never find a man who will treat you
the way you want, and you must carry on anyway.
So, I set out as if I was not setting out,
but rather drifting like a boat with no sail
just to see what might be born from chaos.
Indifferent hearts connecting and disconnecting
as if The Wasteland were stage directions,
rather than a diagnosis of mute hearts

until you. You, who licked salt water from my eyelids
in the ocean, who danced with me on Central Avenue
as a bellhop sang us a show tune,
who brought yellow roses
and looked at my paintings, who built a Castle of Us,
in which we’d live--New York, Atlanta, London,
anywhere together. You. You, a hungry artist
I could never feed, who ran from spirits
I can’t see, who created little in our seven months
of pulling one another in opposite directions--
two bitter pills swallowing one another’s chalk
figures on cave walls depicting dreams
of a future we never spoke of
until silence blurred them
into images in poems that need editing,
though I now write about a girl
who knows her boyfriend exists
apart from herself,
and she is a compass
navigating a sea of possibility.