The Alure of an Uncrossed Intersection

Wednesday is workshop night. Each week of summer break our little tribe of MFA students gathers at the Panera Bread on Saddle Creek Road. We order cups of soup and tall smoothies and then get started on the task at hand: responding to the poems or stories up for workshop that week.

I’ve been extremely thankful for our group this summer because it’s kept me in the habit of writing. I’m a deadline writer by nature, but knowing I have a workshop coming up has also trained me to write quick drafts wherever I am. Last week I dashed one off while the reading students I tutor were busy with a group project. Surprisingly, the poem was inspired by something I see while I’m in workshop on Wednesday nights.

While I’m sitting in the too-cold air conditioning, I often look out the big widows toward an intersection that connects the Panera parking lot with Saddle Creek and a cross street I don’t have a name for. It’s a tidy intersection: our small plaza on one side, a Walgreens (the kind with lots of green space and boxy shrubs) on one corner and a mid-sized apartment complex (the kind with white wrought iron balconies) on the other corner. To get onto Saddle Creek you’d take a left or a right. If you drive straight through the light you disappear as the street goes up a slight hill and the large over-hanging trees obscure any further view. And every week I think, “I wonder what kind of street is just over that hill. It must be beautiful.”

But every week after the workshop has concluded, I don’t detour to find out. Because I kind of like the not knowing. I like imagining what could be and I hate being disappointed by an alternate reality. I’d rather keep it a secret from myself and just live in the pleasure of not knowing instead of being disappointed by dilapidated rentals or empty store fronts. If that’s the view I’ll find, I’d rather not find out.

On the weeks we workshop my poetry I leave the parking lot with at stack of edited and commented upon poems. I set them in my backseat like the child of mine that they are and I take them home, load them into the appropriate file folder, and tell them I’ll be back to finish them up later.

Except I don’t want to finish them. I like them as they are: full of raw potential and encouraging comments. In this state, even the critical remarks don’t sting because they are followed (by my generous friends) with “a quick fix” or “just something to consider in revision.” Different than the comments I see on the published work of others online. Those comments are directed at the finished work, the work that has no further hope of renovation. Those poems are finished. But my poems full of green marker edits and ball point commentaries are pure possibility in their unfinished state. They might turn out to be perfect.

I like them that way. And I’ve yet to take that unnamed street just to see what’s on the other side. Because I fear being disappointed. But it’s crazy, right? Because what if on the other side of the intersection is the street of my dreams? A house just the right size and shape for our too-large family? A historical marker that will engage my imagination and prompt another poem?

So, I’m planning to dig into that box. And I’ll take the detour, too. Eventually.