C Dale Young

August 10, 2015 C Dale Young


You do this to break people’s hearts, don’t you?


I didn’t start this to break anyone’s heart.
Last night, miles off shore, the boats could not
be seen, only their lights like small stars

low in the sky, punctuating the unseen horizon.
I want to be exact. I want to be as precise
as possible, the lights from the boats

not stars but like stars. Crab season has arrived,
and this is now a nightly occurrence.
Does this explain it to you? Does this help

you understand why I do this? Not to break
people’s hearts; no, never that.  Early this morning,
the sunlight creeping down the hillside, enough

light in the sky to erase the lights of the boats,
I walked down to the Pacific. Why do any of us
do the things we do? I have raised no children,

but I need to understand that kind of insanity.
Mother, I write to understand so many things,
even that rampant act of commitment. At the beach,

a small boy, maybe five, would run a hundred yards,
perhaps, and then rush back to his mother. Over and over,
the boy swinging out from her and returning.

I actually know people who write to break hearts,
but I am not one of those people. You know full well
I have had my heart broken more than once,

so it isn’t out of lack of understanding the material.
To be exact, to be precise, is a kind of purity at times,
even if impossible. The stringency, the odd joy

of deploying the right word: do you see?  I never did
this to break someone’s heart. Time after time, I have
sought the courage, the resolve, to break my own.

C. Dale Young is the author of four collections of poetry, including Torn (Four Way Books 2011) and The Halo(Four Way Books), forthcoming in early 2016.  A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, he practices medicine full-time and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.