Wednesday, July 24, 2019

to all the desks I've loved before...

When I was a child, I badly wanted a desk.  For a long time, there was only one in the house that belonged to my father--a midcentury cheapie that instead of drawers, had side cabinets guarded by roll top panels. It lived first in the upstairs attic space until my bedroom moved there, and later in the basement.  My dad hoarded paper like you wouldn't believe, so the surface was usually not visible, but mostly I dreamed of a time when I would have such a desk--a place to read and write and color.  To play school,  which was also a favorite thing--teacher's desks being a similar magical space filled with red pens and star stickers.

When I was 9, we lived briefly in the trailer of a great uncle, the room I squatted in having a huge desk with drawers that had been too large for him to move, and which thus transferred to the new owners.  It was summer and school long out, but I would pull the chair up to it and pretend to study. I kept a pair of scissors found in it's copious drawers for years engraved with my cousin-by-marriage's name, which was the same as mine except with an "i". When we moved into a new house, eventually I inherited my father's desk, by then, the doors broken completely, but I quickly painted it white and covered it in magazine clippings under tape and it served me well for quite a few years--through junior high and into highschool.  Eventually, it fell apart, and I traded it for  a huge board propped in the corner on a pet kennel we kept the new kittens in. It wobbled, and would fall off if I leaned to heavily, but I loved the space.  I made college plans, and wrote essays for Seventeen magazine on changing the world. Penned environmental editorials for the paper and begrudgingly did math homework perched on a metal work stool I'd lifted from the basement.  My dorm room at UNCW had the perfect tiny wood desk, my first with actual drawers I had very things to put in it, but I wrote a lot on the floor, my electric typewriter on my knees.

When I left North Carolina and came back to the midwest, I carried my "desk" portably with me--to the living room coffee table where I'd sit on the floor.  The dining room table in front of the a/c.  Outside to the deck, where I's spend time writing horrible poems and making plans to submit them.  By desk, it was mostly a big envelope box full of writing magazines and typed drafts, banged out on the typewriter. In those years, my aunt had soon brought me a proper desk with a bookshelf upper, and every semester, I would line my textbooks & other reading materials in the top cove. Tucked my hilighters and post-its in the drawers.  I moved it so many times into various corners of the room, eventually the particle board fell apart, but by then, I had moved on to grad school, and my uneven little wood table in my Lincoln Park apartment.  It too had a busted leg, so for two years it wobbled as I began to write the first poems that actually were any good. The apartment was so small, I could sit at the table and reach not only the fridge, but most of the other furniture in the apartment.  Lacking an extension cord, most of my typeing was done a few feet away on the floor in front of the futon on a Brother wordprocessor .  I moved back to Rockford briefly, and didn't have a proper worktable until I moved back to the city--a newer pedestal table that also wobbled due to construction, on which I spent a couple years at until I could afford a new dining room set, which then spent years covered in laptops, art supplies, chapbook innards, and more until I moved a lot of it into the studio. . About a decade ago, I moved to writing at a wooden vanity table in the living room --big enough for a laptop and notebook, but not so big I overclutter it with piles of books and abandoned cups of tea. (I've written about this space at length here ...)

My dayjob desks have always had a transient feel--even if I've been at them for a long time. My desk in the elementary school was not so much a desk as a table with a computer and barcode scanner. (there was an old school teacher's desk nearby, but mostly I used it for a book displays and a surface to sort incoming materials.) My desk in the library now is surely from the 70's-- broken beige drawers (which I've covered over the years in stickers) and a faux wood laminate top. Mostly it houses inside it a couple decades worth of hoarded discard materials I eventually plan to make into art. Also, dozens of chopsticks and soy sauce packets from delivery lunches. I actually used to do a lot of writing in the evenings on the library circulation desk, a big blue formica topped behemoth.

Other desks have been, in fact, transitory.  When I was in college , my favorite place to work were a slate of study carrels that faced a brick wall. I would leave place markers there even when I left for class to stake out the spot.  A sweater.  A notebook.  A stack of books.  They were more cubicle than carrel, and I grabbed one whenever I could.  I did revisions on my first book at a cafe in a downtown Barnes & Noble. Wrote poems between my MFA classes at a counter at Corner Bakery down the street.  When I'm visiting my dad, I sometimes write at that same dining room table I wrote at decades ago.

No comments: