Here is a draft of a new poem. Often I start with a concept or a line. I was thinking about my bedroom, which has a very large desk in it. I never end up using that desk, however, because my printer is on a desk on the landing outside. But I do most of my writing in the bedroom sitting in a comfortable chair with my legs up and my laptop on my lap. In the summer I often set up on the end of the kitchen counter, surrounded by windows, with the door open to the screen porch. Our house is chock full of desks!
The person who gave me the dictum that one’s office and bedroom should not be the same space came into my life later, in Chicago. But the poem landed in my very first apartment, at 7th Avenue and 7th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, while I was in graduate school. The most amazing thing about that apartment was the bagpipers. They led parades almost every Saturday in the spring for all sorts of occasions: Earth Day and the first day of boy’s baseball being chief in my memory, and then they also led the wonderful Halloween Parade where all the children would walk in their costumes down the avenue.
Park Slope, 1990
My friend said you should never sleep
in the same room where you worked.
I could only afford a single room,
but I found one split by pocket doors.
I wrote at the one table in the place,
and slept in the interior dark, my head
against the air shaft of the divided tenement.
The day’s poems no longer haunted my dreams.
But through the shaft came squeaks of love
and cackles and shouts from the second floor.
The homeless man’s wheezing refuge in the stairwell,
the aggressive buses and sirens of ambulances.
I gave up and slid the doors into the walls,
let in the streetlight and defiant click of after-hour stilettos,
rode the wake of snowplows and street sweepers,
awakened to bagpipes leading a parade down Seventh.
My friend, an accountant, closed the door
on numbers and clients, and slept in peace.
But my work was poetry, night music,
which no door could keep out, the very stuff of dreams.