Representations of Home Creative Journal

ROAM - Spring/Summer 2021 - ROAM 1

Marianne Rogoff

“The Desk”

(Prompted by Neruda’s “Odes to Common Things” and a Borges poem called “Plain Things,” written while sheltering in place during cataclysmic world events of Summer 2020)


I recently moved this small old desk with its rounded edges to the corner of my living room where I could work-from-home near the window with its natural light. I placed it at an angle to the corner, which suits its curves. That guy I dated when I lived in a studio on 24th Street, Noe Valley (which did not even have a kitchen, I had a cooler with block ice, a toaster oven, and a hot plate), that guy thought it sad that a graduate student like myself lacked a desk and remembered the stuffed garage of a friend of his in the hills of Oakland with piles of furniture he wasn’t using. My guy asked his friend if we could come and take away this tossed-aside piece with its peeling veneer and scratched surfaces. I remember how much I sweated sanding the desktop to an even texture then staining it with a long-since-faded shade of wood grain that still takes well to Murphy’s Oil Soap to bring it to shine.


This object, obviously, has moved along with me through each man and place I’ve resided since then (late 1970s). The drawers have never been emptied, just picked up and carried along full of the stuff, as I must have imagined I’d sort through them upon arrival then never did. Even now! Moving it from one side of the room to the other did at least prompt me to look inside.


It has two sets of drawers on either side, of differing depths, and at the center there is a wide, thin, slide-out drawer where who-knows-what is supposed to go. Inside you will find a six-inch wood ruler, a tape measure, a pocket mirror, a hot-pink comb with a handle, keys to doors I will never pass through again, matchbooks, keyrings with no keys, child-size scissors, a deck of cards, an empty jewelry box, sticky-note pads, staples (no stapler), 3 glue sticks (completely dried out), travel-size body lotion, a ceramic cat around 3 inches in size, a box of 8 thick crayons, a birthday date book with no dates filled in, a coin purse with no coins, a set of very special pens in a box (never used), emery boards, a seashell, a D battery, 2 rubber bands, a pin-on button for a book called I Should Have Stayed Home.


The shallow top drawer on the left contains birth certificates, my social security card, and my passport, the only thing I (used to) pull out regularly and actually use, along with one baby-size knitted mitten and a stack of old birthday cards with loving notes inside. The middle drawer has folded paper maps for national and state park hiking trails, while the deep lower drawer is full of printed photos, some sorted into labeled envelopes, which indicates an attempt on my part at some point to be organized.


On the right, the top drawer is full of pens out of ink, unsharpened pencils, magic markers, erasable red pens, a set of pink ear buds for my music Nano (where did that go?), scotch tape, and many elastic bands big enough to secure manuscripts of hundreds of pages, from the years when I edited college textbooks with red pen on paper. The middle drawer has tools from a profession that no longer exists: an Exacto knife and box of very sharp blades, a roller to affix waxed copy onto gridded layout paper, a small T square, giant paper clips, and a three-ring hole punch. The bottom drawer has old wallets with old drivers licenses, expired credit cards, and school pictures, along with handwritten letters from the days when my best friends and I filled loopy pages with our deep dark thoughts and feelings, folded into envelopes, licked, sealed, stamped, sent, and received.


Only the desk itself remains of use.

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