Friday, December 7, 2007

The Desk

A feather, the size of half my pinky nail, and the top panel of a butterfly wing (one of my daughter’s finds) sit in a one inch by one inch cube frame on my writing desk. The feather appeared several months ago, no doubt floomphed loose from the corner of my down pillow one of those endless nights as I switched sides nursing my youngest, Nikolas, who we refer to as the marsupial nurser for his ability to maintain his grip on the nipple as we descend stairs, fold laundry, or make fruit salad. I have also on my desk a miniature silver typewriter (a pencil sharpener my father gave me when I went off to college), and in its typing carriage sits Emily D’s #1263 (There is no Frigate like a Book); the feather initially found a home there between the tiny parchment and the typewriter’s rim.

I started my Friday writing days for several weeks with a reassuring glance at the feather, until it disappeared and I spent half an hour rifling through stacks of manilla folders with their subject titles (Poem on Chocolate: due ASAP, Camouflage, June 1, etc.), calming when I finally found it between the printer cable and my laptop, hazardously floating towards the window overlooking the backyard where my father plays with my two sons while I write, or, chase feathers. So tenuous, delicate, but essential, this connection to my secret life as a writer, while really my head’s still full of milk and laundry to fold. How much lift could a feather that small provide? Days when I hear my middle son ordering Grandpa around, commandeering toys from my youngest, or the husband comes home early unable to paint in the rain and wants that cup of coffee with me, or the phone rings below and I’ve forgotten to turn down the volume, I think, what am I doing up here?

But then I look at the butterfly wing smattered dusky orange, bordered by white and velvet brown, striated with hairline veins, and the feather with miniscule spine. Better get to it, I’m writing in a world of fragile beauty, half wings, hidden lift.