Saturday, September 26, 2015

What the Office Says

A hammered copper bowl faces the door on its display stand. It's crowded by a globe. Both of them rest on top of a four drawer file cabinet that is covered by posters of past readings done at the Poetry Center. Portraits of writers stare out between Post-Its and taped sheets covered with to-do lists.

Then there are the boxes. Lots of them. Still unpacked since the last move out of his bigger office. They stand in witness to the steady shrinking of university work spaces, at least in the English Department.

On top of them sit stacks of prison magazines. He hands these out to students who come in for conferences. They look at them with a "what?" expression. "Inmates write?"

The book shelves make no sense and would drive any librarian mad with the compulsion to arrange, to put into some semblance of order. Memoirs keep company with anthologies of composition theory. Poetry bullies nature writing. Novels dance with political diatribes. Folders full of inmate writing on loose leaf paper ride a breaking wave of paper backwash.

Then there is the desk. Stacks of student essays wall in the keyboard. They look tired and grumpy.

The computer screen sits at the end of a clean line of sight and is the center around which the entire office solar system rotates.

The office speaks to the priorities of its occupant. Here all is pushed to one side for the ad-hoc projects of writing and teaching. It says this guy will never go anywhere in the world of academic climbing. He is too much absorbed by the immediate, short-term rewards of flash composing. He never finishes anything.

All of it says old-school, pre-digital, hand-written, creativity over tidiness, shaggy dog, procrastination, not exactly sloppy, but frumpy and unkempt. 

There is no discernible line or arc that might result in professional success or recognition. This guy is all over the place, ADD, a loose cannon, and disorganized as hell.

He stumbles along spreading piece-meal nuggets that never add up to a meal.

No wonder this guy is all but invisible when roll call is taken at the faculty dinners. No wonder he is still at the bottom rung, living the life of the lecturer, the temp, the cheap labor of academe.

If he would only get his act together, clean out his files, find a niche to master and turn into an ongoing polemic, if only he just let go of the potentiality of  free association. If he could just overcome the character defect of not focusing on or committing to anything, he might just achieve some feng shui of both space and mind.

When it becomes too embarrassing to sustain, or when time runs out, or when he is given the bum's rush, then maybe he will answer the call that a universe is sending, whispering, as it stands expectant, on tip-toe.

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