Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Department Store

We're still unpacking and arranging the things we brought back from my parents' house. I'm using the big antique Chinese desk that used to belong to my great-aunt, who always covered it in papers. After she died, it sat in state in my parents' living room with only a few art objects on its polished surface. Now it's going to get daily use again, and for the first time in its long span of years it will have a laptop on it (and a Magritte print hanging above it).

As I take things out of packing boxes, remembering where they were at my parents' house, I think about how the things are changed by their new surroundings, like in this poem by Arda Collins:

Department Store

You're a realist. It's a department store.
God is never there,

even when everyone goes home at night.

A saleswoman left her dark gray wool skirt
laid out on a chair when she went to bed.

The room was quiet while the woman slept.
The skirt didn't pray.

The skirt was lined with shadows from the blinds.
The lines moved around the room through the night.
The saleswoman breathed into the shadows.
Her breath, the heat, the faint smell of supper
she had made earlier passed through the skirt.

It was a long time since any speaking
but it was as though there had been speaking.

Night was long and day began forever.
The skirt was different than the night before.

The desk will be different after the smells of all our suppers. Already it looks at home to me, though.

7 comments:

Jodie said...

That desk is like a dream of wonderfullness. I am more than a little jealous.

Anonymous said...

My mother moved to Little Rock from Trumann after my dad died in 1991. I still look at the various furniture pieces (especially the piano) and remember it all from my childhood home. Paul also has furniture from his family home and it is serendipitous how it all matches so nicely -- guess our mothers had the same taste!

Cschu said...

An interesting idea---that changing their location changes the things. Or is it that changing their location changes us? I will have to think about this.

And I look forward to coming to see your changed desk in its new home.

kittiesx3 said...

<3 the desk. We couldn't take anything from Kent's mother for space reasons, so I'm a tiny bit envious. Then again, we'd probably just ruin it with water :-)

Jenners said...

I love that poem. Such things to think about.

And I'm very happy (and the I'm sure the desk is very happy) to be used as a real desk again. I do believe (in a non-scary way) that objects are happiest when they are used for what they are meant for.

Jeanne said...

Jodie, it really is wonderful, especially because it's very tall, and the desk chair is both tall and wide, which is perfect for me (especially my knee--did you know the more you tuck your knees under, the more pressure you put on them?)

Anonymous Loraine, it's another sign you married the right guy!

CSchu, the first is more mystical and interesting, isn't it?

Elizabeth, we do feel lucky to have the room to take some of the things we loved from my childhood home.

Jenners, yes, I have to believe that desks are to be used, rather than just venerated!

Trapunto said...

Fits the space perfectly! I like the way old desk drawers retain a pencilly, papery odor. I even like the way they invariably have a big leaky fountain pen stain or overturned ink bottle stain in them. Yes, I am a furniture sniffer.

For a minute I thought what you said about the desk and your dinners was a continuation of the poem!