Everything in Arm’s Reach
For the vast majority of the last few years, my life has spatially collapsed to one desk in one room in one apartment with one view. Sometimes it feels like too much life for one piece of furniture and a few windows to hold.
Ways of SeeingThe Second Sex
When I sit or stand at my desk on Harvard Avenue, I face the big windows into the courtyard. I live with my spouse on the ground level of a building that’s about a hundred years old, which was built by a butcher. I find this inspiring; I’m not sure why. I guess I like when people change professions and make beautiful things that last. The windows are largely shrouded by bushes and a magnolia tree, but through this foliage I can see, depending on the season, rose bushes, columbine, tulips, wild rabbits, hummingbirds, sparrows, people delivering packages, people stealing packages, neighbors headed out. Hail, sunlight, rain, August, January. The windows are so old that even when they’re closed, I can feel the wind: It moves right through, shuffling the dried petals around my desk, fluttering pages. There’s a lot I don’t love about the apartment (terrible noise pollution from constant planes overhead, leaf blowers, construction, and people yelling; hardly any natural light) but the desk view, and the proximity to the library next door, keeps me there.
Before the plague era, which stretches on, I did a lot of writing and reading in coffee shops, and I traveled as often as I could, but for the vast majority of the last few years, my life has spatially collapsed to one desk in one room in one apartment with one view. Sometimes it feels like too much life for one piece of furniture and a few windows to hold, but there are still moments where the sun comes out, dappling all the beautiful mess I’ve gathered around me, and the sweetness I’ve lucked into hits me in the heart. My desk and I are keeping our romance going, despite everything.
Gabrielle Bates is the author of the poetry collection Judas Goat (Tin House, 2023). Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she currently works for Seattle's poetry-only bookstore Open Books: A Poem Emporium and co-hosts the podcast The Poet Salon. Her work can be found in the New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. www.gabriellebat.es / Twitter: @GabrielleBates
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