first published Gator Springs Gazette, Life Sentences, August 2004
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A sense of work space--for an architect a sense of space is a tactile feel of narrow enclosure, of walls and the density or lightness of their materials, the sun penetrates through stained glass windows, the sound of a sibilant murmur echoes, the smell of a cavernous hollow and the feel of the stone floor as it is walked upon. Tibetan monks bang their drums. For a poet space is like a rapidly expanded universe without end, the topographic map winds as far as the umbilicus of the disembarked soul will reach. And then there is the place where we sit and write.
"You don't just sit down and write that stuff out, do you?" The answer is, "Well, NO, not exactly."
I sit at my keyboard and I look out past the monitor through the window and the leaves of the trees are green with the early sunlight from the east filtered through over the Atlantic. I can just pick out amid the biosphere and fresh birdsong the white and blue edge of the bow of my neighbor's boat perched in his mown yard. I am at the helm of my imagination in this space. I invent myself as a small Mark Twain secluded in an isolated pagoda in Elmira, NY where I look out over stretches of timothy fields with goats and cows in them and tentatively peck at this newfangled typewriter. My family flutters around me and the energetic dog Mudslide waits outside on the porch, or comes inside begging for me to come out and play in the lawn.
Here I am on a lazy boat in the Caymans in pursuit of tarpon while I smoke a Cuban cigar. From this roost I can see the Post Office of Hell. A friend of mine told me the last time he was here it was a hundred feet under in a sub in the 50s. It is his confined space to remember and mine to relate as I sit in this writing space on Long Island, east of Manhattan in the unHamptons, and write of a sense of place that is noplace.
Or I am Stephen Hawking's spiritual clone, confined to a wheel chair afloat in a hot air balloon where I imagine entire universes and black holes while I peck out with a soda straw on keyboard instructions to my students on where to look for the hidden mystery of one. A space can be so many things to match our desire to fill. I am within his space of body and without of it in story. Like with Baudelaire, I am anywhere and anyone I want to be but here.
It is an elaboration of the advice to those who want to be writers to find a space within which to write, to form a habit of writing. We seek a space within, more likely a space within which we can be most within ourselves comfortable to dream ourselves different, and in a dream to become as that which is and is not this person confined within and without and yet entirely free. We each make it as our own cell, a few stuffed cats on the firm shelves smile at us, paper rockets lay dormant next to duck decoys, or we sniff the subtle burn of sandalwood incense mixed with a scent of sauteed garlic in the back grounded kitchen. My cave, I wander all around in and out of business--battered here and there with the cosmic tide, I get a haircut or fix a flat tire or ease blindly into the ocean's surf or find myself arrested--and then I retreat to my cave where I write, and rewrite, and communicate, with you.
I am surrounded by books, sorted, unsorted, piled up on three sides. There are precarious cliffs of non-reference books anchored to the desk, while more humble piles of them tower over the threatening arcs of flying buttresses escaping from the floor. A fourth side of the space is left partially open, just enough room to avoid the tangle of computer wires. It is to this writing cave that my broken body returns to find the dream where my mind runs wild, wickedly, softly, near close to slumber and catatonia on occasion, excited, angered, confused, drunken with your imagination, but always with a desire to be free. It is this place to write.