(Not) My Writing Desk

This is not my writing desk.

A window is not a desk.

A desk is a table adapted for convenience in reading or writing. The word desk comes from the Latin discus, dish. My writing desk is a convenient lingua plate, a sermo serving, a logos feast or an empty platter, depending on the day, the meal, the book, the text, the alignments of the stars, and the chemicals coursing beneath my skin. Cells connecting spine and brain. Serotonin. Adrenaline. Hormones set in motion. Caffeine. Red wine. Love. Biochemistry. Neurobiology. My sore foot presses against the floor. Freud’s drives. Eros and Thanatos. If you are a believer in cognition, or in fruition.

In any case, words are deep fried, battered, roasted, steamed and boiled, mashed and peeled or served raw. Follow a recipe, P.67, or you could improvise. On my dish, are flat breads, earthy falafels, and a parsley-heavy Tabbouleh.

Red hot harrisa.

Sunflower seeds.

Purple borscht patterned with a sour cream swirl.

Seafood unadorned, a saline bite.

One square of dark chocolate, served with four eye-shaped Spanish almonds. And plain monastic food, the kind Borges ate: white sliced bread and margarine. White bread and margarine. So as not to be distracted from the words because-

this is not a writing desk.

A window is not a desk.

In Norse, the word window means wind hole. It comes from eyehole. It comes from breath hole. Here I am, beneath an unglazed opening in the roof, gazing up at the sky. Both a window and a desk are located inside buildings, have linguistic roots in receptacles, containers, holding nourishment, opening for air and light. Both a desk and a window can be full or empty.

Present or absent.

But this is not my writing desk.

My writing desk could be a magic carpet, an elevator, or a hotel bed with fresh blank sheets awaiting inky, limbic, turning words. My body on train seats, bare knees, words balanced on the sharp corners of café tables, next to white-haired men in libraries, scented with stale sweat and mothballs, researching shipping routes and carrying portfolios containing pencil sketches of Marilyn Monroe. White dress blown up. Held down. My writing desk might be a pink circular rug, where my youngest daughter squats, in a felt-tip pen sea telling me the secrets of purples lines. Perhaps my writing desk is the palimpsest of each night. The fallow field.  Wait, wait until the winter is over. When the dream comes, until in a large house, an elderly woman, hair in a chignon, leads me up a sweeping staircase to a vast attic room. A few objects are shrouded in dustsheets. The space bathed in speckled light. Under one sheet, something moves. Comes alive. It is a rocking horse, swaying to and fro. I hold it in my arms. The young horse trembles.

But this is not my writing desk.

At my writing desk, Schiller’s gate might open. The watcher gone. The sentry en repos. soon to return, to craft, to shape.

At my writing desk, surrounded by tens and dozens, hundreds and thousands of books, there is improbability, an outside chance, an implausible selection of visible things:

Pencils sharpened. Lines on page. Sit on chair. Elbows up. Feet on floor. One computer. Post-its. Five miniature chipped china dogs. Two telephones. One plastic turquoise mappa mundi ball. One emerald lamp. One pair of someone’s reading glasses (cracked). One yellow toothbrush. One picture of a boat (drawn by my daughter). Three orange clouds. Two wonky crimson sails. One clock in a lush red velvet case (broken). One giant metal clip and five folded sheets of yellow and green paper. One black and white photo of a matchstick model of my grandfather’s church, (written on the back in blue biro: David Howard, 1965). A train timetable. Ten pieces of color overlay gel. Two lace spindles. One child’s building block (forgotten). One envelope (empty). One Indian brass box containing my collection of shopping lists (found). Twenty-one pens. Five old keys to five unknown locks. Twelve coins. One rubber band. Three black hairbands. One cup of green tea (cold). Twenty-six notebooks in various colors (containing uncountable sentences, paragraphs, scribbles, arrows, scrawls, plots, themes, storylines, quotes, words crossed out and underlined, misspelt words. En francais, in English.)

A school photo of my deceased sister.

A tiny, cut-out jianzhi paper heart…

But this is not my writing desk

A window, an eye-hole, is not a desk.

This morning, I woke from a dream inside a desert and in my hand I held a stick, and I was drawing a line in the sand, and as I drew, the wind erased my trace.

But this is not my writing desk.

This is not my writing.

This is not my.

This is not.



Susanna Crossman is an Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist, winner of the 2019 LoveReading Very Short Story Award. She has recent/upcoming work in Neue Rundschau, S. Fischer (translated into German), Repeater Books, The Creative Review, 3:AM Journal, The Lonely Crowd and more. Nominated for Best of The Net (2018) for her non-fiction, her fiction has just been short-listed for the Bristol Prize and Glimmertrain. Co-author of the French roman, L’Hôpital Le Dessous des Cartes (LEH 2015), she regularly collaborates on international hybrid arts projects. Currently, she is showing the multi-lingual prose film, 360° of Morning, with screenings and events across Europe and USA. She lives in France. She tweets @crossmansusanna.

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