Once upon a time, pre-pandemic, I wrote a collection of poems about a room on the 8th floor of Dawson College. This is the room where, a few short months ago, I had my New School English class every Thursday evening. 8B.12 was a space with couches and gentle lamplight, a space filled with calm warmth, and a place where, surrounded by my classmates, I loved to write.
I took that space for granted.
Now that room tries to exist within wires and routers, in Zoom calls with spotty WiFi and spottier attendance. It’s not quite the same—it’s not as stable. Nothing feels as stable as 8B.12.
I miss stability.
I miss the room.
For now, I have the poems I wrote about 8B.12. Here are two of them, the first and last ones in the collection. I hope they conjure some of the feeling of the rooms we used to take for granted, the rooms I know I will be grateful to return to again.
There’s something about this room
that makes it easier to write.
Maybe it’s the warmth.
The heat of fifteen bodies cuddled on chairs,
breathing air warmed by lungs, by skin,
by clothes made for outside cold,
colder than the embers of this room.
Maybe it's the warmth.
Maybe it’s the lighting.
Warm lamps between the chairs, between the bodies,
bodies glowing in the flameless firelight,
calm, almost sleeping, and still
In each corner, with different shades,
the lamps lean in to the conversation,
and their lights tell stories.
Maybe it's the lamps.
Maybe it’s the people.
Backgrounds scattered across a map,
a symphony of accents,
a forest of ideas
flowing in a river of discussion.
One warmth, one glow, one welcome.
One family pooling in the glowing room,
drinking tea and telling stories.
Maybe it's the people.
Maybe it’s the storytelling animal.
A small dog of a shadow, fading to a blur
at the edges of the room.
It lies curled on the green carpet near a leg of the center table.
It sighs in its sleep, occasionally flicks its tail.
Its contentedness radiates out from the carpet to the table to the walls,
to the lamps and the people and the warmth.
Maybe it's the storytelling animal.
I write better in this little room,
tucked in a distant corner of this building.
It's the warmth, the lamps, the tea, the people,
the storytelling animal.
Note to the Future Student
You are the student in this room.
Your story is as broad as albatross wings
and as deep as the ocean beneath them.
I can write about the room you sit in,
but I cannot write about you,
for you have crossed mountains
whose names I do not know,
and plains whose flowers I have never seen.
You must write it.
You must look into the world,
and with what you see,
you must write the poem of your heart.
Paint your poem with stories
birthed by the mothers of the world
and let it run through the hallways
of thousand-year-old trees.
Detail of "space s" poster by Miranda Clarke, Illustration student, Dawson College.