A sort of poetry challenge: Surroundings

I was struck this evening by the odd assortment of objects that litter my ‘desk’.  If you want to play poems about my work place, I’d be intrigued to read them. Post a link in the comments and let’s see what clutter you surround yourselves with.


On my desk, that I never use because it has been swamped by objects that leave no room for me, are two files of more or less important papers, a pot full of pens and pencils, a desk tidy where old letters lie in state from a time when we wrote letters, a few stamps (must buy some more) a clutch of photographs escaped from the Big Photo Box, a bottle of perfume, two boxes of seeds (aquilegia from the park and hollyhocks from a street in the Chartrons), dog nail clippers, postits and sellotape, and a bouquet of dried lavender. The chair is where the unpaid bills wait until the last minute or beyond, and sometimes a cat sits on the faded cushion, glaring at the dog at the other side of the room, daring him to say something.

It is part of the scenery, that old desk, like a painting on the wall, or the view beyond the window. It exists, ages side by side with me, the cat, the dog, with its own accumulation of belongings that I never like to move.


A life in waiting,

a siding where no trains pass,

last summer’s fragrance.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

83 thoughts on “A sort of poetry challenge: Surroundings”

  1. I spied the dog nail clippers before anything else which I am vaguely perturbed by. What strikes me most as I read your words is the comfort I perceive in the Constance of the desk albeit gathering detritus. I crave constance but if I’d had it would my feet itch and my brain gasp from perceived stultidication. Who knows what life would be on other tracks….

    1. Things have a life of their own, a parallel life that I don’t feel I have much control over. I live in a house where no one ever puts anything away. Every surface has its objects, jars with plants rooting in green water, bowls and jugs that don’t fit in the cupboard, important documents, clothes, matchboxes full of screws/beads/seeds/rubber bands, books, pencils, old envelopes, groceries…They sit where they were put and take up residence. We move on to other spaces. I perch on a tiny Ikea table shaped like a guitar pick that only has room for a laptop. We have three dining sized tables in the salon only one of which do we eat at. Trixie sits on one, the other is covered in carpentry tools. Half of the dining table we do eat at is covered in folders, books, a pot of dried fennel, a bowl of lemons, a tape measure, old shopping lists…It drives me crazy! I don’t know if that’s comfort when your belongings take over, but it’s making this removal a nightmare!

  2. Your haiku fits the prose beautifully, and it is wonderful alone as well. For me… I write in bed. Always have. I curl up with 3 pillows and the dog as muse, and use my iPad to capture any poems that tiptoe through.

      1. Not me. If I start my day, take a shower, get dressed, etc. then it’s time to be in the world. I never plan anything before lunch so I can stay in bed and write. I have to do it before anything else — email, texts, everything is ignored until I write. My Wonderful Mate brings me breakfast, and I stay cocooned sometimes for minutes, sometimes all day.

      1. The gap between the chair and desk caught my attention.. It looked like it was waiting and you were writing.. So I thought to look at all 3 perspectives…

      2. I know, that is why I wrote waiting..
        But it’s strange I think it has become a traditional comfort.. That’s why the reappearance..

      3. The middle line speaks that particular wish of the desk.. Hmm.. I can’t see you swearing.. Maybe angry words..

      4. You’re right, I don’t swear. Hardly ever, and when I do it doesn’t feel like me. I swear in French though. Swearing is much more acceptable here than it is in English-speaking countries.

      5. My internet is getting wobbly.. But I never swear. I can do it in writings but I don’t like it.. Hmm.. The English speaking countries and the Asian cultures accept swearing as a culture symbolism.. It’s gotten bad..

      6. I lived in England until I was 23 and haven’t lived there since. We’ve been out of range of the BBC for the last 12 years and don’t have the TV. Each time I’ve been back, and the last time was fourteen years ago, the place has seemed more and more like a foreign country. When people ask, would I ever go back, I feel like asking, do you mean go back to the England of the 1980s? It doesn’t exist anymore.

      7. Well, they always say home is where the heart is.. I don’t like the idea of in your face, modernity. I always believed that I was born in the wrong era. What’s worse is the constant harassment of accepting this so called modernity.. “You are old in your mind” .. “Come on live a little”.. I am Thank you..

      8. Live a little usually means have the kind of group experience that involves laughing a lot, shouting over loud music and drinking/smoking/sniffing, anything that cuts out all experience except the one foisted upon you. No thanks.

      9. And they call it living. Don’t you think it’s weird there was a time when people linked childhood with ignorance and wanted to be mature adults.. All classic writers put emphasised on this maturity now ‘I want to be a kid again’..’ Being a grown up sucks’.. Regressive mindset..??

      10. You put your finger on it. It comes from the US, the cult of youth, never age, looks are everything. Adults want to be adolescents, parents want to be their kids’ best friends, role models are children dressed up like adults, and the role they present is everlasting childhood. No wonder people know nothing about anything and prefer to get their quick fix of knowledge from FB and instagram.

      11. I fear that I will be singled out for the rest of my life. It may have started from US but I can see it out of my window. A culture disparaging the ethics and making truth subjective.

      12. I can hear it now. It’s Saturday afternoon and the non-stop drinking and shouting has started. People forcing jollity on themselves. They don’t think they’re having a good time unless their ears are bursting and everybody is laughing.

      13. My only solace is that there is someone like you feeling the same way about the world as me.. A shared pain bringing smiles.. I know there are more like us.. But I don’t know if they have comfort..

  3. Well done in your haibun, Jane. I would feel at home. 🙂 I’m sure I’ve shared photos. I write at the kitchen table, and when I’m in the midst of working on a book, like now, it is covered with, books, papers, my computer, notes, and a cat (and sometimes cat nail clippers). Right now, my unpaid bills are here, too. When the girls were at home, I always cleared the table at dinner time. Now my husband and I usually eat at another table. Thank goodness for company and family dinners, or this place would never get cleaned. 🙂

    1. That last comment resonates with me 🙂 At the moment though, the lists of things to do/mend/patch up can’t be shuffled out of sight or the jobs will never get done.

  4. What a great prompt, and your cluttered list with clean haiku is just right for the photo.
    I have many work spaces. I’ll have to see which inspires…(K)

      1. Only windows, but at least they look out on trees. Yes, my room is stuffed. What I need is a cork wall to put images on…I have them on the filing cabinets with magnets mostly. Or in folders, endless folders. I’m going to do some photos today, and see what kind of verse they inspire.

  5. I really like these little challenges you put out there for us to dabble in…

    Jane’s Desk

    Clutter is a mind full of ideas
    One prompt upon another.
    In the file sit numerous drafts,
    She disturbs a past novel
    Who is engaged in conversation with a future novel.
    One argues it is the original Celtic hero
    The other claiming, he is the future.
    All this discovered as she hunts down her address book.
    A query has come in from Australia,
    Where is it exactly she questions herself,
    Will, I have enough stamps?
    Should I dab my response with a little perfume?
    Sprinkle the lavender inside the envelope?
    Do they speak English in Australia?
    She hunts through her letters
    Sure, there was once a lost Uncle in Australia
    A strange man his vernacular puzzling.
    We all nodded politely
    After he had gone, we giggled as we tried to speak his odd tongue.
    The cat has claimed its rightful throne
    The dog curls up in the corner
    Knowing its place,
    The bills sit as they do, the epitome of patience.
    She selects a pen, a well-used pen,
    It sits comfortably between her fingers
    She begins: Dear Down Under Person…

    1. And that person would obviously be called Michael. Long lost cousin perhaps? Thanks for peeping through the window and drawing conclusions 🙂 I’ll never look at that desk the same way again!

  6. Beautiful! You can turn anything into poetry. Love the desk, but I suggest you get a bigger one… although you may then just find more objects to hoard on it! 😄

  7. He cast’s about self-consciously,
    small comfort other eyes can’t see,
    the window to his left uncleaned,
    beige curtain pulled awry

    he spins the globe upon his desk,
    mind absent lost among the mess,
    a model mustang out of place,
    emits a weary sigh,

    the coffee cup is empty now,
    which brings a furrow to his brow,
    a scrap of paper lingers still,
    forgotten days gone by,

    but as reflection brought to bear,
    reclines contented upon his chair,
    perhaps the window could be cleaned,
    but everything is fine

    1. Nothing is ever out of place on a writer’s desk that I can see 🙂 Writer’s have eclectic minds and collect model mustangs (horse or car) coffee cups and dried flowers as other people collect price reduction coupons for the supermarket. Thanks for posting your poem, and comforting to hear that other people work in a mess too 🙂

  8. How many dreams lie on Jane’s desk?

    Cheque stubs of life’s purchases.

    The cards of yesterday’s birthdays

    The blank ones for tomorrow

    Forgotten past debts…


    Debts to others…


    A pencil stub,

    worn down from writing.

    A pen, filled with potential…


    The bits and pieces that tell,

    Of moments lost in memory.

    The faded photographs…

    Once important but now nothing…

    And everything.

    How many dreams like on Jane’s desk?

    A lifetime’s.

    1. I see the ping back. It probably took a while to find its way here. Reading my original post I see why so many people have written about MY work space. I intended the challenge to be a poem about your own work space. Makes it seem like a huge ego trip, but an unintentional one, I promise 🙂

      1. I thought mine was, well like a reference to me not having a permanent one, but I see where your coming from re the others. Anyway you all done and dusted with your move?

      2. Yours was a more personal poem, agreed. The actual move is done, but there is so much to do in the house to make it comfortable even by nineteenth century standards that there’s no sitting back and enjoying it yet.

      3. You’ll get there, but you’re putting me off. Something we have to do, move sometime soon as the Mrs can’t get up the stairs anymore, and she and her bed have taken over our lounge.

    1. The desk in the photo was my ‘show desk’ where I ought to have worked, but really only ever used to dump objects that had a vague place in a study. Some had no right to be there at all. I should had phrased the challenge differently to make it clear I was inviting people to write about their own work places. Should have written it: a write-about-my-desk challenge. Something like that.

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