home for Christmas:
my childhood desk drawer
A Solitary Leaf, 1996 Haiku Society of America membership anthology,
Decatur, Illinois: Brooks Books, 1997
This haiku is rich for me because of how vivid the experience was, and how immediately the poem came to mind. At the time my mother and father lived in Winnipeg, and I was visiting from California. My parents were in a new house, built since I had moved away, and I was sleeping in a bedroom that was no longer mine. But the desk was my old desk, made of plain pine wood. I don’t know what I expected when I opened the drawer, but of course it was empty. At that instant it seemed that my childhood was gone, and I felt momentarily as empty as that drawer. My notes tell me that I wrote the poem on New Year’s Eve, 1994, so I was already 32 years old, but still it felt like a door closing shut on the past. For most people who celebrate the holiday, Christmas is a time of joy, of families being together, of much sharing and happiness—and returning home makes this time all the more special. And indeed it was for me, which served to heighten the contrast with that old pine drawer’s melancholy emptiness. This is what I believe readers have closely related to in this poem over the years. But this experience was also a moment of acceptance, of moving on, of welcoming the possibilities of other desks and other opportunities. It was a rite of passage, of realizing that of course my childhood had ended long ago, yet here was one last and unexpected reminder of that receding past. And the drawer wasn’t quite empty after all. I noticed, along the insides of that pine wood drawer, that it still held lightly purple crayon marks.