We’d known him, back in the day at dear old Millard Fillmore Elementary,
As Three-Desks Tommy, highly imaginative monicker
Deriving from his decidedly unimaginative first name
And the fact that he, indeed, had three desks,
Each of them stuffed chock-full with uncounted numbers of pencils and erasers,
Any number of homework papers (usually A’s and A-pluses,
Though there were the odd B’s and B-minuses as well,
As he was a bright, in fact inordinately bright, child,
But sometimes given to sloppiness and stray pencil marks
And a predilection for not reading the directions completely)
Eerily accurate renditions of dinosaurs,
Wildly inventive stories featuring rainbow-hued dragons,
Noble and voluble talking bovines,
And knights and knaves of every size, shape, and suzerain,
Stories which resided cheek-to-jowl with some bit of uneaten sandwich
Until such time it made its existence abundantly clear to the custodial staff.
We’d never stopped to think much about his miniature Maginot Line;
It was what Tommy did and had always done for as long as we could remember,
Though there were some teachers and an assistant principal or two
Who thought the whole thing was permissive bordering on coddling
(His teacher was a veteran of the wars, and well-insulated by tenure,
But she had grown weary of over-glasses glares and snide asides
When Tommy’s name came up in the staff room,
A death by a thousand cuts and all that),
And one day, while moving one of his desks to clear space for Simon Says,
It had caught on a sticky spot, overturning onto a soon-to-be-fractured toe.
When he came back to school, accompanied by an ungainly cast
And an equally ungainly pair of crutches, his teacher took him aside.
Tommy, she purred, maybe someone is trying to tell you something.
The other kids all make due with one desk,
And I’m sure you can find a way to as well, don’t you, Tommy?
So Tommy embarked on a great cleansing of his little fiefdom,
Filling several garbage cans with his collected works,
(Math papers and mastodons, bologna and Brobdingnagians)
And afterward he’d kept himself to one standard desk,
Duly filing, returning, and circular-filing his paperwork
As the occasion demanded (though one time Murph Dunkirk
Asked Three-Desks if he minded downsizing;
Tommy just shrugged, and said Well, it’s better than a broken foot.)
And maybe in his dreams he had a thousand desks,
A thousand tops to fling open, a thousand repositories for light and legend
Or perhaps he never gave it so much as a second thought,
No way to know now, one supposes,
Though if anything out of the ordinary had come his way,
We would’ve probably heard.