Daniel Donaghy – Felix and the School Desk

Daniel Donaghy

Felix and the School Desk

He found it in his dumpster,
drawers gone, paint chipped,
curses carved into the desktop.
“A little project,” he said,
winking at my brother and me
on our way to shoot hoops,
sandpaper and plywood
tucked under his good arm.
Evenings he’d put George
behind the bar and get back
to the storage room,
whistling Frank Sinatra
while he rebuilt the drawers
then sanded every inch,
“Angel Eyes,” “What’s New?”
“It’s a Lonesome Old Town,”
my brother and me watching
through the basement window
while he thumbed the inkwell
smooth, the pencil gutter,
and beneath the handles,
gliding up and down each leg,
his wife dead ten years,
his daughter trying to find
herself dancing topless in Jersey,
his hands turning raw,
dust everywhere, hacking cough,
realizing too late
he should have worn a mask,
still hawking phlegm into a napkin
when he kicked our fathers out,
still whistling Sinatra after last call,
“the wee small hours of the morning”
he’d tell us later, “when all
good children should be in bed,”
calling us in the next afternoon
to give us the school desk,
three coats of chestnut varnish,
a matching chair.
We’d have the world on a string,
he said, if we studied hard,
asking again if we liked it,
if we were sure we could carry it home,
telling us to make him proud.

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