“Information Desk,” a Poem by Robyn Schiff


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Contrary to what

I once believed to be their near-immortal


deprived of oxygen in an old jam jar,

rounded up body by

body as they


scrambled under someone’s sink

over the course of

I don’t know how many days or weeks

and brought by coat pocket into

a French period room where the Trustees were

gathered for dinner behind a


folding screen,

cockroaches landed DOA in proximity

to the writing desk of Louis XV,

failing thus

to infiltrate that woodwork, itself an

imitation of Chinese lacquer—


God’s plastic—both the secretion

of the female

Asian scale insect Laccifer lacca,

named for the Sanskrit word for the swarm of

one hundred thousand of her coating a tree

in a sumptuous


ectoplasm I would like to


and a scarlet resin like it—

thick, deep, sticky, and hard

as the hard candy layer of a candy apple—

made from the toxic tree sap of a relation


of poison ivy.

Which is it? Insect or plant?

Who or what? The original black silk velvet blotter

upon which the king of France unrolled

his map and spread his documented

mistress was lost


before his giant desk was brought to this

gallery in the year of my birth.

But matter never disappears

entirely. I stroke the vestige

of that fabric, chewed up, swallowed,



through the abdomen of silverfish

and shit-deposited back into earth

where the wild root hairs of an oak tree,

from which was hewn

this borrowed desk I write this down on,

groped that desperate


velvet power. The year of my birth?

This very desk?

Endowing me with what self-centered knowledge

it’s my job or fate to disseminate

from the Information Desk? A stranger

once approached me


there and said,

“I was on your flight last week!

You were on my plane!”


From Information Desk: An Epic by Robyn Schiff. Copyright © 2023. Published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lamber is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes about arts, entertainment, lifestyle, and home news. Nicole has been a journalist for years and loves to write about what's going on in the world.

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