The Study

by Renee Gladman

Produced by Sara Brookes Curtis

This piece is a part of a series called “Walking Tours of Your Home.” The physical component of this section is an accordion pamphlet advertising a series of tours (read the image description of the pamphlet here).

Press play to listen to the audio as you read along.

To enter your study, it is best to approach your study from the direction of the kitchen.

Time to dream. [Four slow, deep notes are played on piano, and then resonate under the words until they return again. This goes on.] The place where you work is calling you using your favorite words. Once you hear them, begin your journey to that space by announcing, “Here I come,” so that the room can prepare for you. Raise your voice to the level of a greeting if you whispered it the first time [her words, “Here I come,” echo loudly]; lower your voice to the level of a greeting if you shouted it the first time [her words, “Here I come,” echo quietly]. If you said it correctly the first time, say it again for good measure: “Here I come,” you are saying. However, wait before you cross the threshold.

To enter the room optimally, you’ve got to perform a small officiating act.

Begin by kneeling with your right hand against the inside frame of the doorway and your left pointed toward the floor. You are kneeling and, remember, you are breathing, too. [A quick breath.] When you have achieved the moment where kneeling and breathing are happening simultaneously [another quick breath], then return to your feet. [The music is growing here, gaining more body, filling up the space.]

Look out into the vast world of your study. Blink through your yawning, stretching objects. Open to the bright blue sun blazing high in the sky, visible through the large bay window to your right, and begin a slow trek to the center of the room. [Floorboards creak under footsteps, running water in the background.] Open to the faint sound of the river rushing with excess from last night’s downpour. Blink through the sun turning golden. Your drawing table is glowing with portals; your desk is a field of cornflowers. Blink through the wide floorboards and the radius you are walking to reach the window. Open to the slight shift in the room’s proportion of air to light. Blink through the welcome. [The water fades into silence.] Open to the dust-particle sized books floating on the light rays of the room. Open to the dust particles not-yet-become books.

[A playful, anticipatory song begins, chimes and mallets bringing us a plucky energy.] In front of the window sits the desk where time and time again you have written and drawn and studied the sky. You have made and executed a plan; you have made and failed a plan. Today’s plan is simple: write something, read something, think something. Let’s begin.

Walk over to your gathering of pens at the corner of your desk [again, footsteps]. Pull out the black one [pens rattle]. Lay it down [a pen hits the desk]. Pull out the clear one [rattle]. Lay it at a forty-five-degree angle to the black one. Where is your pencil? Get it out. Lay it down at your secret, personal angle [a pencil is pulled across the desk]. Pull out a second black pen. Take the top off and pull a sheet of paper close. [A paper slides across the desk]. Write your name. [A pencil scribbles over the paper, moving across our awareness and then fading]. If you are leaning over, return to your proper posture and take a deep breath. If you were standing straight, lean over so you can see what you’re doing. You are holding the second black pen in your hand, with your hand poised over the sheet of paper you have either stood to breathe or bent over to breathe and, now on the new breath, because there needs to always be one, you are writing your name. Write your name, followed by the words, “reporting for dreaming.” [A pen marks a page with this message, the sensuous sound of pen against paper fibers.] Put the pen down. Pick up the pencil and make your special mark. [A pencil spins over the page with feeling.] Do it with a flourish. This is your contract for the day [the music changes drifts off]. Put the pencil down. Return the pens to the holder. The sheet of paper stays on the desk. The desk sits in front of the window. Look out the window unguardedly. Open to a bright black sky. Blink through the panes inscribed with descriptions of the weather. Open to a bright green sky. Tap your finger against your name [an insistent tapping]. As you gaze out at the sky, say the words you have written: “Reporting for dreaming.” Say them again [the words echo].

[A high pitch transitions us into a dignified, ethereal, purposeful, song. A drum is hit slow and steady underneath it.] Now, time to gather some books; we want the yellow ones.

Begin to take the lid off the sensation that you’re not alone in the room. Open to the countless presences behind you, the innumerable vertical slender homes for thought. That’s right. Walk over to your bookshelves, stand before them so that you can take in the full expanse and be accompanied. You have many books with many different colored spines, but today you are most taken with the yellow ones.

Yet, as is often the case, you do not have as many yellow books as you would like to have. It is hard to find the books you crave to read designed with either yellow covers or yellow spines. Today, though, it is enough to have the spine be yellow even if the front and back covers are given to some other color: the book, for our purposes, is still yellow. Step forward and begin pulling your yellow books from the shelves [a book hits a hard surface]. Let a stack build up in your hands [more books are shuffled through, hit the pile as she speaks]: you are gathering as you’re holding. Bow to each shelf from which you pull a yellow book, say, “Hello and thank you,” then add the book to the growing stack. If the shelf is taller than you, step back a couple of feet so that you can bow properly. “Hello and thank you” to the tall shelves in particular, and blink through the dark corridors that each book reveals as it’s removed. Blink through the long, dark corridors behind each of the books on your shelves. [The sounds of the flowing river return to us.] Open to the hush of the river flowing beneath the large window, where nearby rests the sheet of paper where you’ve dedicated your time to dreaming. Keep gathering the yellow books.

Once your stack has grown just short of unruly, say “Thank you” one last time. It would be best to say it in a language other than the one you’ve previously been speaking [she says, “Danke, A ‘rantai”]. If you’ve managed to find only one or two yellow books, you will do well saying “Thank you” also but in languages from two different continents than your own [she says, “Danke schön, gracias, merci,” as the water and music fade out]. Pronounce your gratitude to the expanse of the ceiling directly above you [“Thank you”]. Blink through the snow-covered mountains calling you into their range. Open to the slope of the ceiling, the portal at its apex [a quick breath].

You are, at this moment, in the dream [misty, gentle music begins].

As you breathe, remember that you are holding that very special stack of yellow books. These books are integral to the dream you are living. Inside one of these books is the first paragraph to the book of the future, the book you will begin to paint or write as soon as you’re ready. Open to the flow of music emanating from your built-in speakers; they are round and look like portholes. Blink through the plant arms growing out of them. They are wild and beautiful. Open to the music of the Mande Griots you are playing [the song fades into this new one, we are hearing it come through the speakers] and be held between dance and prayer. You are filling up with the dream and the possibilities of future thinking. But, to do this right, you’ve got to be sitting in your cozy reading chair.

Walk around the table with the glowing portals and open to the rising sound of water. [The river returns again, louder this time.] Your favorite chair floats on the opposite side. Your chair is located in the part of the room furthest from the window, yet, in an odd trick of architecture, it is where the river is loudest. Blink through the roar of the river. Open to the plush softness of the chair, which you have now approached but have yet to descend upon. Blink through the train that pulls out of the station in the crease where the back of the chair meets the bottom cushion.

[Vocals have now joined the music.] You are using the flow of the music to redirect the body so it can fully inhabit the dream. Let the body dance, riding the sway of the song of the Griots. Let it be soulful. Hold the books close to your torso and let the body turn around. Take your time. Turn on a point with hips and feet, hips and feet. It is time to sit down.

[The music fades away.] Once the front of the body faces the bright brown sun, let the body sink into your cozy chair. The yellow books are glowing portals expanding and contracting on your lap. Blink through the massage of it. It is time to look at these books and find the paragraph of the future. Which portal do you choose? Which page leads to dreaming? The books you have gathered are all covered in signs. Pick one. Pick the one that is least demonstrative in its calling. Place the remaining books in the library boat departing now on its overnight trek across the floor. [Books are pushed across the floor.] Remember your name [“Renee Gladman,” she says]. Remember your name [“I am Renee Gladman”]. Say it now [“This is Renee Gladman”]. Lean back into the plushness of the chair. Open to the roar of the distant river. Where you go next is the beginning of when you are writing. [The water continues, fading into a guitar slowly plucked, and writing begins.]

Renee Gladman has published eleven works of prose and poetry, most recently a brief detective novel, Morelia, and two books of drawings, Prose Architectures (Wave Books, 2017) and One Long Black Sentence (Image Text Ithaca Press, 2020). The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, she makes her home in southern New England with poet-ceremonialist and herbalist Danielle Vogel.

Sara Brooke Curtis is an award-winning radio producer living in rural Western Massachusetts. Her work has aired on KCRW’s Lost Notes, the CBC’s Love Me, the BBC’s Short Cuts, and other programs. She’s an obsessive documentarian and most likely wants to know all about you. You can listen to her work at