I need things around my desk. Lots of things.

On top of my computer hutch, I keep a mountain range of clutter--a miniature lava lamp, a paper mache dragon puppet, sand dollars and seashells, lanterns and candles, a plastic "pato azul" from a botanica on eighth street. Not to mention, a Siamese fighting fish named Kingsley, who keeps watch as I type.

I'll peck out a few sentence, blink, and stare into space. The clutter keeps me calm. So does my music: the stacks of mix CDs heaped next to my monitor. Or the pirate radio station, just barely leaking bad words through my boombox, always tainted with static.

Yesterday I left my desk early and headed to the university for their MFA alumni reading (as mentioned in the Miami wordsmiths). Since I spend so much time in my room, talking to imaginary people, it was cool to hear Celia Alvarez read a poem about Hialeah (where the boys wear baggy shorts and empty threats...and men squat outside stores lit with neon, too tired to sit or stand).

I know how it feels.

All this week, I couldn''t sleep. Clutter fills my head, keeping me awake with their push-pull, low tide, high tide. So I get up and crawl to the computer. When I check my email, I find questions from my readers.

Kathleen wants to know: why do you write?

Why do I write?

Then I read I mindblowing letter from Tre, who says the Total Constant Order reminds him of his life and someone he used to know, someone who meant a lot to him. Most of all, it reminded him of himself.

So I say: YOU are the reason I wrote that book.

And I go back to my desk and get to work.