James Richardson

Ode to the Paper Clip
September 21, 2018 Richardson James

Ode to the Paper Clip

O knot in two dimensions,
tiny maze, shine on the rug,
little animal endemic

to desks, self-perpetuating
unendangered species,
trumpet too fine to sing!

You must, since everything
is like everything else, be like me,
though at the moment I can’t think how.

I don’t have the baker’s
floured boards, a pick for anthracite,
a van with racks of pipe, but paper clip,

I have you, essential tool
of the service sector, subcategory
helping professions, who assist

information everywhere
in its dance like the bee’s
shaky rendition

of where the flowers are
for any of its fellows
who might want to follow.

It’s harder to say what
we do, in our white
collars (though I

affect blue), every day a different
same thing, or same
different thing . How I

dreaded, when young, the terrible
smallness of the life to come:
baking a single loaf

forever, climbing a ladder
with two nails between my lips
forever, correcting

a single uncorrectable essay
forever forever forever,
the future a darkened mountain

with one pinprick of light
imagination couldn’t open
into a single day I could imagine

living minute by minute. Even these
minutes, modest but unalone,
watching my feet go dark light dark

on the subway, one guy
slumped, post-work, both of us
thinking without thinking it,

How does he live? — when out of my pocket,
you appear, O paper clip,
dulled with crumbs, humbler even

than the useless penny, change back
from nothing at all! How did I forget
you would be here with me,

minute by minute, in any
basket of miscellany, any drawer —
for a room without minutes

is more likely than a room
without paper clips, ready to join
any two thoughts days souls

into a new thing. Truly we call
poet that part of anyone
that knows it has no job,

or every job. As you do!
Vaulting tower
of a finger-long Verrazano,

hairpin interchange,
impossible pipeline
that ends where it begins, or,

who can tell, begins where it ends —
touching always and at once
the first page and the last!

Always I hear — O retired
exclamation point! O social metal! —
that sound you make, all of you,

when my blunt fingers enter
a little dark nest of you
to elicit one, a faintly excited

tinny rain, a chorus
of murmurs we are only
what we are together!
O to have lain

all night with my love on a bed
of paperclips, such pure Connection,
our every motion spoken!

James Richardson‘s most recent collections of poems and aphorisms are During (Copper Canyon, 2016);  By the Numbers, which was a finalist for the National Book Award;  Interglacial:, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award;  and Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001).  He is Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University.