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Weekly Poem: ‘Duration’

By Valerie Nieman

The Swingline Speed Stapler 3
was surplused out of the front office
not long before the whole enterprise went belly-up.
What a piece of work this is!
A Chrysler building, an Eames chair (but humble)
polished chrome, matte steel,
its rising curves lifted from a Hudson,
from the front a sphinx of good order,
and each part —
from the cross-hatched footplate
to the cracked rubber palm-pad
incised with three decorative lines —
my God look what attention to detail
and proud of it,
patent numbers here, and here,
this work of Long Island City New York:
decades later the spring
is still full of the old zip.

A simple machine, to take a bit of wire
and bend it back on itself, papers secured at a thwack,
or a bulletin board tacked into place
with the easy release of the staple arm
from a metal catch (made in U.S.A., patented),
a more permanent fix
than Post-Its.
My father passed it along
when I headed to college – a reliable tool
like the clipboard and mechanical pencil
he used on the shop floor
ages and states ago. A move here, a move there –
I could have stapled maps
of the Eastern United States together
to trace the routes, the cities where things are made
and traded, where I stick
for a time, and then (unfastened) lift away.

Valerie Nieman is the author of the poetry collection, “Wake Wake Wake” (Press 53, 2006); three novels, “Blood Clay” (Press 53, 2011), “Survivors” (Van Neste Books, 2000) and “Neena Gathering” (Pageant Books, 1988); and a collection of short fiction, “Fidelities” (West Virginia University, 2004). She teaches at North Carolina A&T State University.

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