The Perils of Poets Wielding Staplers (or, How Poetry Can Ruin Your Home Decor)

You’d think that after 2+ years in professional publishing, a girl might be able to assemble a dozen photocopied-at-Office-Depot pages into a poetry chapbook without stapling it to the wall.

Ways My Chapbook Did Not Get Stapled To The Wall:

1. As I ponder the subtitle—13 love poems by lisa rosinsky (please note the artistic lack of uppercase letters, as though the shift key were broken on my poor nostalgically archaic typewriting device, perhaps due to spilled soup) —and wonder whether I should add seven more love poems and a song of despair, just for good measure, since that seemed to  work out okay for Senor Pablo—as I sit here pondering, stapler in one hand, loose pages in the other, who should burst into my kitchen but Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto himself. At the sight of his balding head and the enigmatically quirked black caterpillars over his wide brown eyes, I burst spontaneously into Spanish, a language in which I previously knew only a few words. “¡Quiero hacer contigo lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos! I cry, flinging myself at him. “Yes, yes, my child,” he soothes, patting my hair. “I also wish to do with you what spring does to the cherry trees. But first–” and he picks up my half-assembled chapbook, lovingly staples it to the wall just above my head, then bends and kisses me beneath this bizarre mistletoe. His breath is the saddest poem, his lips are like the lemon tree’s yellow and also not like the lemon tree’s yellow. I faint dead away and when I wake up, he is gone, pages of poetry are flapping against the wall in the breeze from the open door.

2. I am collating and stapling away, humming, when I hear a strange scratching noise at the back door. I look around. It is 10:00 at night, all the windows are dark. Suddenly the door bangs open and a burglar stands there, lock pick in hand. He pulls a gun out of his waistband and levels the muzzle right between my eyes. “Gimme all your cash, gimme your computer, gimme your iPod and your phone,” he says. “NOW-OR-I’LL-SHOOT.” Zoe darts past, ears flattened against her head, tail between her legs. “Gimme your cat, too,” he amends. Zoe hisses. “Wait!” I whimper, and I pick up my book of poems, take a deep breath. “When we were sweaty with hilarity, / fully clothed but lost in the warm clouds of my hair,” I yell, picking a page at random. He doesn’t move. I flip pages. “Having measured every corner of your breathing, / I almost have the scaffolding in place to map / the trajectory of the way I fell for you!” I read him poem after poem and he just stands there, holding that stupid deadly contraption leveled at my face. I finish the book, fling my arms out dramatically. “Take it or leave it!” I shout. “That’s the best I got, buddy!” He shrugs, flips the hammer, fires one round. A staple shoots out and pins my book to the wall behind me, waving its pages at him like a friend saying goodbye. He turns on his heel and shuts the door behind him.

3. I’m almost finished collating and stapling the stack of pages and covers, when something rustles in the pile of finished chapbooks. I freeze, stapler in one hand, as one of the books extricates itself from the stack and stands up on its edge, wavering slightly, flapping its pages. It sighs—if a book can sigh. (Plainly, this one can.) “Please,” it says to me, “get it over with quickly.” I don’t move a muscle. The book shuffles over to the edge of the table, then drops to the floor. It flutters some pages around before it figures out how to right itself, then scuttles to the wall and—as I watch, open-mouthed—begins to climb. The book manages to climb about halfway up the wall, with no visible appendages or handholds. When it reaches a spot just about five feet off the ground, it stops and spreads its pages dramatically, like the wings of a small white bird. “Affix me!” it cries. “I have been selected, of all my people, to bear the weight of our sins. I am the scapegoat, the chosen one, the sacrificial chapbook! AFFIX ME NOW!” What choice did I have? I staple the poor thing to the wall. It breathes a sigh of relief, its pages droop, and then it rustles no more. The books still stacked on the table cheer and then, like a great flock, flap their wings and take to the air. They scatter themselves all over the room, in a flurry of white paper, before ducking out the window, one by one, and disappearing into the night.


How My Chapbook Actually Did Get Stapled To The Wall:

Well, see, it was one of those regular office-supply-sized staplers that you have to unfold if you want to staple something wider than four or five inches, the kind your teachers used to staple things to bulletin boards in kindergarten. I unfolded it and tried stapling my book against the dining room table. That made little marks in the mahogany finish of the dining room table. I licked my finger and rubbed at them. Then I twisted the staples out and tried again, stacking the pages on a piece of scrap paper this time. That just stapled my book to the scrap paper. While I twisted those staples out, I thought about it. Aha! The wall was a hard surface that I couldn’t scratch. The walls in our house are made of plaster. You can’t even stick a pushpin through them. I held the book against the wall with one hand and slugged the stapler at it with the other. The stapler made a satisfying ka-CHUNK. I moved my hands away from the wall. The book didn’t come along for the ride. I frowned. I tugged. I began to giggle. The pages of a green that needs no other adjective: 13 love poems by lisa rosinsky flapped at me, rakishly askew.

Noj (whose name has been cleverly spelled backward for privacy) came downstairs. “What’s so funny?”

Me: “Hee! Hoo! Heeheeheehahahahoohoohee!”

Noj: “???”

Me: [sitting down on the kitchen floor so as not to pee my pants] “Heeheeheeheeheeheehee!!!”

Noj: “????????”

Me: [pointing] “My book—hee–is—hoohoo–stapled–to the wall!”


Moral 1: Apparently not all of our walls are plaster. And not all professional editors should be allowed to assemble books without professional supervision.

Moral 2: Poems have incited revolutions, immortalized fallen heroes, forged passionate romances and torn them asunder. Poems, while ultimately removable from kitchen walls, can also put holes in the paint job on said walls.


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