The Paper Punch

by Janet I. Buck


It’s important to note my paper punch
is 25 years old, maybe even 30 now.
It has a sloppy plastic back.
This machine is tired, but it works, only
if I take a fist and press it down, across
my other withered hand, hard enough
to strain my wrist. I refrain from
stuffing too much paper in between
3 spaced and busy metal teeth.

I’ve filled a notebook full of poems
in less than 60 quicksand days—
breathing out, breathing in, yet not enough
to keep what’s dizzy under thumbs.
Publishing a pile full of anxious words
that leave my thighs slipping off
a bare-skinned pony, fidgeting too near a cliff.

The back comes off the paper punch.
Little dots stick everywhere—in floating air,
on pee-stained carpets, ragged sleeves,
a bygone quilt, pajama pants. A thousand circles,
dimes so bleached they might be moons—
slipping through a pocket’s hole.
I leave them there—
alyssum seeds of where I’ve been.

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