by Stephen Burt

Likeness held in the hand,
I can link any thin thing
to any thin thing: rarely cold
to touch, and unassuming not withstand-
ing my silver paint’s sparkle. I can connect
a map of Connect-
icut to an atlas of Iceland,
or flatten out the mountains of Vermont.
I have no use for a doctrine of non-
attachment, although I once
put an argument for it together:
I see through and remember any sliver
of paper or ribbon that has ever passed
between my stainless teeth…

In hope that what I join
nobody will put asunder,
I preside eagerly over
every union I encounter; I pretend
that anything I make fast,
will hold fast, though the ever-
sharper incisors of my mother,
Time, her servant, Dust, and her other
servants, Water and Sunlight —
the enemies of the news
today, and of anything you write
tomorrow — will in fact devour
everything I touch:
each letter and artifact
will go the way of all files —
cursive and print will join up,
gold and black merge and indigo,
each stock and weight at last
as good as any other in
the empty chamber I will someday know.

SOURCE: “Swingline Stapler” appears in Stephen Burt’s collection Belmont (Graywolf Press, 2013), available at

PHOTO: Collectors Edition Swingline 747 Polished Chrome Classic Desk Stapler, available at


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor. He grew up around Washington, D.C., and earned a BA from Harvard and PhD from Yale. Burt has published three collections of poems: Belmont (2013), Parallel Play (2006), and Popular Music (1999).

Burt’s works of criticism include Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (2009), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Art of the Sonnet—written with David Mikics (2010); The Forms of Youth: 20th-Century Poetry and Adolescence (2007); Randall Jarrell on W.H. Auden (2005), with Hannah Brooks-Motl; and Randall Jarrell and His Age (2002).

Burt has taught at Macalester College and is now Professor of English at Harvard University. He lives in the suburbs of Boston with his spouse, Jessie Bennett, and their two children. (Source:

Author Photo: Jessica Bennett, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED