Original poem reprinted online here: "Paper" by Stephen Ackerman
Originally read: July 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Stephen Ackerman
How paper is used in this poem. But not actual paper, more like the various usages of paper in conversation, or in play but not in a direct way. The construction of the poem doesn't allow any sort of individual definition or offshoot to be an emphasis since the poem is a single stanza. What this opens up though is forced connections, as though to make sense of something well known on paper. Like knowing the definition of "the."
First usage, "looks good on paper." The idiom "we looked good on paper" is used, and expanded upon, "'To be young, beautiful, professional / stood them through the processional / but not many years beyond.'" And through the explanation, "they papered over their differences". Verb form of paper as in to gloss over. The overall tone of the piece so far has been whimsical. Note the rhyme brings an amusing quality to the poem as in play.
Which segues to the next usage, "Scissors cut paper, contracts are rescinded. / Heavy stock, with a water mark, / paper has a signature." The references to paper are now coming faster with mentions of "papyrus" and "Paper on which he praised / her silken labor". What the speed does is attempt to merge all the images before the reader can overly think about them. The tie in with relationships, games, legalities, and history tie in together. The funny thing is that the definition merges, but not the image. paper, is still paper, meaning is added up.
Then the slow down with the quote:
"Origami of your body
when you folded
first east, then west,
and made for me
the lotus of forgetfulness."
There's the reference here of east (Oragami) and west (Lotus-eaters [Odysseus]) with this quote. What this serves is an addition to universality to the poem which is played one with "Each day you must decide / whether words are worthy / of the paper" a greeting card saying subverted through alliteration. There no change of tone specifically; rather a compiling of good and bad -- east and west (whatever is "bad" in that duo).
"Paper on which the suicide wrote: / 'I had a good life, don't blame yourself.'" has the strongest emotional impact for me due to the language being so simple rather then the reverent language used above this quote. A part of me wishes the poem ended here since the impact is strong here without being overly dramatic (the language before buffers this).
Yet, I can see whey the continuation of the poem happens. Paper for signatures. Paper for the Constitution. Paper as possibilities. And the poem explores these possibilities without a focus on an individual preference. So when the poem ends, "now is bound forever / to this minor poem, / to 'paper'". The poem ends with it going back internally -- there's no choice since the poem itself "feels" like it's done exploring when going internally. What's left is what is exposed.