Stone Telling

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Stapler Poem

by Jennifer Givhan

I claim to be present in my poems.
The truth is, I only present the worst me
when I think it sounds poetic.
If the drama sounds like art, I flash it.
I've locked myself in bathrooms.
I've squeezed bodies lifeless, tighter for love.
I've howled nights at the blood-red moon,
a coyote, a wild mother, a sad woman.

I've considered raising public havoc.
Only my fear of looking foolish to anyone
but the five and a half—does the baby count?—
people I live with keeps me from screaming
out profanities or throwing staplers
across the room. I have broken more
small treasures than I'd like to admit.

It's fortunate, or maybe not, these rantings
read as metaphors. Then I may say,
I hate the man I married,
and it might be interpreted as woman's dissatisfaction
with the stifling and limiting roles of
matrimony—although, I suppose, that
idea has long been passé. Still, I'd like

contemporary, metropolitan chic feminists
to venture into the brown Mexican tamale stand
toileting the bottom of California's tank;
where I grew up girls either
get pregnant in high school or right
after, with or without the baby's
daddy. Our parents watch our kids while we go out
drinking with friends in someone's backyard.
Is that how it is where you live?

In Orange County, my new home,
I've met few women who empathize:
"Why would you want to adopt a baby when you're only
a twenty-three-year-old grad student?"
For surely, that I've not gotten pregnant
yet is a blessing, gives me time for myself.
Time to buy shoes, get a manicure, write a poem.

And all of this to say, I have just thrown
a stapler across the room—
I loved its heft, the fine dent in the plaster.
Please forgive me.

Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American poet who grew up in the Imperial Valley, a small, border community in the Southern California desert. She has an M.A. in English, and her poems have appeared widely in print and online, most recently in The Acentos Review. She won the 2010 Emerging Voices Fellowship in Poetry through PEN Center USA and was the November 2010 poet of the month at Moontide Press. Her work focuses on issues of feminism, motherhood, infertility, and adoption, and you can visit her poetry on the web at When Jennifer isn't writing or throwing staplers, she's taking care of her two small children with her wonderful husband (seriously, he does the dishes, the laundry, and just about everything else so she can write!), and teaching composition and Zumba fitness.