Scissor, Paper

It started with angels:
a chain gang, joined
at the wings.
Or children holding hands,
their blank faces
& androgynous bodies
ready for the magic
of markers. Seven
to eight, it seems,
was the Age of Paper.
In the lunchroom,
older boys passed on
the lore of cootie catchers
& diamond-shaped
footballs folded
from a notebook page.
Back in class,
we made snowflakes
& taped them to the high
classroom windows,
bait for the gods of snow
& early dismissal.
In December, we draped
the blackboard & doorway
with Christmas chains,
red linked with green
linked with red,
& come February, learned
the simplest cut of all:
the craft-paper heart.
This time, though green
might’ve seemed more apt,
only red would do.
The teacher showed us
how to turn them into cards
with the addition of
a recipient’s name
on the outside
& some simple message
hidden in the fold, making
a virtue of the necessary,
indelible crease.

9 Replies to “Scissor, Paper”

  1. Dave …your poem brought back memories of my own lame attempts to make stuff out of paper. My paper airplanes always flew straight to the floor and my paper dolls were always horribly disfigured!

  2. Dave– This is a wonderful poem. I like it so much. I was just remembering these same rituals the other day, when pumpkins and witches adorned neighborhood windows, in celebration of that orange and black holiday. It is a lovely bit of enculturation that takes place with these paper cut-outs in our elementary school classrooms. Sometimes, even at that age, we experience our first heartbreaks, too, when we hand off our creased red construction paper hearts with their “roses are red…” to the subject of our affections, but do not get one in return. Third grade old maid!

  3. A real memory trigger! As a grandmother, I’ve been enjoying another generation of paper cutouts glued to windows, images varying with the seasons and special occasions. Right now I’m looking forward to my youngest daughter’s very special and intricate snowflakes, scattered all over the black-mirrored windows, bringing the light of snow indoors.

  4. “… the magic of markers” tickled me, and the “necessary, indelible crease” was a perfect image for the end of the poem, with its implication that the technique used can’t be hidden.

  5. Oh my goodness, yes. This is about the age when I started collecting those colorful books with disembodied hands doing origami, step by step. I go through reams of paper nowadays but seem to have forgotten that it is a plastic medium in its own right.

  6. Valentine’s Day craft time was my only moment of popularity, because I could cut a good heart, with fold.

    When I took anatomy in college, a decade later, I could draw real hearts pretty well, and enjoyed the change from dogmatism to observable data.

    Never want to do cardiac surgery, it’s boring, just a pump in that context. It’s interest lies in it’s subtle endocrine funtion. But it’s the stomach that has a brain.

  7. Fred- Paper airplanes would be another whole post, I guess. I was always half-decent at those.

    r.a. – Glad you liked. I guess we did paper things for halloween and thanksgiving, too – hand turkeys, pilgrim hats and the like. As for Valentine’s Day, I know I had my first crush in 2nd grade. But the teachers always made sure that everyone gave valentines to everyone else of the opposite gender, so I don’t remember if there were any broken hearts arond that.

    marja-leena – Of course, some people persist in making paper cut-outs well into adulthood. I know an artist who specializes in it. Her stuff is amazing. It wouldn’t be my choice, though since I rather prefer asymmetry.

    Larry – Thanks. I was kind of pleased with those two phrases, as well, even if the rest of the poem was a bit prosaic for my tastes.

    Brett – Origami, eh? You must’ve been more advanced than me (or had more inventive teachers). Unless you’re counting paper airplanes!

    Zhoen – Great comment. I agree that observable reality trumps symbolism every time. I wouldn’t mind hearing more about that “subtle endocrine function” sometime.

  8. The only appropriate thing is to leave a stone to complete the trio (and to ask what a cootie is, but I suppose I can google that). (o)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.