Magnetic Paper Clips

The following is commentary by the judges of the 2008 Tanka Society of America International Tanka Contest, in which this poem was an honourable mention. First published in Ribbons in 2008. In addition, on 5 November 2019, the poem appeared on Chen-ou Liu’s “NeverEnding Story” blog, with his translations into traditional and simplified Chinese, plus commentary.       +

by Michael McClintock and Johnye Strickland

                a week after

                my coworker’s suicide,

                the sculpture on her desk

                collapses—magnetic paper clips

                that held nothing together

                                Michael Dylan Welch

                                Sammamish, Washington

Michael Dylan Welch’s sculpture of paper clips—something we have all seen and may even have on our own desktops—is turned into a powerful metaphor about the fragility of life, and of individual purpose, in our time.