Emptying my backpack today, I find a handful of used paper clips at the bottom.
Evidence of all that has come undone through the years, emblems of all that has slipped away.
The hunger of binder clips frightens me. These objects that are pure bite, pure jaw. I am appalled by the tenacity with which they hold on to their prey, and by their capacity for cannibalism, the way they lock together, mouths joined in a feral compact that is more combat than kiss.
At other times though, I am touched by how gently they hold the manuscripts I entrust to them; the way they take these delicate reams of paper by the scruff of their necks, like a mother dangling her cubs in her mouth, and deliver them to me, when the time comes, entirely unharmed.
Yet they are not all docility, not all obedience. For I have felt their resistance straining against me when I lever open their jaws and try to fit my papers between them, like a petty dictator stuffing the mouth of his subjects with his own opinions. At times like these they are like obstinate children, who will not eat what is good for them - they must be co-opted, coerced - and often, in this process, a stray sheet of paper will spill over and the whole offering will have to be withdrawn, retrieved, offered again.
It says a lot for my own fragility as a writer that I experience their reluctance to take my words into their mouth, mechanical and unthinking as it undoubtably is, as a kind of rejection, so that if the clip will not close over the manuscript after, say, the third try, I will often conclude that I must revise the manuscript, when it would be better perhaps to search for a more expansive audience, a larger size of clips.