That paper clip just couldn't be bent back into what it was before.
Your fingers were strong, but the steel was stronger.
The marriage license lies loose-leafed in your top desk drawer,
and you won't admit it, but you kept the paper clip too,
thinking he could bend it back into what it was before;
maybe his fingers are strong enough.
They were strong before, with a gold ring
pinched between his thumb and forefinger.
Strong before, when the house was being nailed together.
Strong back when he held his children for the first time,
and strong when he pointed his finger at you for the last.
But his pride was stronger.
Too strong for even a four-bedroom house with 26 acres
and enough chain-link fence to keep anyone from getting in; or out.
It filled up the dusty corners that you hid in
and it smelled of time decomposing between unfinished floorboards.
It sounded like the flat voices
that never stopped nagging from the plasma TV
and it felt like empty pockets, empty bank accounts,
and an empty spirit that couldn't afford to pay for his pride anymore.
Your fingers learned to be strong for 19 years;
pinching pennies even though it made you the bad guy,
typing papers that swallowed your kids' childhoods,
and wiping your eyes behind their backs because you thought
they weren't allowed to see you cry.
Your fingers are strong. His are too.
Yours build others; his build only himself.
You fill your pockets now with love,
and his are still full of pride.
You can keep trying to bend that paper clip
back into what it was before,
but steel is always stronger.
Sometimes it's better that way
because anywhere the paper clip goes,
dusty corners follow.