Dull Old Three-Hole Punch

What you do is repetitious:
paper goes in,
lever is pushed down.
Ka-chunk!
and three holes appear on the edge of the paper.
Over and over and over.
You have served this special purpose
for many years now
the boring task of boring holes.
But to me old friend
you are my historian.
You have punched 300 pages of dissertation.
You have organized seminar after seminar
for more than 40 years
helping me to organize the readings
I selected and assigned
for hundreds of graduate students
from all over the world.
Students who came to learn
and to return to their universities
caught up on the latest ideas
in sociolinguistics
ideas they would pass along to their own students
and which would become part of their own work.
You have punched thousands of pages
of my own work:
Three holes for every page of how
people learn foreign languages.
Three holes of every page of
analysis of international political speech.
Three holes of all the drafts for publications
on how English is developed and changed
around the world as the world owns it
takes it and colors it for its own.
Three holes
Three more holes.
Then, one day, it seemed
your work must be done.
I retired.
No more seminars.
No more publications.
I thought of letting you go
but I couldn’t.
We had been together too long.
And so I kept you idling on the desk
A well-earned rest from all that punching.
And then,
and then,
I slipped into a different world of writing.
Writing about my life
Writing about my fears and loves and musings.
And I wanted you again
my friend.
I write on the computer
but I want,
I need,
those pages of paper
with three holes
to touch and to revisit
that tangibility so lost in the computer world.
And so, old friend,
you’re back to your work
Even this page
will be a part of it
and I am happy to
wake you from your idleness
and have you join me in these new
adventures.

Bev Hartford

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