The Fieldstone Review

Paper or Plastic?

by Tanasha Martin

A tiny circlet of paper
loosely hung around my wrist,
my companions shriek in shared circumstance,
our cries reverberate off hospital walls.

The Spirit of Detroit tops
a tattered, yellowed certificate,
its foundation soft, stamped, and sealed
in pink and black, “vital record” its background.

We shuffle through school
seen through the lens of papers
that carry the creases, smoke, and mildew
of backpockets, wallets, and forgotten cabinets.

Everyone has them.
And when we are important enough
to sling a burger or drive a Jetta,
we carry its precious permanence in laminate.

When you are important enough,
we check in the boxes and fill in the spaces:
plastic grin, freckled, and fair-skinned,
with little time or energy to question the frame already set.

Paper or plastic?

We flash them at registers and
in the hope of a Bailey’s on ice at a long hard day’s end.
They carry the heaviness of mortgages,
the joy of legacies, and the shame of repossessions.

When they are lost or mistaken,
we rush to re-establish that we are important enough.
Anxiety crashes like waves to drown
who we are in the what we are.

We struggle through our lives
seen through the lens of plastics
that trade us like promissory notes where change
is not counted, so we place them in dark, safe spaces.

The Spirit of Detroit tops
A fresh, warm-from-the printer certificate,
its foundation stiff, stamped, and sealed
in official consistency, on “vital record” background.

A tiny circlet and paper
loosely hung from my toe,
my companions silent in shared circumstance,
exist in echoes of hospital drawers.