The Quality of Paper

James B. Nicola

          To make a crease in paper or card stock that tears as a machine-made perforation (say, for a notice on a bulletin board with phone numbers or website addresses hanging

          down like pre-loosened baby teeth that interested passersby might take along with them and change the future course of strangers who’ve not only never met but never imagined each other—you? me?—and turn them into, well, strangers-no-more)

          I've found it best to make the first fold strong and firm: re-score it with increasing pressure from the tabs of the fingertips (not nails, which tended to impress a second fold alongside the intended one: this only confused the paper I was trying to train); three times, each time firmer, squeeze along the fold; and then turn the sheet upside down and fold it in the other direction

          BUT—this is what I learned—if you press hard the first time in this other direction, the paper will not behave. It is now an adolescent, with an early crease marking it well, eager to thwart your plans for its use. Rather, do not press at all but barely bend the paper or the card stock AND IT WILL FIND THE FIRST FOLD—ON ITS OWN!

          Now, gently tap it, tab it, all along the length of the seam. Only once the fold is found, squeeze and slide your fingers along its length to reinforce it. Voilà!  Your phone number or website address can go neatly, cleanly, independently, and feed the world, or adjust a life forever.

          This particular discovery about the quality of paper or card stock I share with you on this particular page impressed with ink, or pixel-ordered screen, or sound-infused space, if you’re listening, in case you are one who happens to be celibate—in particular, child-free

          like me.


James B. Nicola's poems have appeared several times in riverbabble, as well as in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, and Poetry East. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His three poetry collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016), and Wind in the Cave (2017).

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