Published on Academy of American Poets (

Fool’s Gold

This morning I love everyone,
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate,
and the sun. And the sun

has pre-warmed my bucket seat 
for the drive up Arsenal Street 
with the hot car effect, 

a phenomenon climatologists
use to explain global warming
to senators and kids.

I love the limited edition
Swingline gold stapler
in the oil change lounge

which can, like a poem,
affix anything to anything
on paper. One sheet of paper,

for instance, for that cloud of gnats,
one for this lady’s pit mix
wagging his tail so violently

I fear he’ll hurt his hips. 
One sheet for glittered lip balm,
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion

and the imperfect tense. 
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish
I left in a penny in a mall fountain.

Sun spills into the lounge 
through the window decal
in geometric Tetris wedges.

I have a sheet for Tetris,
its random sequence of pieces
falling toward me in this well

like color coded aspects of the life
I neglected to live, for the pleasure
of making line after line

disappear. The gold stapler
has twenty-sheet capacity
so I straighten my stack

on the reception counter
and staple the day together
with an echoing chunk.


Copyright © 2020 by Ted Mathys. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem is part of a series that explores family life, politics, and history through a unifying metaphor of the pursuit of gold. From the era of Spanish conquest to the present, gold is part of the story of American land, power, and resource extraction, a figure for capitalist accumulation and ostentation. But gold is also a durable cultural ideal found in wedding rings, chintzy staplers, edible gold flakes that are purported to have medicinal qualities. Gold is a contradiction, both a curse and a cure. And fool’s gold—iron pyrite—seems to operate the way that poems do, offering a virtual expression of the unattainable, a signature of pure experience.”

Ted Mathys


Ted Mathys

Ted Mathys is the author of four books of poetry, including Gold Cure (Coffee House Press, 2020). He curates the 100 Boots Series at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and teaches at Saint Louis University.

Date Published: 2020-03-31

Source URL: