Ode to Elmer's Glue

Dear empty bottle of Elmer’s Glue,

You are finally empty.

I have had one bottle of Elmer’s Glue since I first purchased a bottle for kindergarten,

and it has stayed in the side pocket of every backpack I have ever carried,

close by and never forgotten.

Elmer’s Glue was essential to my childhood.

When bored in class, it became a spread for my palms,

sinking and drying in every crack and valley and ravine in my skin,

forcing me to peel the dried flakes one by one in painstaking purposeful movements.

Even though it would take hours to peel the glue from my youthful skin,

the action was repeated and repeated until I feared that my glue would run out,

but I never ceased putting the glue on my hands.

It was as if my young mind decided that by layering glue on the palms of my hands,

the very epicenter of my sense of touch,

that I would be able to show others the love I had for liquid Elmer’s glue.


When my bottle of Elmer’s Glue wasn’t used for coating my hands in an odd metaphor for my love,

it was shared with others.

Each friend with an art project in need of a spot of glue -

Each friend with a broken arm of a pair of glasses -

Each friend trying to build a strong bridge of toothpicks made of balsa wood that needed to coat each piece of wood in two layers of glue to ensure their bridge was the strongest -

Each friend found crying in a corner with a torn letter or broken binder -

Each friend needing to get back at some boy that hurt their feelings that would look lovely with glitter glued to his treasured hairstyle -

My glue became the glue to fix them.


My glue, my love, was spread so thin in trying to fruitlessly glue together hearts and minds and lives of others,

that I neglected my own possessions and heart when it was broken.

And no matter how much I hoped, nobody would come in with their bottle of Elmer’s Glue,

ready and willing to share their glue to help piece together my heart bit by shattered bit,

to become the mortar between my bricks as my glue had been to so many others.


Once I realized that my bottle of Elmer’s Glue was for my own use,

Not to use to fix the problems of others,

it was already time to use pipe cleaners to fish out the last sticky drops of precious glue to patch myself together.


I built myself from ruins,

as if I was rebuilding the parthenon from the ruins in Greece ;

with painstaking accuracy and soft strokes of my glue-covered pipe cleaner,

taking care not to waste glue.

After I had become whole once more,

Cracks in my facade visible but not treated as blemishes but as medals of honor,

I realized the value that this bottle of glue had given me.


In times of trouble, you must learn to patch your own holes before you can assist another,

Because if your lifeboat is sinking,

You cannot hope to rescue someone without a boat at all.

Without spreading my glue too thin and using it up on silly and sometimes pointless causes -

Like trying to wrap a christmas gift with liquid glue -

I would not have known the value behind gluing yourself together.


If I had waited for someone to come along and glue me back together,

If I had waited for someone with a bottle of superglue to stick me together without fear of the glue un-sticking,

I would have been broken for far longer.


So thank you, empty bottle of Elmer’s Glue.

You held the physical metaphor for my love that I gave to others without a care for myself,

Yet in the end held the revelation that if you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else either.



A girl out to buy a new bottle of Elmer’s Glue.


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