American Life in Poetry: Column 571
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I suppose some of the newspapers which carry this column still employ young people to deliver the news, but carriers are now mostly adults. I had two paper routes when I was a boy and was pleased to find this reminiscence by Thomas R. Smith, a Wisconsin poet. His most recent book is The Glory, published by Red Dragonfly Press.
The Paper Boy
My route lassos the outskirts,
the reclusive, the elderly, the rural—
the poor who clan in their tarpaper
islands, the old ginseng hunter
Albert Harm, who strings the "crow's
foot" to dry over his wood stove.
Shy eyes of fenced-in horses
follow me down the rutted dirt road.
At dusk, I pedal past white birches,
breathe the smoke of spring chimneys,
my heart working uphill toward someone
hungry for word from the world.
I am Mercury, bearing news, my wings
a single-speed maroon Schwinn bike.
I sear my bright path through the twilight
to the sick, the housebound, the lonely.
Messages delivered, wire basket empty,
I part the blue darkness toward supper,
confident I've earned this day's appetite,
stronger knowing I'll be needed tomorrow.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Thomas R. Smith, “The Paper Boy,” from The Glory, (Red Dragonfly Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Thomas R. Smith and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.