Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Features

American Life in Poetry: ‘The Paper Boy’ by Thomas R. Smith

Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

I suppose some of the newspapers that 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.

Poem copyright 2015 by Thomas R. Smith, from “The Glory” (Red Dragonfly Press, 2015) and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by the Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.