Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paper Route

Paper Route

Two girls, one on either side of the street,
bulging canvas bags clinging to their backs
and slim shoulders. They might be sisters,
both with wavy brown hair, or only friends.
Acquaintances from school, one in fifth grade,
one in eighth. They could be strangers.
They know this route well, I can tell by how
they barely turn their heads to see the houses,
how they walk through the yards with purpose
and boredom, both. How old do we have to be
before we can complete a task absentmindedly.
Are we born with this ability, or do we teach
it to ourselves when life is long, when we are
young, when we eat what we dislike and plod
down hallways, going where we are instructed.
The girls reach into their bags, pull out a paper
rolled inside its thin plastic bag. They snap
their wrists, and each newspaper lands with
a crisp thud, the sound a strong fist makes
in movies punching someone weak and mean,
knuckles rapping cheekbones like front doors.


  1. As someone who makes her living at least partly by walking delivery, this one spoke to me, and made me think. There are days when I love it, and then there are days when it is just a task to be gotten done with. When DOES that start? You made me recall the days of being told what to do, with the disliked foods and the going where one is told. Ick!

  2. A very vivid image illustrating what I believe has become a fundamental shift in society away from a focussed to a more abstract attention - if it is even that.
    Your poem ripples out from the particular to something, alas, much broader.

  3. I know I am in trouble when I start doing things on auto-pilot.(not this one!) Palpably clear images. Liked it.

  4. "How old do we have to be/before we can complete a task absentmindedly." Great question. I like very much how you've shown us one answer.

  5. I love the way the narrative and reflection on the narrative lead so naturally into the closing image, expansive and evocative of darker depths, starker borders of experience.... A poem every day seems a grueling pace -- but you seem to manage it, somehow, without dullness or repeating yourself. Brava!

  6. I kind of like doing things on auto-pilot so my mind can range freely. Perfect multitasking.


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