Poem of the Week 6/20/2017
The New York Times didn’t have comics,
But anything else you wanted to know was there.
As a kid I pored over the “agate” pages (small type)
To see which ocean liners were docking in New York,
Or where they were going, and a little box
Informed you which satellites were visible in the sky,
And when, and on what course through the heavens.
I looked and looked, and saw Echo 1, Echo 2
Crossing space. I wasn’t so far from space!
I could cross the oceans and the oceans of the moon
If I read the New York Times.
The cops and the night owls waited for their copies
Of the Jersey Journal when the presses cranked at dawn,
Loud as Cream with Hendrix sitting in.
The skeins of paper ran along the ceiling,
Black and white birds sailing like kites
Before they would knot together and bang and fall
Onto rollers. I got 50 copies for the newsroom
And the ink would smear if you touched it.
You can read all day long in a newsroom.
My elbows had patches of ink and I knew more stuff
Than Ken from Jeopardy. The press men were deaf
And would curse you loudly if you approached.
I stopped the presses many times with mistakes
But never had the nerve to shout it. The deafies
Had no feel for the romance of the presses
Stacked high as Jimi’s Marshalls in my memory.
I worked for the sheets for forty years
And never ceased to kvell at my name on a page.
I still read the agate pages, which would solemnly report
The results of every rigged wrestling match
(Hogan d. Savage, Madison Square Garden, World Wrestling Federation)
As well as the track reports from St. Benedict’s,
And Pogo’s latest musings and the “woman’s” page
With its legendary (probably mythic) headline
For debutantes this year it’s balls, balls, balls.
I had instructions from five editors
To bring them Royko’s column the minute
It moved on the wires, when I wasn’t trying to puzzle out
The blurry words on the newly-invented fax machine
Or how the purple ink from UPI got carried to my underwear.
There’s a dock somewhere where I can still
Board those solemn liners in the inky night.
I wonder if Echo I and II still loop the world in flight?
My elbows aren’t black anymore and the stink of the pulp plants
Is reduced, I guess that’s a good thing.
The prints are slowly stopping their presses
Except when the newsreaders say, “Breaking news
From the Washington Post! This just in
From the New York Times!”
The red stuff was fake at those wrestling matches,
But the sheets can still bloody the nose of a President.
Echo 1 was originally loosely estimated to survive until soon after its fourth dip into the atmosphere in July 1963, but it ended up living much longer than these estimates and reentered Earth’s atmosphere, burning up on May 24, 1968. (Wikipedia)
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