Last Paperboys in Oklahoma Carry the News

by Markham Johnson


At five am, thick bundles litter the front porch
of the highway patrol, while all the newspaper boys
in South Tulsa pop Lucifer matches on their thumbnails
and wrap Tulsa Worlds with thin green rubber bands.

This is the day Jackson Harlow spits Red Man on a cruiser
and Stevie Logan, who never busted a milk bottle
and might have played six or seven years of minor league ball,
kick starts the Coke machine for a lifetime of lost dimes.

And what if we just wandered off from that last day
with all the bottles of pop we could carry? What if the night
let us drift away to sleep and wake each morning
before sunrise to a summer of teenage afternoons?

What if Jackson and Stevie never peddled
their Schwinns into the gray light of that false dawn,
cutting through a rain culvert under Highway 44
as an envoy of cicadas chanted their Greek chorus of regret?

What if forty years later I did not carry the hard blank slate
of their passing, or wake to the shape note hymn
of a thousand starlings calling me to believe, again,
in God’s own sweet and imperfect world.