"Paper Route" by Alice Kociemba

  • (after Ted Kooser)

Ogallala, Nebraska.  Population 25
or so it seemed.  At quarter till dawn,
I biked to the station before it was demolished
by the engineer’s “speed and negligence.”
Drunk, no doubt when the 5:40
heading west to North Platte derailed.
We made the Evening News even in Lincoln.
It is still news at Ollie’s Big Game Lounge –
a sure sign the end of the world is coming, soon.
Over rattlesnake pizza and Coors
men with Marlboros
take that “told you so” stance
toward strangers and newcomers.
But they are right in one respect,
no city dweller has ever seen the sky.
So still, so deep, so bright – a safety net
for those who fall upward into wonder.
You forget for a while the littleness of people.
Until the whistle breaks the night
with one long blast and two quick
volleys of civilization,
as aching a sound as I ever heard
in that dusty time of yearning.
The train brought the world to town
at least for five minutes
when the Omaha World Herald
plopped on to the platform, headline up.
My ticket to freedom.

  •  Published earlier in The Atlanta Review.


Alice Kociemba is the director of Calliope – Poetry Readings at West Falmouth Library. www.calliopepoetryseries.com.  She facilitates a monthly poetry book discussion group at the Falmouth Public Library, an outgrowth of “What’s Falmouth Reading?” selection of the Favorite Poems project in 2009.  She is the author of a chapbook Death of Teaticket Hardware (2010).  Her recent poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Off the Coast, Roanoke Review, Salamander, Slant among other journals.  Alice is a member of the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and the Jamaica Pond Poets.