by BJ Ward
287 was the long road to the newspaper plant
my black-handed father would ride beneath
the weight of a night sky.
A father who works the night shift
knows that weight, how it accumulates from within
when his mistakes and debt
begin to press on his children and wife.
And so went his life—
If the stars spelled something real,
they might spell the equation
that my father never mastered—
the news just ran through his hands
and what slid there left the black residue
of the world’s doings, pressed knowledge
that read like misaligned tea leaves in his hardening palms,
and in his life line and heart line and other lines
that would normally speak a fortune,
the night just accumulated itself—
a little sky he would spread over us
when the world redelivered him in the morning.
Newspaper publisher Samuel Irving Newhouse Sr. merged the Newark Ledger and Newark Star-Eagle in 1939, begetting the Newark Star-Ledger. Newark’s only daily newspaper since 1972, the Star-Ledger opened a suburban printing plant in 1980, and most of its operations are now conducted outside the city.
These lines appeared in the February 1999 issue of Poetry Magazine and in the author’s 2002 compilation Gravedigger’s Birthday.