Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Night Editor's Poem

by Alden Nowlan

A child is lost near a lake
in the woods outside the city;
a man has been found dead
in a hotel and our reporter knows only
that the detectives have sent out
for sandwiches and coffee which
they're now consuming
in the same room with the corpse and a woman
who may be a suspect,
if there has been a murder, although right now
it looks more like suicide,
in which case our photographer
should get out of there as fast as he can
because nobody remembered to arrange for a picture
of the new officers of the Knights of Pythias.
There is flooding
in the Upper St. John River Valley and a cabbie
has been stabbed in Fredericton, and Trudeau
looks like a shoo-in unless
there's a deal which would mean
we'd have to pull the lead editorial and kill
that display of cuts
on page five, and we should do something
on page one about Vietnam, although all there is
so far is the usual round-up
that nobody reads and,

Martin Luther King has been shot
in Memphis, the extent
of his injuries has not yet
been determined.

I send the kid
for a one column, head and shoulders,
cut, and ask if there've been any deaths
from the floods, because if there haven't been
I can shove that story downpage
and do a two column upper left
display on King unless,

his injuries
are critical

and I push everything down
four inches and send the kid
for a one and one-half columns,
head and shoulders, not much more than three
inches deep,
and there's a call from the hotel
our reporter sounding disappointed
because, sure enough, it was suicide
and that means only three inches
of type on the back page, and
by the time Mac got to the Pythian Castle
they'd gone home but maybe we have a file cut
of the grand chancellor
we can use on provincial; there's a hell of a good
shot of the mother
of the lost child taken when they told her
they'd found the body, one that will stand up
in three columns with everything but her face
cropped out, something good enough
to send out on the wire and,

Martin Luther King
is dead,

and it's too late
for a wirephoto which means
dig out that shot of him being hit
by a stone in Chicago, I think it was,
and have the engraver mask it so
nothing shows except
his body falling, and we'll set the story
in 12-point boldface, 18 ems, under
an all-cap 72-point Headline Gothic
head and splash it across
the top half of page one,
and it's not until later,
hours later,
eating ham and eggs
at an all-night diner,
shrugging my shoulders
to work some of the ache
out of them,
that I pick up the paper
again and understand
that Martin Luther King
is dead
, and that I care.


Post a Comment

<< Home