John Grochalski: “collection days”

collection days

it seems as archaic
as kids carrying newspapers now

but they used to give us
a thick ring full of cardboard paper
cut into perforated tabs

they acted as receipts 
when people paid you for their papers

once a week
in summer or after school

i had to walk my paper route
with the ring of cardboard tabs
knocking on people’s doors
to get the post-gazette’s money

in winter
i saw the dark on both ends of the day

i was the great interrupter of dinners
sexy time after long days at work
of infants falling asleep after hours of struggle

the great ruiner of
children’s birthdays and underage parties

i stood at closed doors
listening to hushed voices 
hoping that i’d just go away

while the same dogs that barked at me in the morning
got a second chance to go at me in the evening

the people who condescended 
to open their doors
looked at me as if they didn’t understand

like their newspaper just arrived 
by some voodoo or magic

and not by some fat kid
trudging along in the rain or snow
or the humid damp of summer heat

i delivered to rich people with big houses
but no one ever had the money to pay me

next week, they’d say
and i’d walk away from their homes
my labor given away free for another week

left to explain to my angry dispatcher
why i didn’t have his cash some saturday

promising him
i’d have his money come next monday

like i was some errant tenant
or a goddamned junky begging to a dealer

a feeble man with empty pockets
and a huge-ass gambling debt

who’d let his life fall off the rails
yet again.

About the Author: John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In the Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018), and Eating a Cheeseburger During End Times (Kung Fu Treachery, 2021). He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016), and P-Town: Forever (Alien Buddha Press, 2021). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can read his baseball card ramblings at his Junk Wax Jay blog


Image Credit: Harris& Ewing “Newspapers Coming Off Press” (1936) Public domain photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress

One thought on “John Grochalski: “collection days”

  1. Oh, gosh, you nail it…not a pleasant memory, but one I shared. I got to see the humor in it years later. But, like you, my pay for that week was based on my collection, and I’d have to go over it with the dispatcher. I’m proud I did it now…giving folks something to read and talk about.


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