The time may not be very far away when this poem will need a footnote explaining that the speaker is reading a "newspaper," and how they worked. The New York World-Telegram was a daily that ran from 1867 until 1966, and is probably the paper referred to here. The poem was written in 1939. It is undoubtedly still under copyright, though Berryman died in 1972.
Man with a tail heads eastward for the Fair.
Can open a pack of cigarettes with it.
Was weaving baskets happily, it seems,
When found, the almost Missing Link, and brought
From Ceylon in the interests of science.
The correspondent doesn't know how old.
Two columns left, a mother saw her child
Crushed with its father by a ten-ton truck
Against a loading platform, while her son,
Small, frightened, in a Sea Scout uniform,
Watched from the Langley. All needed treatment.
Berlin and Rome are having difficulty
With a new military pact. Some think
Russia is not too friendly towards London.
The British note is called inadequate.
An Indian girl in Lima, not yet six,
Has been delivered by Caesarian.
A boy. They let the correspondent in:
Shy, uncommunicative, still quite pale,
A holy picture by her, a blue ribbon.
Right of the centre, and three columns wide,
A rather blurred but rather ominous
Machine-gun being set up by militia
This morning in Harlan County, Kentucky.
Apparently some miners died last night.
'Personal brawls' is the employers' phrase.
All this on the front page. Inside, penguins.
The approaching television of baseball.
The King approaching Quebec. Cotton down.
Skirts up. Four persons shot. Advertisements.
Twenty-six policemen are decorated.
Mother's Day repercussions. A film star
Hopes marriage will preserve him from his fans.
News of one day, one afternoon, one time.
If it were possible to take these things
Quite seriously, I believe they might
Curry disorders in the strongest brain,
Immobilize the most resilient will,
Stop trains, break up the city's food supply,
And perfectly demoralize the nation.
Just think how much we've advanced since then.
Back when I was somewhat in touch with the world of (then-)contemporary poetry, Berryman's reputation rested mainly on his Dream Songs, and especially on the selection therefrom called 77 Dream Songs. I don't know whether that's still true or not. This poem is from a collection of mostly pre-Dream Songs work, Homage to Mistress Bradstreet and other poems. There are a number of good poems in it.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.