Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Little "Shaver" (Paper Boy), August, 1905

(photograph by Lewis W. Hine)

Barefoot, leaning 
Back against gigantic candy- 
Striped barber pole, 

Says he’s six years old, all of 
Forty-one inches high, the paper he’s holding 
That takes up half his frame holds 

All the news you’d want to know. 


  1. The long "o" rhymes ("pole"/"old"/ "holding" -- a sequence completed / clinched by "know") -- create the firm structure that holds up both poem and (we're almost tempted to suspect) tiny, frail, plucky little boy.

    (The three separated spinal disks resulting from my late losing encounter with that speeding car make it very easy to grasp how something weak --- old or young as the case may be -- always longs for something stronger at its back, to lean against, hopefully prop itself up.)

    I found particular poignancy in Lewis Hine's choice of "high" as a descriptive term in his caption, eschewing "tall". The Little Shaver may have a (minimal) bit of height (length) -- but of tallness, none at all.

    The "stunted growth" of the poor, malnutrition hand in hand with impoverishment, tells a tale that would be lost on today's armies of screaming brats in devil, angel and witch costumes, being herded about the neighborhoods of a doomed nation by overprotective, often comfortably overweight parents, chauffeuring the greedy candy-grubbing hordes from door to door.

    Trick or treat... or trick and trick!

  2. As usual, you gave this a good, careful read and added the extra (but never extraneous) material--a real treat.


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