xTheLighthouse.GIF52000/52055/poem-Williamson.asfhttp://img.slate.com/mediafalsefalsehere20011018111443PMThursdayOctOctober2310/19/2001 3:14:43 AM6313904368300000002001101924222AMFridayOctOctober210/19/2001 6:42:22 AM631390561420000000
The Fresnel Lens works by both
refraction and reflection. Cosmic egg.
its hundreds of small crescents feed the light
down to the steady, central, eye-shaped row
that beams it twenty-four miles to the horizon.
To the Farallones where the keepers
were even more isolated; if a child was sick,
they could light a fire and hope a ship would stop,
or row their twenty-five miles to the shore.
There are facets, too, for the long-distance lovers
descending the three hundred steps and stories.
Spotting murres and seals. The silvery tinge
of the Pacific's different endlessness, Jeffers' "eye."
One says something pedantic, but the other, holding her,
feels the great beam go out to the ends of life,
shaking everything, steadying. And sometimes one of them panics
in the night, and it seems easier
to say something terribly harsh, and cut her losses.
People admire lighthouse keepers; they seem an emblem
of loneliness and steadfastness. Sometimes the sound
of the foghorn shakes the conglomerate to bits,
and they have to cement the small stones back together.
Sometimes they had to keep on
drunkards or the insubordinate; no one else
would put up with it. And once a man
was carried off the station in a straightjacket
Alan Williamson teaches at the University of California, Davis and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. His most recent books are The Pattern More Complicated: New and Selected Poems and Westernness: A Meditation.