Written in 1996
I walked the beach and heard the roar
Of waves now crashing on the shore
“Till there it was, I fixed my gaze
On that old monument to bygone days.
It looked so strong, so firm and proud,
A lighthouse well above the crowd
Of trees and rocks where it still sends
Its faithful signal to sailing friends.
Be on your guard, there’s danger here
Even the bravest must beware.
My mind went back to days of yore
When only that light marked this shore.
Each one unique by day or night
By structure paint or time of light.
Each mariner must identify
The code of each as they sail by.
Then measure angles, triangulate
A needed means to navigate
When stars are hid and seas are mean,
Their fate rides on that faithful beam.
The keepers knew their job so well.
Tote up the oil, clean the Fresnel.
Paint the day mark, keep it clean
For many miles, be clearly seen.
Install the curtains as dawn sets in.
Take them down when dusk begins.
Remote locations, with meager pay.
Pure sense of duty made them stay.
Climb the steps in heat or cold
And even though your legs feel old,
You mustn’t stop the work you do
Since seaman’s lives depend on you.
Crank up the weights that make it run
In snow and wind, rain or sun.
Work every day, though sick or fine
The light must always, always shine.
Then all night long, your vigil keep,
Up there on top, you must not sleep.
And, when with dawn your watch is done,
You hobble down to meet the sun.
Your families served just the same
As all those keepers with forgotten name.
No one says thanks. What’s there to show?
But in your heart, you know. You know!
Electric power made old lamps dated
And many towers were automated.
The keepers learned their time was through
And they must yield to systems new.
Then satellites in full space fleet
Made those old lights more obsolete
And soon just monuments of times long gone
Where tourists pause, and then move on.
But some will stop and think awhile
About those keepers and their lifestyle.
About those sailors, fearing danger near
Who saw that light that calmed their fear.
Now some still burn, while some are dark.
Some just curios in some state park.
You stood through storm, the rain and wind.
So, take your rest. Well done, old friend.
This story appeared in the
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