Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: The Last Lamp-Lighters

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Kenneth Rosen of Portland is a veteran poet and the founder of the Stonecoast writers conference. In this week’s haunting poem, he remembers workmen from a culture that has been lost.

The Last Lamp-Lighters by Kenneth Rosen

I saw the last lamp-lighters! Patrolling
          The dusk, looking for gas-lamps
Whose lights had gone out. Each held a pole
Forked for lifting the frail pearl-tinted bowl,
And one with a small wheel and flint for casting
A spark. Did all lamps need to be lit? Or just
          Those doused by raindrops or errant drafts?
They seemed sad, these doomed men who knew
How to give fog its soft perfume, and the facts
Of our life their necessary, tender, but fatal glow.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2003 by Kenneth Rosen. Reprinted from “The Origins of Tragedy & Other Poems,” CavanKerry Press, 2003, by permission of Kenneth Rosen. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.