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Prophets of Light 

 

 

 

Sturdy obelisk,
whited sepulcher,
the lighthouse is a model of vertical economy.
Gale-astounded by the sea gods,
a marooned mariner in its own right,
the lighthouse used to console itself as well as the sailor
with tallow candles and solid-wick lanterns
before Monsieur Fresnel came to the rescue
with his array of prisms.
Refractory man is guided by refracted light,
meager shafts in the vasty deeps and illimitable dark.
The human predicament requires
probing of oceanic mysteries,
ghostlike in the dusk of Götterdämmerung.
We sail along,
scattershot and hugger-mugger,
searching always for the Prophets of Light,
standing sentinel at land’s end,
from Storozhensky to the Bay of Bengal,
from Jeddah to Île Vierge,
from Boston Light to Trinidad Head.

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Paul Mann

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