Lighthouses in Poetry: A Poem

Updated on January 29, 2018
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

North Carolina's Currituck (Coralla) Lighthouse
North Carolina's Currituck (Coralla) Lighthouse | Source

Lighthouses in Literature and Poetry

Lighthouses are structures, usually buildings, designed to help mariners navigate dangerous areas by using lamps and powerful lenses. Lighthouses are found at busy harbors, along the coast, or on islands. They may be built in various shapes and sizes, but they serve an important function for the surrounding area. In the United States, the Coast Guard has the primary responsibility for maintaining lighthouses. Yet, around the world and in literature, lighthouses have always fascinated all of us. The lighthouse has a universal appeal with regard to symbolism for humanity.

In literature and poetry, lighthouses represent several themes. They may indicate some form of guidance is occurring in the work. They may suggest a character will somehow persevere to reach a safer station in life after enduring some tragedy. Lighthouses can symbolize a focal point of morality as well. For instance, they may demonstrate strength and resolve in the face of adversity when a character is trying to do the right thing. Perhaps, this is why some religions borrow the lighthouse as a symbol.

In this poem, I draw upon those themes to explore the life of the lighthouse keepers. Although few lighthouses today employ permanent lighthouse keepers, they were particularly crucial until electronics replaced them over the last century. Their lives, along with their families, were often lonely and separate from the rest of the community. The photos are of the Currituck Lighthouse, one of seven lighthouses along the coast of North Carolina. Please, feel free to leave comments at the end of this article. Enjoy: “The Lighthouse Keeper Laments.”

Would you like to have worked as a lighthouse keeper?

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Another view of Currituck Light
Another view of Currituck Light | Source

The Lighthouse Keeper Laments

Waiting and watching water wave stories,

Standing tall forever or just a day,

Fortunes rise and flail on ships set to sail,

Time harbors no meaning at the end of a ray.

Opaque along frightful coast huge shallows,

Pendulum penned by the monstrous wet sound,

Lamp radiance towing ships hugging ports,

Swinging solo steering boats from aground.

Isolation breeds individuals,

Desperation dooms societies,

Lantern illumine passage perilous,

Vaunted high tower aloof knows none of these.

I once saw a man stout on troubled deck,

Winds awake tossed ship with little mercy,

Man raised arms praying storm stop in its place,

They say this is why they will relieve me.

Sacred is the flame I protect their names,

Go be with family on mainland rest,

Bring to shore your tired feet to scurry,

Go therein and feather your own small nest.

They say automation will do better,

They say my vision is no longer straight,

Piercing light ends for all at some junction,

How many lives I’ve saved from Neptune’s Gate?

But no one wants to lick the hot fire,

Pouring fuel to turn night to saving light,

They say I’m perfect for this remote work,

Illusions in the water make sound just right.

Moon Cussers abandon their targets now,

Cliffs and rocks salute my viewing focus,

Supervisors praise iron diligence,

Keeper of the light - Keeper of purpose.

The Currituck Light and keeper's house
The Currituck Light and keeper's house | Source

Fun Facts about Lighthouses

  • According to Lighthouse Directory, a resource hosted by the University of North Carolina, there are over 18600 lighthouses on the planet. Several considerations go into constructing lighthouses. For instance, lighthouses are painted with different colors depending on the natural and manmade backgrounds. Taking the surroundings into account when painting lighthouses helps mariners with identifying where they are. Next, the curvature of the earth is also a factor because local mariners and those far out in the water need to be able to figure out their location. This is why some lighthouses are tall in height and others are short in stature. Finally, most lighthouses today are automated, using computerized technology to activate the lights and trigger the fog horn. Ships in the area are also contacted by radio.
  • The oldest working lighthouse is on the northwest coast of Spain. It is called La Coruna. This particular lighthouse was built by the Romans. The first lighthouse in America was at Little Brewster Island in Boston. It was built in 1716. The light station is still maintained today. The room that is at the top of the tower where the lamp is located is called the “Lantern room.”
  • The first lighthouse was the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt. It was destroyed in an earthquake in the 14th-century, but it was built around 200 B.C. Currently, in Saudi Arabia, the tallest lighthouse exists. It is called the Jeddah Light. It stands over 400 feet tall. In the United States, Michigan has the most lighthouses with over one-hundred and fifty built throughout time. August 7th is National Lighthouse Day in America.

Currituck Light in Autumn
Currituck Light in Autumn | Source

Do you think lighthouses still are important in our world today?

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    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 10 days ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you. I am honored by your words and the time you have shared with my work.



    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 11 days ago from london

      Ever the creative poet, I totally agree with you. It is enough that we are at one with what we do.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 11 days ago from U.S.A.

      I appreciate your feedback. My poetry is heavily influenced by Afrocentric and Native American ideas and nontraditional rhyming schemes found in works by poets like John Ashbery, a noted "surrealistic" poet. I also listen to the odd meter jazz styling of Dave Brubeck as I compose. Rhyming is less important to me than a person "experiencing" the work, but that's a personal preference.

      Taking time to give me constructive feedback means a lot to me. Of course, I will consider your kind and thoughtful suggestions. After all, you are a noted poet yourself, Manatita44.



    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 11 days ago from london

      A nice poem, rhymes well in places too. If this was your intention, then let all the stanzas go that way, following the same pattern.

      Interesting info about Lighthouse. It's probably a more archaic word for mystic writers now, but of course, Light is central to what we say.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Ms. Dora, I am honored again because you yhave stopped by to view my work. Your comment was poetic in itself. Indeed, we have a history of bandits down on our coast, dating back to Black Beard and beyond. The lighthouses were a saving force on our coast. My wife and I try to visit as many as we can.

      Thank you, again.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Lighthouses in reality and in symbols light our path. The lighthouse keeper may not get the recognition he deserves, but "sacred is the flame" and noble is the work he does. Damn the Mooncussers. Much food for thought. Thank you.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      It was a common practice along the coast of North Carolina for bandits to signal ships to their doom, running them aground. The raiders then would take the cargo. These bands of men and some women were known as Mooncussers. The lighthouses placed along the coast ended this practice. Yet, it is believed certain areas such as Nagshead, N.C., still have names of some of these groups.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Lenses for the lighthouses are known as “Frannel lenses.” There sizes are determined with the word “order.” The largest lens is known as the “first order.” The order of the lenses can continue to the seventh order, which would be the smallest lens. The glass prisms which make up the lens can be in different colors to project beams of light from the lantern toward the water. By opening and closing panels, flashes are made to signal ships as to their location.

      This could be a tedious and sometimes dangerous job for the lighthouse keeper, who had responsibility for keeping the flames burning. But he also had to clean the lamp, and he had to provide routine repairs for the lighthouse. In the beginning, many lamps floated in a pool of mercury because it was the heaviest “liquid metal” that would allow the lamp to work without sinking. Curituck Beach Lighthouse is categorized as a “first order” lighthouse.