The Lighthouse and the Lightkeeper
Joseph Anthony Petro
The Lightkeeper climbed the spiral stairs he had built
Many years before, illuminating his own way as he went.
Arriving at the barely burning light, in the sea-whispered darkness
He trimmed the wick, like a gardener pruning a flower.
Shrouded in salt-scented silence the wick wept in pain and gratitude.
The Lightkeeper knew all about the storm-swirled foundations
Of the lighthouse–her laborious beginnings and genuine attempts
To remain solid and in good standing with a shore covered with rocks and waves,
And an ocean full of lost vessels–untethered, uncaptained, bobbing
In their own sickness, void of direction, unsure of the way ahead,
Lost without rudder or sail. The Lightkeeper knew them each by name.
He knew their voyages, their origins, who built them and set them sailing,
He knew where they wanted to go. He knew the emptiness in their hulls,
And their desire for treasure. He knew their wheels longed to be held and steered
Despite their cries to be left alone.
He knew he wanted each and every one of them safe in the harbor.
He knew all about the ideas that the wind-tossed-tide threw around like little shells—
Ideas that say the world no longer needs lighthouses,
Ideas that say it is somehow wrong to shine, or wrong to want or need
To be rekindled by another, that the ships are perfectly fine
Drifting as they are with their own unique and uncriticizable navigation equipment.
Into these ideas he simply implanted the sound of the sea.
Having finished his trimming for now, the Lightkeeper
Touched his light to the wick with all of the tenderness
Of an angel kissing the forehead of a sleeping infant,
And when spark caught spark and the light of the lighthouse
Began to blaze, filling the space with warmth and steadiness
Ship after ship began sailing for home, and the lighthouse
Remembered why she was there and how important
Her mission was. And then the Lightkeeper
Looked at her flame dancing in the light of his light and said:
“This is my Beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.”