Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

1965: When I Kept My Lantern Lit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 6:21 pm on Saturday, July 23, 2022

by Robert M. Katzman © July 21, 2022

If anyone else alive today 

Still remembers

I certainly knew the

Delicate irritating nature

When handling persnickety

Fabled Coleman Lanterns

During windy Chicago winters

With so much frozen

Moisture in the air

It was damned difficult

To light a wooden match

To ignite the mantles

Fifty-five years ago

*

It was so common to finally

Light one with a flame

And then accidentally

Make the other ash

Mantle crumble

With clumsy contact

While cursing to myself

I repeated the necessary steps

Until finally successful

Rewarded with

A Sun-like brilliance

And always the

Eerie hissing sound

Like a snake was coiled

And possibly waiting

Inside of the gas reservoir

 *                                                                                 

I always kept

Packages of spare mantles

On a certain wooden shelf 

I could quickly find

In total darkness

Even if in

 The worst of times

Both mantles crumbled

During blizzards and windstorms

*

When online today I see

Commercial images 

Of handy LED Colemans

As easy to use as

Flipping on a switch

So…nothing like the

Grim reality of

Keeping my glass lanterns

(Always a spare back-up inside)

Burning for

Light, warmth and security

*

Often times

On bleak black nights

So long ago

The warm beacon of

 My swaying glowing lanterns

Gave frightened women 

Running on dark streets

At midnight

A safe refuge

Where no one would 

Pursue them

*

Seeming so primitive today

Once upon a time

Lonely Corner Newsstands 

Were refuges 

Islands of Safety

Both the bad guys 

And the cops

Respected that

Regardless

I was armed

*

Somehow

I was never caught up

In the delicate romance

Of the skills necessary

To keep my

Wooden Newsstand

Illuminated

While my dry chapped

Fingers were freezing

*

Present-day TV shows

Romanticize the actually

Blunt and brutal lives

Of working cowboys

Whom I identified with

Real people who did that

Demanding and seemingly

Unending harsh

Physically challenging work

 In fierce rough weather

Which soon turned

Bare skin to leather

*

Those now

Like me 

Grizzled old coots

Drifting through

The haze of their pasts

Never seem 

To have the time

To revel in the

Glamour of it all

*

When once their skin 

Was so numbed by cold

They could get jagged cuts 

And never even feel

The warm red blood 

Running down their hands

Dripping on the ground

Brightening the snow

*

The dirty secret

of the

small time

Self-employed

All of us were slaves

Proud of our 

Independence

Though frequently

Earning nothing per hour

*

Seems so long ago now

But I haven’t changed

 In certain ways

Fundamental ways

Even though today

I’ve become ancient

My once so vital 

Glass Lanterns 

No longer

Glowing in the night 

Yet still, 

My oldest friends know

If ever they need

A refuge to run to

In the dark of the night

My door is still open

My place is still safe

*

2 Comments »

Comment by Don Larson

July 23, 2022 @ 7:06 pm

Good to know the southsides’ Green Lantern is still on his post!

Don

Comment by Brad Dechter

July 24, 2022 @ 6:51 am

You’ve shown me the light!
Your poetry lights up my day!
Thanks!?

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