The Invention of Streetlights
night has houses)
the shadow of the fabulous
open into places;
candle walks down the street occasionally blinded by trees.
Certain cells, it's said, can generate light on their own.
There are organisms that could fit on the head of a pin
and light entire rooms.
You could hire a man
on any corner with a torch to light you home
lamps made of horn
and a loom of flares moving from above we watched
Notre Dame seem small.
Now the streets stand still.
By 1890, it took a pound of powdered magnesium
to photograph a midnight ball.
While as early as 50 BCE, riotous soldiers leaving a Roman bath
sliced through the ropes that hung the lamps from tree to tree
aloft us, this
and larger room
Flambeaux the arboreal
was the life of Julius Caesar
which a single step could be heard
We opened all our windows
and looked out on a listening world, laced here and there with points
Dame of the Unfinished Sky
oil slicks burning on the river, someone down on the corner
striking a match to read by.
Paris was the first modern city to light its streets
The inhabitants were ordered
1524 to burn a candle in every window in the dark there were 912 streets
into this arc until by stars
steps sharp you are
are not alone
by public decree
October 1558: the lanterns were similar to those used in mines:
we were kings
on into the spiral of our riches
still reign: falots or great vases of pitch
lit on every corner
a passing window
a city of thieves, which,
but a few weeks later, were replaced by chandeliers.
While others claim all London was alight by 1414
utter a vigil it's almost careless
who were ordered
out of every window, come a wrist with a lanthorn
it right there
and be on time
and not before
and watched below
the faces lit, and watched the faces pass. And
turned back in
(the face goes on) and watched the lights go out. Here the numbers are
the early 18th century, London hung some 15,000 lamps.
And now we find (1786) they've turned to crystal, paced precisely
at the time it would take to run
started in 1687 with a bell,
the hearing of which, we all in unison
match in hand, and together strike them against an upper tooth and touch
the tiny flame
to anything, and when times get rough (crime up, etc.) all we have to
do is throw oil out
across the canals to make the lighting uncommonly extensive. Sometimes
we do it just to
shock the rest of Europe, and at other times because we find it beautiful.
for times of public grief
when the streets were left unlit, and on we went,
dark marks in the markets and voices in the cafes, in the crowded squares,
the sense of touch; the living, a lantern
above the door
any time a child is born, be it Antioch, Syria, or Edessa
and then there were the festivals,
festum encaeniorum, and others in which
call idolatrous, these torches
a city wide
be your houses.