During the foggy weeks of June and July, Lee and I spent a lot of time in the Seguin museum, trying to absorb as much of the island’s “story” as possible. One of the displays that particularly grabbed my attention was a whimsical poem called Brasswork, or the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lament written in the late 1920’s by Fred Morong, Jr., a Machinist with the U.S. Lighthouse Service who frequented Seguin. A gem of lighthearted verse, Brasswork pokes fun at what was then the “bane of a Lightkeeper’s life”—the futile task of constantly polishing and re-polishing metal objects to a bright, shiny finish. Apparently this included dustpans, water pumps, doorknobs and even the buttons on one’s coat!
Fortunately for us, “brasswork” has dropped off the to-do list of present-day Seguin keepers, along with other antiquated tasks like hauling whale oil up the spiral staircase, wiping soot from the Fresnel lens, and tending to the oxen. There is, however, one job that continues to weigh heavily on the soul of today’s Seguin keeper, and that’s the subject of a poem I worked on over the summer and shared at the “Celebrate Seguin” fundraiser last weekend. With a tip of the hat to Fred Morong Jr’s original, Brasswork, I humbly present…
or the Seguin Lighthouse Keeper’s Lament
Oh what is the bane of a Seguin Lightkeeper’s life?
That causes him worry, struggle and strife?
That makes him use cuss words and sob to his wife?
What drains you of energy and makes your back ache?
Takes all of your time without ever a break?
Creeps into your mind whether you’re asleep or awake?
From the North end near where the sailboats do moor
To the trail that leads down to the rocky South shore
Let’s face it—this place is just one giant chore
Mow ’round the Lightkeeper’s residence
Mow down to the Boathouse, mow under the Bents
And where would the campers pitch their nice tents
From the Coast Guard “H” where they land their heli
To the solar array where you crawl on your belly
Weeding and whacking till your arms feel like jelly—
Out in the yard hour after hour
Mowing so hard, frankly, you’ll need a shower
Just then someone asks for a tour of the Tower—
And even when the fog is thicker than soup
Up from the Cove tromps a sightseeing group
Along with a dog that is happy to poop
On my Grasswork!
And the one day a week they allow you to go
Off-island for groceries and a good cuppa Joe
You pass Cyndy’s house and the yard needs a mow—
You get back to Seguin late that same day
And the grass has grown tenfold since you’ve been away!
You wanna jump in that dinghy and row to Boothbay…
Oh the Grasswork!
What freak of Nature or cruel magic trick
Could make vegetation grow back so quick?
I wish that my own head of hair was as thick
As this Grasswork.
As I lower the flag it’s increasingly clear
I won’t finish mowing, not anytime this year
And I seriously question my choice of a career
Now it’s too late to mow, the sun has bowed out
The Tower light’s on and the stars start to sprout
I lay my head down and begin dreaming about…
I’m bug-bitten, thorn-scratched, sunburnt and sore
I’ve got Poison Ivy and I’m spent to the core
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a job more
Than this Grasswork.