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August 2003  |  Jacket 23  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |

Joel Lewis

3 Poems (from Robbins Reef Light)

Snowstorm looming

And in another corner of the world,
mascots relax at a sports bar
comparing oversized headdresses
& exchanging tips
on how to use a public toilet
in a chicken outfit.

Did you ever want to punch a mascot
just to see if he/ she would stay
in character while chasing you
through a stadium? The mist

that haloes you takes a rain check
on me, just as the years of nibbled horizons
have taken off my varnish. In a hearth home
out there, Dan Quayle is laughing
at a blooper show

& what the ex-veep & me share
in this alienated foyer
is that at least three of our ‘friends’
regard us as tarnished residents of Chelm.

The snowstorm ‘they’ are ‘all’
talking ‘about’ is a theoretical
construct sez the CNN
weathergal. Robbins Reef Light                         [ see note ]
is real as it passes across my glasses.
So is the Andrew J. Barbieri
on its way to Manhattan. Philosopher
Quine is ‘real’, too, but very ‘dead’, his
former students including retired folksinger Tom Leher
& ex-Unabomber Ted Kacysinski.


Chelm — a town of fools & simpletons,
according to Yiddish folklore.


Let the phone keep ringing, I’m
a bottle washer
for the tribe. My business
is my business, the limits
are what I’m given
to work with. I reject
the prophetic vocation, just
happy enough to amplify
the social dance. ‘Hey, Joe,’
crooned Hendrix. Next-benches’ tourists
shout ‘Statue of Liberty’
posing as the ferry churns past.

Do I need to comment
on this planet of missing interns
& pop star confectionery? I buy into ‘it’
waytoo much, though even Stalin
enjoyed Donald Duck’s imperialist
reign. I want to say one
last more thing but all that connects
is John Lee Hooker serenading
Charon The Ferrytender with
his last big hit:
‘Money is pretty exciting, you know.’

Entering Whitehall Terminal

I must have been
 the breaking point 38th guy
that evening
 -- that sort of slob who
casually leaves
 his newspaper
on the beat wood benches--
 because I felt
a tug on my coat
 & saw a pissed-off  clean-up guy
behind me
 handing back
the innards
 of my NY Times.

The guy had sort of a point
 but I did not have the time
for a theatrical explanation
 as to why I was making
his sad job

I put Section D, Automotive
 under an armpit
& walked off the Andrew J. Barbieri
 focused on what had-to-be
a reincarnation
 of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed
walking a pair
 of yam-colored Florsheims.

You can read other poems by Joel Lewis in Jacket 3 and Jacket 7

Robbin's Reef Light
Robbin’s Reef Light

...back to poem

Robbin’s Reef Light. Location: West Side Main Channel, Upper New York Bay

When lighthouse-keeper for the Robbin’s Reef Light Jacob Walker died in 1886, his last words to his wife were ‘Mind the light, Kate.’ Kate Walker applied for the keeper’s job, was appointed, and remained in the job for thirty-five years. Captains in the harbor to this day refer to Robbin’s Reef as ‘Kate’s Light’. Kate, who was under 5 feet tall and less than 100 pounds, was respected by all for her courage and stamina. She could be seen rowing her children to school each day on Staten Island and is responsible for saving many a stranded boater. When the US Coast Guard manned the light in 1939 they posted three men at the light, a job Kate had easily managed by herself.

Information: Closed to Public. Light Operational, Automated: 1966, Tower Height: 45 feet, Original Optic: 4th Order Fresnel, Present Optic: 300 mm. Information kindly provided by Angelfire at

Photo: Jim Crowley. Jim is the author of the book Lighthouses of New York. You can order the book or prints of Jim’s photos through his website, New York Lighthouse Photos ( and you can write to Jim at:

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