Sunday, November 23, 2014

the light

I have grown to love this poem. I wrote this originally in response to a prompt. It was about my life in a squatter colony when I was a child, where the home has no electricity or running water.

The "light" in the poem could refer to the physical light itself, and, as I realised later, it could be a metaphor for the values that our parents taught us, without which, my path could have been vastly different.

photo by xandert
image from

the light

you know,
the light from the single
pressure lamp in our hut
keeps the night at bay
keeps the barking dogs outside
the night

there is no tv, no radio
to distract my school work
except the light will dim
after a while
and dad will pump the lamp every hour
or so

to keep the kerosene flowing
feeding the flames,
and mum joins me at
the only table
mending a dress with what squares of fabric
she has

while dad reads the day's papers
crumpled and smudged
from passing through
many hands
while outside in the village the dogs
still bark.

written 09/02/10
revised 09/09/10

“There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.”

― Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

Shared on Poetry Pantry #228 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2014

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Blogger Björn Rudberg said...

What a wonderful story this tells. I could smell the kerosene. I could see how you could work on your books, and I love how a newspaper passed through many hands.. somehow we have lost a lot when we live in relative abundance.

24 November, 2014 00:17  
Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

You took me there so completely, I could even see their faces, reflected in the dimness, Lee San. Memories of your loving parents - golden.

24 November, 2014 01:04  
Blogger Sumana Roy said...

I basked in the wonderful warmth here..

24 November, 2014 01:15  
Blogger scotthastiepoet said...

Your right to... I loved it too... this shines true... With Best Wishes Scott

24 November, 2014 03:58  
Blogger Mary said...

You have really given us a glimpse of your environment, included some very evocative details. I can just picture those well-used newspapers!

24 November, 2014 04:36  
Blogger G L Meisner said...

I can feel what you said you went through. The poem really conveys the feeling.

24 November, 2014 06:45  
Blogger totomai said...

i also experienced the same problem as yours. though we make it a point to play around when the during brown-outs.

i liked the tone of your poem. it embraces the togetherness of a family deprived of light for a while

24 November, 2014 09:54  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


it's true, we have lost a lot when we live in relative abundance. things are taken for granted. of course now we expect electric power and clean water to be basics. no government can survive without that. :)


oh yes, i am grateful for them :)


warmth, ah yes! :)


thank you! :)


that was some tough environment. :)


thank you! glad it did. :)



sometimes the street lights do experience brown-outs, and the place is really dark. our home has no electricity, but some do and those were illegally tapped.

24 November, 2014 22:08  
Blogger humbird said...

I love the tenderness sounding here in your words about parents...thanks for sharing this beautiful poem x

25 November, 2014 00:57  
Blogger TALON said...

This brought back some super fine memories. Light definitely captures a mood and refines it...or should that be defines it? Doesn't matter because you caught it brilliantly here.

25 November, 2014 03:56  
Blogger Kathryn Dyche Dechairo said...

I loved how the 'light' played a pivotal part in this piece. Thanks for revealing aspects now many of us see.

25 November, 2014 07:06  
Blogger Justin Lamb said...

Vivid, clear writing. I appreciate that. The scene you've captured is very interesting.

25 November, 2014 07:16  
Blogger rallentanda said...

Any government that does not provide clean water for its citizens is contemptuous of its citizens....we are not talking luxury here !You can survive without electricity.

25 November, 2014 08:48  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


thank you. they were trying to raise a family as best as they could. :)


thanks! glad that it brought back some fine memories. :)


thanks! when i started on the poem, i see it just as what a physical light can do, but i think subconsciously i was also writing about the values my parents taught us.


thank you! :)


i do agree with your statement. the time and place i was writing about in the poem was then still under British colonial rule and on transition to self-governance.
though there was no running water in the house, there was a communal water supply in the village by the authorities, and we have our clean water for free.
we can actually live without electricity then. we use firewood for cooking, coals for irons, and the said pressure lamps for light. :)

25 November, 2014 20:18  
Blogger Stacy Lynn Mar said...

i loved this poem! the visuals are so rich. you pulled me right into the moment.

27 November, 2014 02:12  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Stacy, thank you!
glad you liked it. :)

27 November, 2014 22:33  

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