The Invention Of Streetlights

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(the night has houses)
and the shadow of the fabulous
broken into handfuls—these
can be placed at regular intervals,
candles
walking down the streets at times eclipsed 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.

Throughout the Middle Ages, you could hire a man
on any corner with a torch to light you home

were lamps made of horn
and from above a loom of moving flares, we watched
Notre Dame seem small.
Now the streets and 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
and aloft us this
new and larger room
Flambeaux the arboreal
was the wife of Julius Caesar
in whose streets
in 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 of light,
Notre Dame of the Unfinished Sky,
oil slicks burning on the river; someone down on the corner
striking a match to read by.

Some claim Paris was the first modern city to light its streets.
The inhabitants were ordered
in 1524 to place a taper in every window in the dark there were 912 streets
walked into this arc until by stars
makes steps sharp, you are
and are not alone
by public decree
October 1558: the lanterns were similar to those used in mines:
"Once
we were kings"
and down into the spiral of our riches
still reign: falots or great vases of pitch lit
at the crossroads
—and thus were we followed
through a city of thieves—which,
but a few weeks later, were replaced by chandeliers.

While others claim all London was alight by 1414.
There it was worded:
Out of every window, come a wrist with a lanthorn
and were told
hold it 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 instructive:
In the early 18th century, London hung some 15,000 lamps.
And now we find (1786) they've turned to crystal, placed precisely,
each its own distance, small in islands, large in the time it would take to run.

And Venice started in 1687 with a bell

upon the hearing of which, we all in unison
exit,
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 upon 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.

Says Libanius
Night differs us
Without us
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Though in time of public grief
when the streets were left unlit, on we went, just
dark marks in the markets and voices in the cafes, in the crowded squares,
a single touch, the living, a lantern
swinging above the door any time a child is born, be it
Antioch, Syria, or Edessa—
and then there were the festivals,
the festum encaeniorum, and others in which
they call idolatrous, these torches
half a city wide
be your houses.

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