Fiat Lux

The snapped lights-out in my childhood bedroom / where roses on satin turned ghost-pale by streetlamp

A portrait of poet Kateri Lanthier

If cinema is time plus light,
I’ve got a sequel to Marclay’s “The Clock.”
It begins with my grandad’s “fiat lux,”
delivered in a fond mock-heroic tone,
followed by a montage of the cheap and dear
switches I’ve handled in a long life cycle.
The pull chains, the panels of sticky plastic,
the button on a hotel’s fancy brass bouillotte.
The snapped lights-out in my childhood bedroom
where roses on satin turned ghost-pale by streetlamp.
Lights beyond my reach
(oh, how I would reverse this)
in the theatre where a stranger grabbed my thigh
when the lights dimmed before “Trop Belle Pour Toi.”
(I leapt up and left. How does it end?)
The night lights for nursing, the bedtime story light.
And this: the bakery boss at my first job
who led me down the cellar stairs
to the cold dark storeroom, then leaned close,
growling, “This way, you won’t forget!”
placed his hand over mine,
and set our hands on the switch.

Kateri Lanthier
Kateri Lanthier was awarded the 2013 Walrus Poetry Prize. Her most recent collection is Siren.

Enjoy What You’re Reading?

Fact-based journalism is our passion and your right.

We feature Canadian voices and expertise on stories that travel beyond our shores, and we firmly believe that this reporting can change the world around us. The Walrus covers it all with originality, depth, and thoughtfulness, bringing diverse perspectives to bear on essential conversations while setting the highest bar for fact-checking and rigour.

We’re asking readers like you to support The Walrus so we can continue to lead the Canadian conversation.
Every contribution makes a difference.
Please support The Walrus today. Thank you.
Donations of $20 or more will receive a charitable tax receipt.