Fresnel Lenses

Something I wrote helped someone write a poem.


The greatest human tragedy of our times:
society forcing every person to justify
his existence with a “purpose.” Not all
who wander are lost.
–Kevin Barbieux, “The Homeless Guy”

If not our greatest grief, it’s our most subtle,
This mania to “justify” our lives:
Calm contemplation offers firm rebuttal
Of the insistence greatness always strives.
Brief, luminous bursts disclose what best survives
Like Fresnel lenses guiding ships at sea;
Once, scalloped glass honed candle flames to knives
That split the thickest fog with clarity.
What purpose is there, if not just to be?
A Fresnel lens asks nothing of the night,
Imparts to storms no innate tragedy;
Accepts wide waves blown shoreward, wild and white.
The heavy glass–both delicate and strong–
Insists on what was present all along.

— Robert Lavett Smith

What the author says about the poem:

Glad you liked it. Several things came together in this one. First, the quote used as an epigraph was given to me as a writing prompt during a phone conversation yesterday with my friend Deena Larsen, in Denver. Secondly, I went on line at school this morning to look up the “free days” at the local museums, so that we could take the kids on low-cost field trips. While doing so, I came across a reference to a Fresnel lens on display at the maritime museum on Fisherman’s Wharf (an absolute must-see, apparently!) I had encountered Fresnel lenses before, and knew what they were, but hadn’t thought about them in years; the quote and the lens image just seemed to compliment one another in an unexpected way. Finally, I had about an hour to myself in the classroom–with nothing whatsoever to do–while the class of severely impaired summer school students was out in the community with the teacher and the other aides. Having time to kill, I took the basic idea, and just ran with it. The class returned at the exact moment I hit “send” on my email. Serendipity, really.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless

One comment

  1. mylifeasateenageloser

    =] =] =]


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