Acquainted with the Night

Layout of night photos w Frost poemBack in the days when I was working at The Missourian, I’d cover some night event, maybe a meeting or sporting event, then I’d go to my home basement darkroom to process the film and print the photos. Since I’d rather stay up late than get up early, I’d drive the pictures over to the office that night.

If I wasn’t sleepy, I’d sit in the office doing my homework or listening to one of the three police, fire and highway patrol radios mounted on a column in the newsroom. Every hour, I’d jump when the West Union clock on the wall reset itself to the absolutely correct time with a jarring CLUNK!.

If I got bored doing that, I’d hop in the car and cruise the back streets and alleys, listening to police calls through a Tompkins Tunaverter, a little gray box that converted the car’s AM radio into a VHF FM monitor. Cape’s a town that goes to sleep early, so it was like it belonged to me.

I love biking after dark

To this day, I love riding my bike after dark. In the early evening, you can nod and speak to folks walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers. You can smell what’s cooking for dinner. If there is a flickering light coming from a dark room, you know they are watching TV, because a computer screen emits a steady glow.

From behind, I’m lit up like a Christmas tree; in front, there’s a generator-powered headlight cutting through the blackness. If I look down, I can see in the backsplatter of the light my sweat-glowing legs pistoning up and down, driving the chain with a snicccck, sniccck, sniccck sound.

Like Robert Frost, I, too, have been acquainted with the night.

This is one of my images that will be displayed at the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson after Homecomers and until about the end of the year. The theme of the show will be Coming of Age in a Small Midwestern Town between 1963 and 1970ish. Click on the photo to make it larger.

6 Replies to “Acquainted with the Night”

  1. Ken, I do appreciate being illuminated by your compositions. The night and I have gotten along very well over the years. Some of my best work has been done after dark.

  2. Ken, I am with you. Often I would leave my house at West End Blvd and Bertling and hike down to the river front at about 2:00a m. I loved the quiet of the town and the very dramatic lighting on everything in the wee hours. Night hikes in town were great!

  3. Ken, your word images are every bit as powerful as your photographic images. I didn’t know you were such an accomplished poet. Just beautiful.

  4. I remember one summer night in 1956 when we stepped off the train in downtown Cape, having left Milwaukee that morning. My grandfather was there to take us home. The night was perfectly warm. The moon reflected on the river as it rolled by. The smell of the water of the river punctuated the night. The crickets were chirping and the lightning bugs lite the way home. It was a perfect night in a lazy river town. It was good to be home.

  5. Ken, I love that poem. Though I am more of a morning person I do appreciate things that go “bump” in the night. Somehow it is comforting to know that while I sleep the world goes on and is waiting for me in the morning.

  6. The Robert Frost really compliments your photography. Very nicely done – like frosting on a cake!

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