6.06 / June 2011

Power Outage: 3 p.m., College of Engineering

listen to this poem

The rooms now closets, black as the handles
of spades pushing their rude darkness into every
conversation. Engineers make widgets
that alert oncoming deer to cars or oncoming
cars to deer: either way, the one gracefully steers

out of the path of the other. Engineers know
why lights go on and off, something besides
my dim reasoning that light follows the motion
of a hand on the wall, a strange sign language
of cables and conductors, crimps and wire,

my engineering friend holds up copper threads and says
This is how one particle of light talks to another.
The threads glow strangely in his hand.
Digital, he says, knows only how to say yes and no
while analog understands maybe.

Even in a power outage folks can be civil
with no undue hand holding though the pupils,
by necessity, drink in what they can.
Ben Franklin, that great and randy inventor,
once said that in the dark all cats are gray.

I haven’t found a way to work the word
lesbian into a discussion of power spikes.
There’s a whole wing devoted to making
things smaller and faster. There’s an unfulfilled deer
running around whose one wish is to take out a car.

Grounded, says my friend, means any object connected
to the earth. He says: Someone is dancing around
the master switch. He says: Knowledge is power.
Arms outstretched, we mince forward, where everything
is ordinary and people wander, wide-eyed, out of the gloom.

Karen Skolfield is a freelance magazine writer and an adjunct professor in the journalism department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She's also a contributing editor at the literary magazine Bateau and has had poems published in Another Chicago Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Hollins Critic, The Ledge, Painted Bride Quarterly, West Branch, and others.
6.06 / June 2011