When I was a kid, I was a bit obsessed with streetlights. Not just because I was allowed to stay out till just past the time when they came on, but for other reasons…harder to explain reasons. Imagery from the Book of Revelations via terrifying sermons, post-apocalyptic scenes courtesy of 80’s sci-fi shows and movies, and sci-fi odds and ends from books and school all mingled in my mind to give me thinky-thoughts. I would look up at the streetlights with their buzzing, orange light and wonder–what would it take to turn off all the lights in the world? If that thing happened, would they all go out at once, a sudden there-then-not kind of thing? As I grew and my understanding of the world (power grids, physics, post-apocalyptic narratives stemming from post Cold War tensions and the 80’s Star Wars propaganda) matured, I started to see that these things that preoccupied me as a kid were still pretty scary. These things come out even now in my poetry and fiction. Streetlights, powerlines stretching for miles over grassy fields, windmills with their blinking red pilot lights, the kinds of strange machinery and structures I’d see at the edges of the military bases and the Port Authority where I grew up all blend together with my young mind’s questions, creating this personalized, complex iconography of tech. To this day, I write about when the streetlights go out. To this day, I still get chills thinking about it. I hope you are all having a good week so far, and thanks for reading!
And now, a new poem:
before/after the streetlights
Be in before the streetlights come on, mom calls out
and her voice slaps flat against the sides of houses
and the summerhot asphalt
and my scrambling footfalls echo back–
I run till the street ends in woods and it’s darker.
Before the streetlights, what was there?
Fireflies and distant blinking stars only go so far
in holding back the night–
Before the streetlights, one kind of darkness
and after? What happens when the white light
eats the sky, when the generators die–will the streetlights
and stoplights and house lights all go out at once?
Will I be able to see to run? Be in before the streetlights
come on, I tell my blue shadow and look up at the metal
and orange light and down at the crumbling street
and I hum and I try not to be afraid of the after—