Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween Power Cut

The town is suddenly blotted out.
As my eyes adjust to soft blacks,
emergency lights glimmer on in tower blocks
and I imagine people on their hands and knees
scrabbling for half-forgotten candles at the backs of drawers.
You stand beside me, a smudgy shape
safe as grey felt.

Cars nudge forward on the narrow street
lighting a huddle of revellers on pavements,
expressionist, mugging for effect.
A woman says that the blackout is island-wide
that the power link has been lost with France
and a passer-by jokes that it’s like the war, a curfew.
Someone will want to tell ghost stories soon.

We become spooky without familiar markers,
glow-worms inching forward by the gleam of mobile phones
anchored to voice and touch, heading towards the arts centre,
to the Frankenstein film I’ve seen before -
1931 black-and-white, Boris Karloff,
his made-up face a parchment of greys
caught in cinema’s ghosting machinery.

It’s lighter now outdoors than in
a soft flush falling from the sky.
As we wait outside the dark-struck cinema
a study in blacks and half-blacks,
I want to say something profound
about the carbon in our bodies coming from stars,
but I’m enjoying being blanked out, uncoloured.
I could shelter in this shadowiness
unfixing, becoming liminal,
floating high above the monochrome island.

Your voice, inside me, teasing and calm, brings me back.
Light will scare away half creatures, unfixed ghosts.
Should I grab you in the dark?
Could we find a way here in the gloaming,
blending atoms in these cinder blacks?

Have we made our world too bright?
Lost the instinct for half-light, half-anything?
As soon as day creeps back,
as the shadows of buildings become buildings again,
people will rush to post photos of the darkscape online,
but black is always there behind,
the sudden going of light like a person leaving their body.

Jacqueline Mézec

This poem was a runner up in the Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition 2014.

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