What does it mean to write poetry in the dark? That’s a line that just popped into my head as I was sitting in the Muskingum County Public Library in a comfy chair under bright, fluorescent lighting but without an outlet to charge my laptop.
I am one of about 415,000 AEP customers still without power from the June 29, 2012, “catastrophic” storms that rushed through here that Friday evening. I’m lucky. No tree branches fell on my house or my daughter’s car. My house is dark so it’s still relatively cool. I have plenty of batteries, lanterns, flashlights, a battery operated fan (and another is arriving tomorrow). My daughter’s father and I are on excellent enough terms for him to be willing to let me and her hang at his house as much as we want or need to. In fact, he’s happily insistent, so I don’t feel like a burden. My Girl is sleeping upstairs in her bedroom here; I’m down in the dining area typing while my friend, her father, reads the paper and listens to jazz.
I’m writing in the dark.
I’ll close my eyes now and type until the burning stops (my eyes hurt). Even though this power outage is inconvenient and our power is unlikely to be restored until July 8 (a Sunday. It’s now Monday, July 2), I don’t feel the burden of victimhood or anything. It’s just a week. My refrigerated items (mostly) are stored in Bill’s refrigerator; my next door neighbor, who has power, has offered to let me run an extension cord to her house and plug in some things; a friend (a band booster friend) has offered to let me and the Girl sleep in their air conditioned camper.
Still, I’m thinking about poetry and writing not darkly, because I feel oddly happy, but in the dark. Dark drenched. Dark heat. Dark wind.
Where do I get my poetry? Is it poetry? Does it matter if I call it poetry? I suppose it does in some circles, not even just academic circles, but circles that believe in the power of poetry, not in the Power of Something That Might Be Poetry But is Really Just Prose that Sometimes Has Somewhat Interesting Line Breaks.
How’s THAT for a new genre?
My back is aching from sitting on this barstool/chair at the bar on the other side of Bill’s kitchen. I should lean back into the chair.
Silence behind me. Bill turned off his music. I think he’s dozing. I should stretch out on the carpet and dream of dark poems, darkly poems, darkening poems.
Being in the dark isn’t an evil thing or a bad thing. I like the dark. It’s the color my hair used to be before it turned white. It’s the color of my father’s eyes, my daughter’s eyes (my eyes), it’s the color of the Mediterranean and my favorite ballpoint pen.
(Is "dark" a color? Does it matter?)
But where’s the poetry? Today? Still stuck in my head, maybe. I wrote out some memories while I was at the library, childhood things I’d like to put into poem or essay, then snippets of conversations I heard, the whimpering of a tired toddler who just wanted someone to read to her but came from a family that doesn’t read and only was in the library to stay cool, argument between two people at another table about someone who was pissing them off. I left when people’s crankiness started to wear me out. I’m a natural born hermit, so being out and about so much does make me tired.
My daughter stayed the night with a kind friend, but the conditions were difficult, and she only slept two hours. She was hotter there in the air conditioned house than she would have been in my stuffy living room (her bedroom with me is upstairs, and it’s unbearably hot up there at night without a window unit).
Her night was dark and hot.
Mine was dark, warm but less hot, thrashing legs under my red sheet (I bought red sheets as a joke soon after I moved into my dreadful little house eight years ago), bad dreams.
The bad dreams make it easier for me to face my ordinary days. I laugh about them when I wake up. How can I not laugh at dreams involving David Hasselhoff competing on a talent show (and losing)?
This isn’t about poetry. This isn’t even about dark things. This is just about … life? Ordinary life.
I hope our power comes on sooner than July 8, but if it doesn’t, what can I do? Waiting is something I do pretty well. Accepting is something I’m learning.
And joy, for some reason, I feel great joy today. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe it’s that last night I had nothing better to do than sit, motionless, in the dark for a little while before I decided to go to bed and read by book light. I communicated with the still darkness. It was a great goodness.