Blackout (1996)

Grace Nichols

Blackout is endemic to the land.
People have grown sixthsense
and sonic ways, like bats,
emerging out of shadows
into the light of their own flesh.

But the car headlamps coming towards us
make it seem we’re in some thirdworld movie,
throwing up potholes and houses exaggeratedly,
the fresh white painted and grey ramshackle
blending into snug relief.

And inside, the children are still hovering,
hopeful moths around the flickerless Box
immune to the cloying stench of toilets
that can’t be flushed. The children,
all waiting on electric-spell to come
and trigger a movie, the one featuring America,
played out endlessly in their heads.

While back outside, coconut vendors decapitate
the night, husky heads cutlassed off
in the medieval glow of bottle lamps.

And everywhere there are flittings
and things coming into being,
in a night where football is an act of faith –
A group of young girls huddled in a questionable
doorway;
The sudden dim horizontal of an alleyway;
And the occasional generator-lit big house,
obscenely bright –
hurting the soft iris of darkness
in the worn-out movie, slow reeling

Under the endless cinema of the skies.