“The Night the Lights Went Out in Moore County, North Carolina” by A.E. Hines

A.E. Hines


These must be dark times if you think
shooting up a substation and blacking out
the lights will shut-down a drag show.
Have you ever been to a drag show?
Yes, there will be singing. Even in the dark.
Unflappable queens black-belting Beyonce
and Madonna, hovering in the quivered
glow of bar top candles, silver beams
from a hundred mobile phones showering
them like bedazzled songbirds, lashes
glittering like wings and lifting them
from a thin nest of stars on the soft breeze
of applause and our waving dollar bills.
We’ve labored in the night long enough
to know how to fashion our own halos.
Make our own light. I doubt you’ve ever
dropped a copper penny to preserve
a vase of daises, or know a jigger of vodka
brings valentine roses back to their feet,
but know you’ll find no wilting flowers here,
just at the edge of the stage. With its green
stiffened spine, the boozy and voluptuous
tulip takes no bows. With outstretched petals
outlasting gravity and death, it refuses to bend.

from Poets Respond
December 18, 2022


A.E. Hines: “The recent domestic terrorist attack on two power substations in rural North Carolina, and its proximity to wide-spread messages of hate and intolerance surrounding a local drag performance, left thousands without power for days, and stoked fear among the local queer community—especially in the wake of the recent mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado. Of course, the show (picketed by fanatics) still went on in Southern Pines—even in the dark—as the drag artists calmly led attendees in a sing-a-long under the spotlights of their patrons’ iPhones. This reminded me of the lines by Bertolt Brecht: ‘In the dark times / will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing. / About the dark times.’ And this became the spark for this poem.” (web)

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