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Lights Out
Carl Palmer


We never had a volcanic eruption on Old Mill Road.
Tornados, floods and earthquakes hit someplace else.
What we do get are thunderstorms that knock power
out immediately after every first lightning strike.
Six kids huddle on the porch watching it pour down,
ordered inside by Mom before getting struck ourselves,
find no television, radio, record player or lights other
than the Yankee candle burning on the kitchen table.
Sitting in our regular chairs, three boys on one side,
three girls on the other, all looking at the candle glow
while Dad lights the coal oil stove in the living room
for Mom to heat up refrigerator leftovers for supper.
Unable to see what is put on our plate, we eagerly
dig in to squash, okra, turnips, liver, and peas,
picked over and whined about at any other meal, 
now hidden in scalloped potatoes and scrambled eggs.
Spigots are avoided during lightning storms in fear
a strike could be conducted through pipes to the sink,
another reason to eat everything on our plate because
the girls won’t be able to wash the dishes tonight.
Not wanting to venture from the candle or each other,
we do knock-knocks, riddles, sing songs or tell stories
to not-be-so-quiet Mom will get her rosary to lead us
in Our Fathers, Hail Marys and forever shall it be, Amen.

This poem first appeared in Poetry Quarterly (August 2015).
Used here with the author’s permission.


Carl “Papa” Palmer lives in University Place, Washington now, but grew up on Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia. Retired from the military and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), he enjoys being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer and being “Papa” to his grand descendants. Carl is the author of six chapbooks and his work has been published in more than 200 journals around the world. His motto is "Long Weekends Forever!"



Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
Love the atmosphere this poem creates.
Posted 03/05/2019 09:58 PM
I have never read a description so accurate of COUNTRY LIFE in the 1950's. MR. PALMER That brings back so many memories. Thanks a 1000 times.
Posted 03/05/2019 02:29 PM
What a lovely, moving slice of nostalgia! Jancan
Posted 03/05/2019 10:52 AM
We hung a Coleman lantern from a fishing gaff on the kitchen ceiling.
Posted 03/05/2019 08:45 AM
Jean :D:
Carl's look on life makes me wish for a thunderstorm, as I'm reminded of "power outage" as a child & the coziness & safety of home and candles.
Posted 03/05/2019 07:02 AM

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