When the World Became Electric . . .


. . . electricity became a controlled substance,
a Schedule II drug,
opening every line of communication.
It became the light of our lives,
for it lit up the world.

Electricity lifted the chill of the winter cold;
it made low the wave of summer heat.
It turned Christmastime into a Wonderland of Light.
It made icy sidewalks and streets wet with rain
glisten with red, yellow, and green.
It brought the outdoor markets inside,
where fruit shone like the wax creations gathering dust
in wooden bowls at Grandma’s house,
where meat in carnivorous red spread out in a cooler
like dismembered specimens in a pathology lab,
and vegetables stayed fresh long after they’d been picked;
the life of everything lengthened,
for there were strawberries all winter long
only to be left to macerate on a counter,
their texture becoming lush and juicy,
bleeding into whatever dessert they topped.

No longer did people have to read by
the flicker of candlelight,
for they could stay up all hours,
reading under a lamp
brighter than the moon,
chatting with friends they’d never met,
playing games with people they’d never know.
There was nothing they couldn’t do,
for the separation of night and day
had blurred like wet chalk lines.

Electricity kept ice cream nearer than any parlor,
waiting to be enjoyed while watching characters on a screen
imitate life (or something like it),
listening to entertainment packaged as news,
or being seduced by The Next Big Thing (as-seen-on-TV).

When the world became electrified,
it made Presidential politics a commodity,
fed an entire generation on fabricated reality,
and made stars from nothing—
propelling them into the celluloid firmament.
It made television larger than life,
more dramatic,
and just simply more.

When people sought that which they could not find,
for out of skilled writers did these actors speak,
they took to recording their own lives,
posting for all to see—
seeking validation for that which was the CliffsNotes version
of the life they knew.
There were no more Christmas letters,
no more long-lost friends,
but rather many who should have remained lost.
There was no more wondering what had ever happened to whom;
there was no more mystery.
Lives were documented,
and memories that would’ve faded into the unreliable narratives
of those who’d been there,
were sharper with digital reminders.
No longer was anyone allowed to forget anything.

Electricity brought refrigeration to the world,
keeping the water for our cells cool,
the water for our bodies, warm.

It made the job of the housewife easier,
so that her hands would become as soft as bread dough
allowed to rise all day.
Such plummy hands would no longer hydrate into prunes,
and clothes were scrubbed not,
but washed with spin,
spun to dry.

With the telegraph,
mothers of sons would find out whether their job
had ended on the battlefield,
wives would learn of their widowhood,
and children, their fatherless state.
Days of hope were shortened,
days to heal, lengthened.

The radio would liven up a party with music for dancing
in a room full of conversation;
it would broadcast the news of numerous wars,
the fireside chats of Franklin Roosevelt,
giving confidence to the poor in spirit for this life;
it spread the religion of Billy Graham,
giving hope to those same for the life to come;
it gave baseball scores and boxing moves,
the jingles that became part of American culture;
“The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Welles,
narrated by Orson Welles;
the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill,
the frightening German of Adolf Hitler,
the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
the music that moved souls like mountains,
and the poetry of Sylvia Plath—
that suicide note of a broken doll,
held together with glue
under the extreme heat
of depression.
Through disembodied voices,
people would call in to a stranger
to be told how to run their lives.

The telephone kept people confined to a place of conversation,
and over coffee and doughnuts a young ingénue would chat with her mum,
who nattered over tea and crumpets somewhere in the English countryside.
The Japanese wife would speak in her childhood tongue
to the grandmother whose wisdom and warmth
would come through in the single sense of speech.
The Navy man who could not bring his wife to his place of deployment,
would describe that same place they would never go together—
this place where their child could never have his special needs met.

Then video chat technology came,
and families could see their loved ones in real time—
their unchanging lives a fluid frame,
bordering the life that was ever-changing.

When the Internet became Something for Everyone,
it gave a voice to the voiceless,
and every writer a platform—
somewhere up in the blogosphere,
floating through the ad clouds.
It made porn portable;
it helped others write
what they could never say.
Everyone became a critic,
and people could preach their hate
through the cloak of anonymity.
They could be anything they wanted to be.

Dates weren’t arranged by Fate,
through Happenstance,
or blindly through friends,
but through algorithms and quizzes and personality tests.
People now knew more about a person halfway across the country
than they did about their own neighbors.
They would find themselves lost in the Twitterverse,
where everyone was always talking at once—
their thoughts succinctly expressed,
only to be buried under a deluge of the next wave of opinions.

Electricity charged the libraries contained in a device,
and phones merged into one’s identity through
pictures, texts, and videos.
The mechanics of typing replaced the art of cursive writing,
and memories become atrophied for lack of use,
for Google became the god of Search and Locate.

Electricity made the world one giant machine that never takes a break,
with its Walgreens, Waffle Houses, and Wal-Marts.
There is no rest or renewal,
for the juices of life flow in a way that is Positively Electric.

Those who should have been dead are kept alive through machines,
their bodies aging even as their consciousness has moved on
to that one-way plane of existence called Elsewhere.

The world became quicker through the Electric Age:
Days becoming hours,
hours, minutes,
for twice the work could be done.

When man manipulated the currents of electricity,
turning it into currency and a Necessity of Life,
making that which could not be held,
but harnessed,
it illuminated the world to every dark thing
that happened in it,
raising the awareness of an entire world.

Originally written as part of the Writer’s Digest Wednesday poetry challenge, using the theme:  Dark

2 thoughts on “When the World Became Electric . . .

  1. Goodness this is powerful (pun not intended!) – especially the part about long-lost friends who should have remained lost. It is indeed both a blessing and a curse and I think you’ve captured this beautifully 🙂

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