Monday, February 6, 2017

Magdalena Ball - City Child 7 - Blackout


The Northeast blackout happened in 1969
taking out the electricity of over 30 million
from Quebec through New Jersey

New York City was in darkness
for thirteen hours
it was a particularly cold winter

I don’t recall the event in a linear sense
but I feel the imprint of that day in my cells.

I remember cold, fear, and excitement
stories spread quickly of UFO sightings
just before the blackout occurred

it was a bright full moon that night and no clouds
visibility outside was good
despite the lack of street lighting

in the twisted logic of memory
I attributed the lack of crime that night
to a muscular man named Banana

long black hair flowed past a tattooed neck
a deep scar across his cheek, a gold tooth
and large machete clearly on display
he always winked at me when we passed
I wasn’t scared, even later
when I learned what a machete could do

when the lights went out
my mother waited for the apocalypse
in our tenement on Columbia Street
holding me so tightly I could barely breathe, meanwhile
Banana took it upon himself to keep the streets safe

I have no idea what horrors he had committed
or whether he was part of the drug dealing ring
that pulled my mother into a spiral of addiction
which nearly killed her

the facts, such as they were, were relayed to me
much later during one of many late night sessions
in the final days
I massaged my mother’s back and as she spoke
I was able to recall the smell of those moonlit streets
as I watched from the window
of our high rise in the NYC Housing Authority’s Projects
behind the home-made yellow and green Marimekko curtains

as if the shadows of those vigilantes continued to watch out for us
and in Banana’s wink I felt he was forgiving me
for my whiteness, a privilege it took me years to recognise
my weakness, and my mother’s fear, which grew stronger
until she finally got fed up with hiding under the table
and we left to live closer to my grandparents in Long Island

no matter where you go, there you are
fear dogged my mother throughout her short life
leaving the city didn’t save her
but that night, when failure cascaded through
the power systems, one cold November

Banana kept trouble at bay. 


  1. is this the beginning of Banana's story?
    or is Banana more of a sideshow?

    I'm interested to know where this goes

    it really feels like the beginning of something

  2. Hm. Maybe I could do a story on Banana the fictional. But sideshow here. Does it feel unfinished?

  3. Yes Banana the movie...!
    I teally enjoyed your increasing tempo and entwining history / personal as an episode...a child's memory.( a chapter)
    I would think only doing some prunning here and there...of words unnecessary to your poem to say 'finished'!

  4. Very pleasant story to read, I feel you could make something more striking out of it, doing some prunning as Jefree mentioned .. try as many versions as you can, even trying "crazy" things perhaps, so as to, in the end, come with an unforgettable experience for the reader as well...