A Temporary Blackout and She and I

Poems by Robert Champ*

[From HUMANITAS, Volume XI, No. 1, 1998 © National Humanities Institute]

A Temporary Blackout

In a stiff wind, the electric has gone out.

Suddenly, I feel like a nursing baby whose mother
Has just pulled the nipple from its mouth:
No tv,
No radio,
No cassette player,
No computer.
(If I weren’t so old, I’d bawl!)

Still, sitting in this murkiness,
Waiting for the power company
To send out a crew,
I find there is not much trouble
In the silence, not much
Of the old scariness left in the unplanned dark.

Or maybe I am just less cranky
Than I thought—
Or have lived before
In a house without lights
And remember it here with an unsuspected affection,
As you’d remember a cartoon villain:
Black-hatted, familiar, sly.

Could it be that all this quietness and shadow
Are the chaos of withdrawal?
That all this cessation
Holds out no protest?

I have been taught to honor light
As the one desideratum;
To find in the busyness of light,
Sustained by socket and prong,
The one connection worth making: 

Elaborate interchange of being and doing.

Yet now, unconnected, I float
From wall to wall;
Rest easily in the growing pitch-blackness,
Helpless to resist.

In a blackout, candleless, one finds few options—
As if one had just died and were learning
To deal with an unexpected afterlife,
As if one wre a child put abruptly to bed.

She and I

Between the wall and mini-tower case
She’s built her web. Two dozen strands
On either side, mooring the computer
To the house. She sits there, confident
As Roebling in the girders of Brooklyn
Bridge. She causes no trouble: a neat
Little housekeeper, neater than I,
Whose failure to dust has given her the chance
To build on this scale. Seated on
The other side, engrossed, I do not notice her;
Tapping away at the keyboard, connected
To the case no less tangibly, nor more
Than she, though without her sense of surety,
I have no heart to brush away her web,
To end our mutual dependence on Machine. 

I’ve come to believe, almost, the web
Is holding me to the house and to the ground,
That she has come in from the aeons, a bundle
Of life, drawn to the case, not blindly,
But with an intuition that here, in this room,
Aloneness and the quiet doings of survival
Are welcome. We are what work has come to,
Back to the stillness of hunting and gathering,
And with no reason other than to continue,
And with no companions except
The distant others of our kind, abstracts
Of being as we are abstracts to them.
And yet, as she dangles upside down, I find
The creatureliness of us both is a comedy
We can’t surrender, a way of thinking

Back into the nucleus of the body
Spinning out its notions: a solid thought,
An instinct with legs running along the strands
Of a web that widens daily, connecting us,
Leaving us one, together and yet ourselves.

* Robert Champ is Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, University College. [Back]

Updated 29 July 2010