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poetry The Night the Lights Went Out in Moore County, N.C.

Violence in North Carolina could not stop the drag show, as poet A.E. Hines depicts the resistance.

The Night the Lights Went Out in Moore County, North Carolina

By 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.

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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.

Weve labored in the night long enough


to know how to fashion our own halos.

Make our own light. I doubt youve 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 youll 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.

About the Poem:

Two power substations were recently attacked in rural North Carolina, leaving thousands without power for days. Because of the timing and proximity to right-wing protests of a local drag performance, rumors quickly spread that hate was the motive for turning out the lights. But the show went on (even in the dark, even as it was picketed by fanatics), as the drag artists calmly led patrons in a sing-a-long. This act of defiance and perseverance provided the inspiration for this poem.

A.E. Hines’s debut collection, Any Dumb Animal, received Honorable Mention in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s 2022 Brockman-Campbell Book contest, and was a daVinci Eye finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book award. His poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary journals, including more recently: RattleAlaska Quarterly Review, The Southern Review, Rhino, Ninth Letter, The Missouri Review, Poet Lore, The Greensboro Review, and I-70 Review. He resides in Charlotte, North Carolina and Medellín, Colombia.