Synaesthesia Magazine Science & Numbers - Page 67

The word electrocution

didn’t exist until, in an effort to tarnish

the name of his competitor,

Thomas Edison began using

alternating currents to put small animals to death—

stray cats and dogs, at first,

before moving on to man.

Sparks were sent through the first

human body in 1890, and as his vessels

baked and bled, Edison imagined

the steady decline of his enemy’s empire;

the world’s attention shifting to him instead.

In the back of his mind was a girl

with faint ember resting

neatly atop her head; a crown of red

shining brighter than any flame,

and she was smiling at the thought of him.

Even as AC generators

began to light up Rome he raged

against them, sparking a war

that he ultimately lost and leaving

a legacy of evil in his wake.

One day, he knew,

the whole world could be lit

by alternating current.

In 1903, an elephant went mad,

her mouth burning

as she tried to put out

lit cigarettes with her tongue.

The earth quaked beneath her as she stomped

down on dirty ground, her body lit up

from the inside, sparks shooting

through it. In her rage

she killed the man who had force-fed her embers

and was sentenced to death.

Edison oversaw it, watching as thousands

of electrical currents were sent through her;

she trembled and fell to the ground,

her massive body still moving

as it pressed into soft earth, but no sound escaped

her. He recorded her death in black and white,

playing it back for anyone who could stand

to see it; the proof he needed to tarnish

the Westinghouse name

and put an end to alternating currents.

He remembered his own incandescence;

the feeling of being heated

from the inside out and imagined

a world set to that same

steady glow, lit by his own design,

her face shining brightest.

War of Currents

work in progress

Jamie Bruce currently lives in Harlem and is an MFA candidate at the City College of New York where she studies poetry. Her work has appeared most recently in the Spring 2013 issue of Promethean.