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The Electric Fan
Kathe L. Palka


In my seventh year
throughout the swelter of summer nights
in my attic bedroom,
it offered a cooling breeze at a price.
Each time you turned it on or off
it gave a jolt. An antique manufactured
between the Great Wars, that still worked
when we couldn't afford to replace
anything not broken.
Four black sculpted blades held
in an oscillating cage of wire petals
(with gaps wide enough for a fist)
attached to a motor balanced
on the thin neck of a heavy base
and tethered by a round Bakelite plug
at the end of a worn cloth braid.

When I was old enough
my big sister let me start it up
then told me shocks were cumulative,
too many and you'd be a goner.
Thereafter, I winced
at static in my hair
and felt the cold creep of panic
when friends revved-up
stocking feet on a carpet.
The fan was cause for impromptu prayers.
Please let this not be the one.
Whirling in the summer darkness
it sometimes let loose its own fireflies.

Late that August
I asked Dad, nonchalantly,
if it were true, Was electric build-up deadly?
Afterward the old GE disappeared,
replaced with a new avocado box fan,
window sized, covered with a white grate
too tight to fit a thumb through.
Nights got cooler, but
some of the mystery was gone.

From Miracle of the Wine: New and Selected Poems (Grayson Books, 2012).
Used here with permission.


Kathe L. Palka is an editor for the online micropoetry journal and a member of the U.S. 1 Poets Cooperative and the Haiku Poets of the Garden State (HPGS). Winner of the Snapshot Press 2011 eChapbook Award for her short tanka collection, As the Years Pass, her latest book is A Path of Desire (Red Moon Press, 2015), a collection created with Peter Newton in the collaborative Japanese form of tan renga. Kathe lives near Flemington, New Jersey, with her husband Joe and their beloved Pembroke Welsh corgi Garth.  An avid gardener, she enjoys wandering the parklands of her native state whenever time permits. Learn more about Kathe at or from her Poet's Profile here on YDP.




Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
Vivid portrayal of the fan and interacting with that fan.
Posted 08/16/2019 07:23 PM
Brings back vivid memories of a similar GE fan which rested near my bed during the hot summer months of my youth living with our grandmother.
Posted 08/16/2019 03:26 PM
Glen Sorestad:
a lovely pair of closing lines, Kathe. A most satisfying poem.
Posted 08/16/2019 11:00 AM
The strength of this poem lies in the specificity of the fan. Probably many of today�s readers have never seen such an antique but I have, down to the inadequate cord, so I was captivated by the poem and the tough position of the father.
Posted 08/16/2019 08:13 AM

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