When the unwanted children turned into solar panels, they gathered along the two-lane billboard-free highways in clusters between dairy farms. When the children first
disappeared their squeaks entered into the clouds. We are hesitant to admit we miss the cacophony, as we chew gluten-free bread in their absence, noticing the scattered coteries
of solar panels.

During the Uncivilized Time
the unwanted and inconvenient children roamed.
When men and women
women and boys
men and girls

go on fucking, sometimes with desire and abandon, sometimes with genuine affection,
crushed feelings rustling against sticky underpants, sometimes
with revenge and competition, even times when one party specifically says ‘no,

or when one party is either unable to ask or actually predatorily seeks those who cannot
say ‘no,’ when people would drown out their sorrows or fulfill their emptiness through
ramming each other – the time when that happened led to screaming, purple babies.

The panelstwo layers: the first loaded with electrons, jumping to the next layer, which
has electrons taken away, so it wants more. When something is taken away,

We desire it even more.
We didn’t want the chance or responsibility of inconvenience.
We needed certainty. 
We needed the photoelectric effect in our lives and bedrooms. 

In the evening, shadows of the trees spread like squid ink and cover the ground in
darkness. In the silence, we could hear gasses that illuminate the stars release and
contract. A hiss to every twinkle.

The scientists who harnessed the energy of children into the energy for the planet
annually win the MacArthur. 

No other idea has been as good. 

The beds creak, the closet doors fall off their hinges, the car windows fog up, as seat belts
make marks on the haunches of people whose moans, groans, and pleas continue. 

But, we didn’t know this – 
the consequences continue:
hearts still break;
jealousies still rage;
commitments still create and combust;
lovers still contemplate suicide. 

We have so much more time – time for which we begged. 

We are doing everything we wished to do:
developing food trucks
learning to knit and weave
riding reclaimed unicycles
reading our subscriptions. 

The school teacher finally has the small class size he always wanted, cashiers can finally
read chapters of Anna Karenina in between customers, dairy shelves are more empty and
cartons more cold, as the doors would open less frequently. 

The lawns have flowering hydrangeas. 

There are fewer puppies, and more, much more, full grown cats sleeping, stretching, and
strolling. At last the solar panels loosened, our children sought to feel their feet on the
earth again. They returned, filling up the classrooms, grocery carts, doctors’ waiting
rooms. We looked on their soft cheeks, fleshy tummies. 

We pulled our blankets and put our hand-blown glass on the high shelves again,
we removed the skin and halved the grapes. 
We brought the babies back into bed with us,
as we had made magazine racks from the slats of the unused cribs. 
As the men approached the beds,
the women crossed their legs and shook their heads.

"'Renewable Energy' was inspired both by a late night reading of Lydia Davis's Collected Stories and the morning-after bus ride, when I was thinking about how time and attention changed for me after becoming a mother. I wrote this weeks after visiting Vermont, where I noticed the absence of billboards and the plethora of solar panels. When I sat down to write, I thought about what it would be like to harness the energy of children into these panels. I'm attracted to narrative premises about alternative worlds and realities, especially because I feels motherhood is an alternative reality. 'Renewable Energy' is her first attempt with playing with the rules of reality."

Swati Khurana is an artist and writer living in New York City. She has written for The New York Times, Asian American Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Weeklings, and has exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum, Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw), Chatterjee & Lal (Mumbai). A Kundiman fellow and MFA Fiction student at Hunter College, she is working on her first novel and a collection of essays.