Every morning I read the newspapers,
The headlines, the small print, the numbers,
The visuals of stretchers, ambulances, nurses, the dying, the dead
The waiting forever,
The visuals crowd out the words, the numbers,
Life a dead Still Life, a painting that cannot be restored,
a story that cannot be told, enough,
As hospital gates clang shut, groaning, sagging with the dying,
The living escaping to home, living to tell the tale…
Ill but alive, they are Fortuna’s children.
Amid high decibel election rallies and religious gatherings
Pyres of rough wood logs doused with kerosene/petrol are lit
Grieving relatives, families, friends at a distance bid goodbye,
if at all they could come…
From this distance nothing can be seen
of the person, gone as nameless, a statistic, the flames sear the skies
The dead light up the dying skies of a setting sun, a rising moon.
In the sweeping anomie of Covid 19
it is a massacre, it is a hurtling disorder,
livelihoods are put on hold as election madness suffer no ban
the choices are numerous…death by suicide, death by Covid 19,
death by hunger, death by a system
Drunk in its powerful cesspools of greed and want.
The word ‘public’ made ‘private’, there are no beds, no medicines,
Doctors, nurses shredded by never ending duties across beds and their ailing.
They come home tired, their white gown a crumpled wet sheath
A sheath that has seen so much, caring for the uncared, holding the hand
Lost to the world, in icy isolation. A Nurse, A Doctor, like guardians to the ill
At home on return , she lies down, half out of this earth, the tiredness like
Blue pools, circling the eyes, shut inside…
When the breeze dries up with your cough,
your losses of smell, your hunger without taste,
your life breathless, the body a burn that does not cool
Lying under a bed , under the waiting bench in a dark corridor
you wait for the next bed to be freed, as one more friend, uncle , aunt,
mother, father, daughter, son, husband, wife, child leaves life behind
in a plastic shroud, gone forever, without trace, touch, a goodbye
stifled in Covid fear, coveted in an earthern jar,
marked in numbers with white chalk, numbed family saying goodbye
from that frozen distance, from that stilled forever distance .
The metal bed awaits the next and the next…
The numbers recede, the surges calm down
Life limps back, amputated in countless ways
Never the same again: Families live, losses pass into histories
Destiny a temporary solace, an acceptance without a choice
A fate, determined by pandemics, like a Coda,
Living with the unknown, learning to walk again.
Shobha Raghuram, May, 2021