The Coronapocalypse Will Be Televised
Those aren’t birds you hear, just their corresponding holes in the sky.
– ANSELM BERRIGAN
Silence is never magical in this republic.
We believe in procession, in utterance,
in honouring the dead, not by shutting up
for a minute, but by going into the street
and beating a drum. This is how we greet grief.
With rose petal and drink and dancing limb.
We are not the type to sew our lips in protest,
nor will we go mad if you string us upside down
and expose us to the shrieks of dying rabbits.
Our gods are in favour of cymbals.
It’s the other thing that kills us—the field
of uninterrupted grass, the on and on of nothing.
How can you bear it? There have always been
two kinds of people: those whose hearts
can stand to live beside volcanoes,
and those who write letters to the neighbours,
asking when’s a good time to beat the carpets,
and is it possible to tone it down on the piano?
This funeral song is different. It asks for us
to die alone, to step into a well with inflamed lungs,
only to find you’re not in water, but drowning
on dry land. So sure, we can bang our pots and pans
from balconies, we can write notes of gratitude
and send them out in air balloons, so those alive
on other planets can witness our disintegration.
Do they see how sad we are, how aghast?
How we move as actors in a silent film,
our movements wild and jerky. Do they laugh
at the irony of our government’s title cards:
“Breathe Easy!” & “Don’t Worry!”
“Nothing’s Going to Tank the Economy!”
Who thought the end would be so complete?
We keel over and get up again, the mud
on our knees too hungry to scream, an invisible
orchestra of violins, directing us from the wings.
— Tishani Doshi
Sometimes, There Are Cyclones
Come to the city of flowering neem.
There’s a leaf here with your name in vermeil,
and a salt-sprayed coast shot through with sunbeams.
Bring me the rawnesses that wouldn’t heal
through your strange wanderings, spinning crossroads
that showed: home is never where you left it.
Hold the truth, balanced by its antipode.
I know what I’m asking you to forfeit.
I didn’t promise prestige, only summers
of smouldering bloom, though what we call ours
is comprised of smoke, qualm, thirst and rumour.
Yes, I’m drawing you here where there’s so scarce
to praise in song. Sometimes, there are cyclones.
Always, there’s my lantern heart, a lodestone.
— Sharanya Manivannan
Lockdown verse, as the name suggests, is a series consisting of poems introspecting, examining and reflecting on the times we are living in. The poets have very generously agreed to share their hitherto unpublished works. For this week, we have one poem from Tishani Doshi, poet and author of Small Days and Nights (2019). She had won the Forward Poetry Prize for her debut collection of poems, Countries of the Body (2006). The other one is by Sharanya Manivannan, poet and author of The Queen of Jasmine Country (2018).
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines