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Monday, May 25, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona

A new poem by Sudeep Sen meditates on the shape of love in a time of self-isolation.

Written by Sudeep Sen | Updated: April 8, 2020 11:11:25 pm
 A new poem by Sudeep Sen meditates on the shape of love in a time of self-isolation. A new poem by Sudeep Sen meditates on the shape of love in a time of self-isolation.

I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of Him.
— Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.
— Bertolt Brecht

1. Faint indigo tints in the greys of your hair
evoke memory — Krishna’s love for Radha,
its perennial longevity, its sustained mythology,
its blue-bathed lore — such are life’s enduring
parallels. Fourteen years — yet my heart flutters,
infatuated like first love. My hands fidgety,
palms sweaty, pulse too fast to pick —
I am not allowed to touch your face.
Cyber-flurries of emoji-love fail to assuage
fears of corona criticality. I don’t believe in God.

2. In thousands, migrant workers march home —
hungry footsteps on empty highways
accentuate an irony — ‘social distancing’,
a privilege only powerful can afford.
Cretins spray bleach on unprotected poor, clap,
bang plates, ring bells, blow conches, light fires
to rid the voodoo — karuna’s karma, infected.
Mood-swings in sanitised quarantine — self-
isolation, imposed — uncontained virus, viral.
When shall we sing our dream’s epiphanies?

3. City weather fluctuates promiscuously,
mapping temperature’s bipolar graph —
tropic’s air-conditioner chill, winter’s
unseasonal hailstorm, sky’s pink-blue spring.
Blue-grey will moult into salt-and-pepper,
ash-grey to silver-white, then to aged-white.
My lungs heave, slow-grating metallic-crackles
struggle to escape the filigreed windpipes —
I persist in my prayers. I’m afraid of Him.
Hope, heed, heal — our song, in present tense.

(an earlier version of this poem first appeared in The Indian Express newspaper (April 5, 2020) and ArtVirus USA (April 6, 2020)

Sudeep Sen is a poet, translator, literary editor and photographer

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