Two Poems

By Julian Matthews

LOCKDOWN TURNS 21

So you turned 21 today, Lockdown
Happy Birthday!
It’s only 21 days but it feels like 21 years
Sorry we can’t throw you a party, social distancing and all
And even if we gave you the key — where would you go?

You were always a difficult child
But now that you’ve been with us so long
It’s time to tell you the truth
— You are not ours —
The government made us take you
It was to save lives and flatten the curve
Not that you were dying or anything
Just potentially sickening
And quite annoying
And terribly inconvenient

But we love you anyway
— Really —
Some of us are actually discovering our creative sides just being around you
You have that Lockdown Effect on all of us
Kinda like the Oprah Effect but without the sales
And we’re kinda enjoying the Balcony Musicians and Sofa Singers
And the Zoom Choirs and Facebook Live Comedians
You gave us the blues Lockdown, and some us are actually listening to the Blues again

So, there is a possibility they may extend your stay with us until May
That would put you well into your 30s or mid-40s
Kinda like some of those stay-at-homes who just refuse to move out
Or can’t afford it
That would be quite a strain.
We don’t want your uncle Recession coming around
And knocking on our door
Asking for handouts
That could leave Auntie Economy quite teary-eyed

And by the way we really don’t like how this relationship with Miss Curfew is going on either
She hasn’t been around since ’69
Is she moving in?
That would be too much
We’re not ready to be our grandparents yet
We can’t have little Barbie Wires and GI Joes, running around please
What would the neighbours say?

Sorry Lockdown, as soon as this is over
It’s time to go
Freedom comes with a price
That’s worth a little more than RM0
Come on Lockdown, let’s go
We did our part and are handing you back to the government
If they refuse to take you, we’ll slip you through the Backdoor
This is 2020 after all
Not 1984.

April 7, 2020

CORONA

Let me be the cheerful hug you order by food app, home-delivered and viral-free
~ for hugs are a kind of food that gives us all, you and me, sustenance to survive the harsh reality of being human

Let me be the love you tapao on the way back from work and slowly unwrap to nourish your family with it at home
~ for love needs to come in small packages that surprise daily, or else it rots like forgotten leftovers in a cold fridge

Let me be the warm cuddle at night, whispering words of comfort, cradling you to sleep, even as your anxiety on the rising death tolls ring in your ear
~ for even lives of complete strangers lost in distance lands can affect us all personally like sharp pinpricks in our collective hearts

Let me be the gentle morning backrub from a partner, the massage in warm waters, the cool balm of an ocean breeze, the soft caress of a thousand sunrises as you awaken today
~ for you named the Sun, so why not a soliloquy worthy of another you named corona

Let not this corona, the one you crown today, and know by any other name, be your master
~ for even kings can falter and all we enthrone are fallible in the worst of times

Let me be the other corona, that gentle, yet fiery glow behind every shadowed moon in a solar eclipse
~ for even early man knew when the earth was darkened by forces beyond his control, eventually the light emerges

Let the rotation of the earth, the sun and the moon, their constancy, enduring and unchanging, be your guide then
~ for even as we are troubled by the loss of innocents, our guilt must not eat us up, leave us curled up in our beds, frozen in muddied soil, but pushing forward and upward, breaking ground, persisting and ever-rising in the hope for better days to come

Let not this corona, humanity’s current crown of thorns, scar us for life
~ for this temporary “social distances” we enforce can be permanently bridged when we come together again, lay our separate, individual crosses down, and recognize our true longing for each other.

March 20, 2020

Julian Matthews is a poet based in Malaysia and only began writing poetry in 2017. 

Barbie Wires and GI Joes in the same poem references specific locations where the government enforced the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) on clusters with high positive cases, which included circling the area with barbed wire, restricting all movement in and out and enforcing the lockdown with armed forces. 

In the poem “Corona” – tapao is a Chinese term that means to pack or takeaway food.

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Mohamed Elbadwihi
Guest
1 month ago

Lovely poems, Julian!

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