By Indran Amirthanayagam
Love Song of J. Alfred Zoom
I shaved, bathed, put on a bright red
shirt, and sat down for the Zoom chat.
Even as an audience member I thought
I should be ready with a face etc.
But damn Zoom could not locate
my camera, and during these times
of Covid-19, with all non-essential
businesses closed, I cannot go
to Best Buy, put its Geek team
on the case. So there you have it,
open and shut. I can join only
as a voice. At least I see other
participants and may chat
with them off or on line.
In the post-Covid world
I will recover the camera
and clean my desk in time
for the new normal, Zoom
with morning coffee,
the solitary bedroom dinner.
Zoom me up, Alfred.
I will be prepared. Then.
I am sorry we must keep apart. We are not married,
and we are not members of the same household.
The happy old days of dating have been forbidden
by government order. Only essential travel right
now: to the pharmacy, clinic, grocery. No kisses,
hugs or slaps in the fanny. This is not the moment
either to procreate. Should not expose the womb,
break water, bleed in the delivery room. All doctors
on deck, in the city, in every county, are needed
to fight the virus. And I don’t want to feel exposed.
The earth can clean itself while you and I learn
the art of pleasuring ourselves apart at home alone.
Call me after the vaccine has been distilled. This
is no flu shot, dear, or rabies injection, malaria
pill, although all these diseases can kill. This one
is truly different, absolutely global, democratic.
I do want a child—I will put off that decision–
until the weather clears, the time feels right.
SOS From NYC To The World
The light on top of the Empire State
is flashing red, raising the alarm east
over the East River, to Brooklyn, Queens,
west to the Hudson, north to the Bronx,
Westchester, south to Staten Island,
to the rest of the world. We are all
New Yorkers now, and Parisians,
Wuhan-ese.. The virus is coursing
through our societies and our tolerance
of grace. Why are we allowing
autocrats to seize the day, to say
they are now in charge, in Sri Lanka,
Hungary, the once non-aligned state of India?
I am about to rub my eyes, at home as well,
my commander-in-chief, who is running back
and forth like a weather vane in a hurricane,
but has listened long enough for me to sit
at home writing these lines. Damn parsing,
trying to see good in bad, human in the dross,
but Jesus asks us to forgive, to turn the other
cheek. War insists on the union of the possible,
hunkering down, six feet apart, from
Republican and Democrat. I wish
I had not made this poem so parochial,
so not happening, futile. Yet, we have
a chance for universal government now,
sensible policies, not from a coalition
of the willing but an assembly of the wise,
ready to call out profiteers seizing the day
thinking we cannot mobilize and stand
for basic human values, that we will shut up
and do push ups to music piped in from
the virtual gym at the headquarters
of the national team, directed by a certain
Mr. Silva, war criminal, appointed head
of the anti-Covid 19 response in the island
of my birth. If you need yogis or poets
or representatives of minorities to democratize
your national response team, do reply.
Indran Amirthanayagam has published 19 books of poetry. He writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He is a 2020 fellow in poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. He won the 1994 Paterson Prize for his first book The Elephants Of Reckoning. He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly and runs The Poetry Channel on Youtube.
The pandemic has brought life and death at the same time. I think of Pablo Neruda”s That Light (in Alastair Reid’s translation)
That Ceylon light gave me life.
Gave me death at the same time.
So many souls have left us, some known with less than six degrees of separation between us. I think of an uncle, a brother to my mother, my godmother, who passed away during this time,,of natural causes, of loneliness, of the pandemic? Who really knows why the body gives up the ghost? Both of them lived splendid and long liives and both died alone. But I hear the crowd reply, we all die alone in some essential way. So make sure you have made peace with everybody and are having regular conversations with the Divine.