Pandemic Poems - APRIL 2020
Bio Note: I am a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Right now, I am locked-down all by myself in Ile-de-France, where I am doing my PhD. Writing pandemic poems is my way of trying to remain sane and grateful for the immense privilege of getting to stay at home and relatively out of harm's way most of the time.
Do Not Use the Word
In the deserted aisles of the bus I Read the question I can never finish In every masked face, and so vainly try To ask it no more. In our unmeeting Eyes it cuts like razor-blades. 'Are you my Angel of -' 'Do not use the word!' The internalised voice of my mother Cuts it off each time, but cannot kill it. From its shrugged-off ring surges the other Not-mystery of the day. The bonjour Leaden and hostile, of the mom-cashier Whose son may - 'Do not use the word!' Is that what every beep of the scanner For each cabbage and tissue roll asks her? 'Am I your -' 'Do not use the word!'
Knit Me Thunder
We are at war. Knit me thunder, o skies To meet the elusive, invisible Foe that slays before us our dearest ties. Comradeless soldiers, we fight with memes What we understand too ill and too well. The toll of contagion is double-pronged Dread filling a mother’s heart at the warmth Of her baby's hand on her finger. Wronged, And knowing it, the little one squirms, weeps, Waits nearly in vain to be picked up. The toll of contagion is three hands stretched Out to catch an old lady’s tin of fish Rolling off a wheelchair, hands that are checked By sudden shudders. The tin clinks, clatters Waits nearly in vain to be picked up. We are at war. A war of staying home, Of doing nothing. Of dreams turned nightmares, Of craving the oft-deplored. So we comb Each new day for tortuous ways to say What we understand too ill and too well.
Past the candle-sputter smothered in pain, Past the sea-losing shells wrenched from the sand Dwells Silence Silence breathes life into music, Potence into dormant evil; Pours healing into bodies sick With the glut from a teeming skull. Silence, bind me. Silence, seal me Within your sacred halls with blest souls decked Past the whistling hush of scythe-steel on grain, Past the exultant crunch of the last bite Dwells Silence Silence claws an oxygen-debt Into the laughter of the world, Spreads its still-growing silken net Over joyous wings there unfurled Silence, find me. Silence, heal me With your prayers that to heaven speed unchecked
©2020 Hibah Shabkhez
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