Voices

Lockdown Poetry: Mugdha Hareendranath, Viveka Goswami and Preetha Vasan

We bring you three poems by Indian poets written during the lockdown.

These poems are part of our Lockdown Poetry series, selected from participants of eShe’s Lockdown Poetry Contest 2020 for women writers held this July.

Here, we bring to you the works of Mugdha Hareendranath, Viveka Goswami and Preetha Vasan.

Headwaters

© Mugdha Hareendranath

Destined are we to be reborn in another space-time
As butterflies of forlorn tributaries
The wait will endure longer thanks to the memories
Of effervescent affection
The couplets of dreams I long to recall
They fall these days as rain for the soul
The insomniac pain, forever
The night-time spell of ghazal classics
Once, in the solitary lookout for something I don’t remember
My finger on the strings of your love
That I cherish with moist but grand vision

The celestial flowers of an ocean of unalloyed music
You are the radiance of the rarest tune
The star of my footprints of endearment

The sights I confront on my somnambulist trails
The ebb and flow of the floodtime of my yearning,
That is you
Is it the beauty of truth that you empower
Or is it the grief of tender devotion
Inside the uncrossed portals of my arteries
You are the portrait of time, pride of place
I drift in the downpour of endless craving of thee
My rhymes flow without you ever knowing
And then I am born anew

Mugdha Hareendranath, 47, is a qualified lawyer and a homemaker currently based in Hong Kong. This poem was originally published in Malayalam.

Locked Down

© Viveka Goswami

I am locked down in my head.
Traces of breath are buried on the outside.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock
Talk,
Talk to me.
Trickle down my throat like the stories you’d trip over
alone, asleep.
When the door is ajar
I tip then toe to your knocker
alone, awake.
But you are closed, shut, bolted
Locked down
in your head.
My room is too big,
the balcony too little
to breathe in the sky and carry it inside.
Maybe I should try to focus on work.
Concentrate, concentrate, calculate
Contemplate?
Can I navigate
this empty house with too much time
ticking away, taking away
all of my spirit.
We touch each other through opposite ends of a wall
chorusing, “If death comes, may it take our separator part.”
You cave in, I cave in,
we stay in
this ruin, isolated,
Locked down
in each other’s head.
Whose roads lie open
so I can go
and feel the blushing morning snow
against my cheek
upon my brow
for in this moment, the here and now
I am alone
I am a stone
I am an island
knocked down.
The break in me is abrupt,
I crash and then erupt
waiting to be
opened up.
On the terrace, I light a candle
with a flame so faint
Hope burns flickering in high night winds.
The borders have faded,
the corners have blurred,
on our knees, we unite.
Freedom is ill,
all thought is blocked
and I gasp for breath
until unlocked.

A literature student at Delhi University, Viveka Goswami has a passion for poetry. She believes in the power of words, trying to harness it in her writing.

The Virus

© Preetha Vasan

Mornings are no more
The stillness of paintings,
Nine o’clock quiets of Mondays
Are rushes of doorbells
And beeps of
Dispatches, deliveries and Dunzos.

Twin phones
His and hers
Like watches
Couples buy each other
On anniversaries and Valentine’s
Ring endlessly breaking
The silence of forgotten
Quiet morns.

But they protect the silence
In this room called mine
With the stillness of antiseptic
And the quiet beep
Of the blue-green cliffs and valleys
That records my life
In pulses, breaths
Death and my comatose
In-between.

My room
Has had other stillness
Than the antiseptic
Of these pandemic times.
His familiar musk,
Heavy and damp,
Sweating with desire
In the white
Of her dimpling smile,
And crawling
Her starched nurse whites
Into creases
No more stiff and clinical.

Her sponge soaks clean
The grime,
Rubs my
Blue bed sore red
Like her lips
Unlike mine
Pale and
Locked down to a
Bed he will never make warm.

Yet the virus
Never stays away too long,
His infection fills the room,
When my lawyer
Rustles files like cheques
Which pay his endless bills,
Incessant like morning deliveries.
The virus comes then
Donning other masks
Than his usual
Surgical sky blue,
But unusual ones
Warm, chirpy and smart
Like the machine
In the hallway,
The one they call “Alexa”,
The one
Who always says the right things.
The night is ablaze
With candles,
But
The air in my room
Is a heavy black,
Not even the beep
Of the blue and green
She turned off
With her painted toenail.

In the hallway
The clink of glasses
Toast his freedom
From a locked-down me,
The kind husband
Who cleansed and cared
A comatose me.
Thus the virus blooms endless
Like the bread and milk they hoarded
Rotten now
Like his pandemic-love.

In distant terraces
Cymbals and conches herald
Death I can taste
Acrid like the champagne
Yellowing in their glasses,

My mind settles into a dark sleep
Tranquil in the nightmare
They will wake up to.

For how will a virus live
After I have washed him
Clean off my will?
How will a virus thrive
After disinheritance like
Disinfection
Silences his life
Into the stillness of
Lockdown morns
Empty of beeps and bells?

Dr Preetha Vasan currently teaches the post-graduate English programme in a premier institution in Bengaluru. Her book of poems Yagna, based on the Mahabharata, uncovers hidden stories while contemporising the epic.

First published in eShe’s October 2020 issue. Stay tuned for more Lockdown Poetry coming up on eShe.

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