Poems

Dilantha Gunawardana: ‘Imagining America in a Lockdown’

Imagining America in a Lockdown

It is difficult to imagine America in a lockdown.
Covid-19 is spreading faster than the humongous fungus in Oregon.
West Virginia became the 50th state to be infected.
California is in a Californication of a contagion.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, looks like Golgotha.
There are more conspiracy theories flying about
Than alien sightings in Roswell.

On meadows, flowers are in a harthal, unopened petals
Not budging a micrometer. Monarch butterflies
Are refusing to come back north to Texas. While teenagers
Are spending Spring Break with their parents.
Sadly, spring has never been like this!
In this, the tip of the iceberg, there is something
Called the tipping point which we pray will never come,
As America lingers on like a leper colony.

It is hard to imagine a world that is locking
Itself from a furious beast, freakier than the common cold,
Reminding us of the Spanish Flu back in 1918,
When 50 million lives were lost in 24 weeks.
Imagine a world suppressed of all forms of affection;
A lockdown of our emotions, no tempests of passion,
No hurricanes to break loose from our isolation,
Just the quarantine of our insensibilities,
Inside a crowded room we call
The human body.

Still, love saves, wearing the red cape,
As the eye of the storm. The gaze eyeing farther
Than the fogged horizon. One summer day,
The cataract will clear for us to see with a newly-sharpened clarity.
Still, for now, we don’t get to make our own sanctuaries,
No soul providers, no heart medicine, no intangible windfalls,
Only lungs on coronation day, letting in the passage
Of a crown—a corona. A bleak spring, when
Mercury thermometers glimmer in
The faint light, like a jeweled scepter,
Placed on a ceremonial pillow.

Dilantha Gunawardana

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