"Death knells peal, numbers multiply, virus ravages us": Haiku and other poems on the Corona Pandemic by Sudeep Sen

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"Death knells peal, numbers multiply, virus ravages us": Haiku and other poems on the Corona Pandemic by Sudeep Sen

Poetry by Sudeep Sen

Love in the Time of Corona

I don’t believe in God, but I'm afraid of Him.
― Gabriel García Márquez

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.
― Bertolt Brecht


Faint indigo tints in the greys of your hair
evoke memory — Krishna’s love for Radha,

its perennial longevity, its sustained mythology,
its blue-bathed lore — such are life’s enduring

parallels. Fourteen years — yet my heart flutters
infatuated like first love. My hands fidgety,

palms sweaty, pulse too fast to pick —
I am not allowed to touch your face.

Cyber-flurry emoji-love cannot assuage fears —
or corona’s comatose cries. I don’t believe in God.


In thousands, migrant workers march home —
hungry footsteps on empty highways

accentuate an irony — ‘social distancing’,
a privilege only powerful can afford.

Cretins spray bleach on unprotected poor, clap,
bang plates, ring bells, blow conches, light fires

to rid the voodoo — karuna’s karma, infected.
Mood-swings in sanitized quarantine — self-

isolation, imposed — uncontained virus, viral.
When shall we sing our dream’s epiphanies?


City weather fluctuates promiscuously
mapping temperature’s bipolar graph —

tropic’s air-conditioner chill, winter’s
unseasonal hailstorm, sky’s pink-blue spring.

Blue-grey will moult into salt-and-pepper,
ash-grey to silver-white, then to aged-white.

My lungs heave, slow-grating metallic-crackles
struggle to escape the filigreed windpipes —

I persist in my prayers. I’m afraid of Him.
Hope, heed, heal — our song, in present tense.


Corona Haiku


sick now sicker, dead —
hospital’s revolving doors —
cure still awaited



ventilators can’t
arrest death-graphs anymore —
futile pumping, still


Covid 19

buried deep inside,
protein cells create havoc —
virus’s vatic



endless handwashing,
sanitizers, gloves, masks — a
new apocalypse


new dictionary —
‘social distancing’, ‘lock-
down’, ‘isolation’



They were not simply names on a list.

They were us.
— The New York Times

Death knells peal, numbers multiply,
virus ravages us, one by one.

No amount of hygiene-ritual
enables our lungs to resuscitate.

Newspaper columns loom, unsteady
ghostly apparitions on broadsheets —

name, age, date of death —
tall epitaphs in fine print.

Ink spills, bleeds dark — newsprint
blotting out our wheezing breath.

Our lives — micro point-size fonts
on an ever-inflating pandemic list —

black specks, fugitive lonely numbers —
the deceased, on an official roster.

Another sick, another dying,
another dead — yes, they were us.


Sudeep Sen’ s prize-winning books include: Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (London Magazine Editions), EroText (Vintage: Penguin Random House), and Kaifi Azmi: Poems | Nazms (Bloomsbury). He has edited influential anthologies, including The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (editor), World English Poetry, and Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians(Sahitya Akademi). Blue Nude: Anthropocene, Ekphrasis & New Poems (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize), and The Whispering Anklets are forthcoming. Sen’s works have been translated into over 25 languages. His works have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, and elsewhere.

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