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Monday, May 17, 2021


by Karan Kapoor

Many patients across India have died when hospitals suddenly ran out of oxygen. Credit: Atul Loke for The New York Times, May 16, 2021


An old friend's father whom I once called father
is now dying. We're hunters who cannot hunt
oxygen for him, or her or the many theys, 
nor god, and the men who bought the internet
know we've tried to find both. Anything below
hundred minus five is a potential threat. 
He is at 51 and going down with the sun.
We carry time on our shoulders as it bleeds.
Souls leave bodies; leaves in autumn, 
pus from an abscess. Everywhere birds 
appear; everywhere there's song.


Our premier is deaf without being mute.
Isn't he guilty of all the good he did not do?
Sometimes the body astonishes the mind.
He visits a gurdwara to pray, to pay homage 
to Guru Teg Bahadur, extends greetings 
to a nation dying. He bows to him: a guru
We're trying to balance on the fence 
between irony and contempt.


Some pray for their fathers to be relieved,
some want them to live no matter. The one
who now stands in the queue for oxygen will 
soon stand in the queue for crematoriums.
The sun scorches us like a lover we've
wronged, pissing fire on us. In turn, 
our shaved heads threaten the moon.
Everyone we love plunges deep into a sleep 
there's no waking from, men and women
reduce to rising numbers on television.
We were never taught to count so far.


India's spine crushes under the burden
of screams. The newspapers must be full 
of obituaries but they aren't. The trees laugh.
The dead are nameless. The government
is busy filing cases against the aggrieved.
The greatest indication of irresponsibility 
is blame. We get high on camphor, the sky 
falls. We exit the world through a wound.
Is there no god in the heart of a monster? 
He is tearing us apart, and making slow work 
of it. Dear destruction, we dread your old song.


When people suffer, they want to scream.
All we hear is an expression of suffering,
not the anguish itself. Time is a window
we cannot pass through. Have you ever
watched someone suffocate slowly?
We are drifted ashore, stripped of all but
our grief which too needs oxygen to survive.
There are no words, all we can do is look
silently at the dead. Sometimes the song
just sings itself apart. The birds disappear.
Future is nothing but a hole in the ground.

Author's Note: A friend's father died today, and another friend's grandfather. Many others have lost many others. India is suffering with an almost-apocalyptic second-wave, which comes directly as a result of failure of the Modi-government to prepare for it. This poem emerged from the angst which is a big, initial part of grief.

Karan Kapoor is the author of a novelette Maya and the co-author of a novel The Dreaming Reality, both independently published. Long-listed for Toto funds the Arts awards, his poems have appeared in The Indian Quarterly, G5A Imprint, Stride, and the Mountain Ink. He's currently working on his debut poetry collection. When not reading or writing, he is obsessing over classical music. Currently in his final semester of MA in Literary Art Creative Writing, he wants to continue to live a life devoted to music and literature.