‘Quarantine Blues’, a poem by Manohar Shetty

Now the walls are your closest
Companions, one room to the next
The course of your daily
Perambulations (you can count at leisure
The syllables in that last word).

All chores can now be deferred
To a day later or the week after.
Now you can sit crosslegged,
Meditate or read those tomes
You’d left to the bookworms.

Now you can time the growth
Rate of your toenails or stare
Into the jetless, noiseless blue
Of the sky or play a timeless
Game of chess with yourself.

You can follow the PM’s advice
To clang your pans at 5 pm
For five minutes and light nine candles
To last nine minutes at 9 pm
To dispel the darkness.

Even Gandhi, the pragmatist,
I suspect would have observed
The untouchable distance even
From the poorest as does the Brahmin
From the multitudes beneath him.

Yes, the time is ripe for sublimation
No matter the millions trudging
With their households on their heads,
Their children weeping, feeding
On chaff blown by the wind.

Yes, you’re lucky you don’t need
To beg or riot for food, your fridge
Still full with the rarest cuts,
Canned soup, exotic fruit, your cellar
Lined with vintage wines.

There is so much time to pause
And reflect – and please don’t give in
To neurosis – you can invent a more
Charitable future even as you pace
Through the present in slow motion.

Yes, for you there’s time for a hundred
Indecisions, visions and revisions
As a bard has declaimed; now to make
Sure you haven’t been shortchanged
You can count the exact number

Of grains in a kilo of rice.

Manohar Shetty has published ‘Full Disclosure: New and Collected Poems (1981-2017)’. He is currently a Raza Foundation Fellow

Read the other articles in The Art of Solitude series here.

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