The verge of light

The verge of light

As everyone talks about the coronavirus,
I think away to the shelf where books wait
to be read, to be arranged in a show of spines.

Shall I climb The Magic Mountain of Mann?
Shall I get to know Rebecca?
Shall I adventure into Sophie’s World

on the first page of which a note in black ink-
Dear Gemma, when you have time
I hope you will enjoy this book.
With affection, Ben.    Feb ‘95

Dear Ben, I am not Gemma
but when you wrote when you have time
I thought about time in Feb ’95,
six years before I was born.

Did time exist then? Did times like this exist?
I expect no answerer & I know the answer anyway.
Dear Ben, I also think of your privacy,
& Gemma’s, but in times like this
only the pressing matters come to surface.
I’m also sure she must’ve enjoyed the book
& passed it on if it has reached me.
I think of the words passed it on
as everyone thinks about the coronavirus.


No, I did not want to write on the coronavirus
as everyone writes about the coronavirus
but I could not help it. I felt better, afterwards,
as if poetry were an ancient ward against new threats.

I’m not paranoid yet because the numbers are unclear.
I laugh at the proliferation of the moment of touch.
I sleep by baking memories & wake by pausing time
because who knows what day it is anymore.

You sincerely hope things return to normalcy
but if normalcy could be paused how real
is the reality you had in mind,
if not a set of imagined constructs?


A twanged breath of balloon rubber is stretched
over a country- a trampoline too taut to bounce on.
The mist silence curves around the edges of me,
aswirl, thawing as I gather parentheses leaking out
of the people around me as we go on living
in the temple of family, where I candle, wax, wane.
Thunder, from inside my blanketed home, sounds
like the crumpling of paper as if someone
has moved on to a second draft of the world outside.

But now that I’ve started writing about the coronavirus
as everyone writes about the coronavirus, I can’t stop.
So I walk back to the shelf where books wait to be read-

My version of The Pilgrim’s Progress has a young man
on the cover clutching a book tight to his chest,
with disheveled hair looking directly at me-
another young man clutching another book tightly to his chest.
Suddenly, I’m proud of my resistant youth.

I leaf through Leaves of Grass,
open a random page of Ulysses at random,
rest on a blue-framed version of Bouquet’s
Sacred Books of the World in the belief
that things that have survived will help
in survival. I don’t know when
the myopia of survival turned into
the kaleidoscope of living but I’m glad it did.
I open the section on Hindusim & read-
Tell me, who art thou, of awful form?
I desire to understand thee, the primal one;
For I do not comprehend what thou hast set out to do?

But then I hear as everyone hears
about the saffron drinking parties
distributing concoctions of cow urine
as a cure for corona, about the bar-hopper
who says the scare is overhyped, he eats, parties, sleeps.

I go into a self-quarantine which looks to no respectable world body
for guidelines, an isolation that has less & less to do with personal flesh.


But as everyone also talks about the stories of good in the times
of the coronavirus, I think of the incredible infinity of these incredibly
fragile creatures with chemically dreamt heads. I see places in a new light-
light, that germ of viral doubt- I think of the reception desks, cash registers,
token machines as altars where we wither & call it sacrifice.

While the ice-creams are billed, my father looks angry-
What if you get a cold & the doctors don’t know
that you got it from eating a stupid ice-cream?
I guiltily lick it afterwards. We also share pictures
of Tarantino captioned Quentin Quarantino.
Make bad jokes about touching yourself.
The how are yous that began distanced conversations
become the subjects of intimate talk. I taste things fully now,
even as I chew I think of the past, present, future
of all the ingredients. As light goes out & fragile needles
of aspen light lamps, I realize how we- incredibly fragile-
by little acts, needle the dark sky to the verge of light.