The mask hides the quivering corners of my lips
And the flare of my nostrils.
But what about everything that tries to brim out into the eyes?
I wash, wash, wash everything.
But, what about the dhaniya leaves that hate getting wet and then rot all week?
I walk every other day to confuse the virus,
And bring home the yezhilai paalai flowers.
The trees bloom only in October.
The fragrance keeps me company on the days I don’t go outside. But, the flowers rot.
And creatures that found solace amidst the petals,
Run out confused.
I rest in my balcony,
Soaking in the autumn sun.
And then I hear my neighbour cough.
I add his vile act to the pit of possible corona causes,
And make a note to strike it out after 14 days.
Or, was it 15?
Of course I forget.
And there my neighbour’s cough continues to live and rot,
Like the debit card returned by the maskless grocery lady,
Or the change the water can boy returned,
Or the pizza seasoning the food delivery boy gave me,
Or the pass the toll booth man returned to me.
I brew and drink, brew and drink,
That bitter kashayam
Recommended by the government.
And as I throw the waste away,
I wonder if we’ll ever be able to clear the putrid swamp this virus has
created, In the minds of humans.
Dhaniya – Coriander leaves
Yezhilai paalai – Commonly called devil’s tree or blackboard tree; An evergreen tropical tree that’s native to Asia, China, and Australasia
Radhika Jayaraman is from Chennai, India. She’s a feminist, writer and social entrepreneur. She believes that the pen is a powerful voice for those who are not heard.Her work has appeared in the Bombay Review, The Open Road Review, and The Hindu.