Ten Prose Poems On COVID19

What happened to their clothes?

As I was doing yoga laying on the carpet in my bedroom, I saw my clothes hanging in my open cupboard.  They seemed oddly silent. I wondered if I would ever wear any again. to dance? To work? Or to the grocery store? Or anywhere? Tears started to swell up. What happened to the clothes of those who died from Covid19? Are they still hanging in their cupboards? Still waiting to be worn to work, dinner or theatre? Still waiting to wrap their owners’ bodies. What happened to their beds and comforters? Are they still waiting to give sleep to their owners? Why am I thinking of inanimate objects, I asked myself? Why wasn’t I thinking of their loved ones left behind? I suppose the news I read today of their bodies being quickly driven away by “body collectors” in hazmat suits, never to be seen by their loved ones again made me cry more for their clothes and bedsheets that their loved ones would never see them in again.   

Created as a video poem for Setu, April 2020 and also published in The Creative Café, Medium, May 14, 2020 and in The Burrow, August 2020

Corona and love-life layers

Layers of love and life are crumbling, some are mixing…some decomposing, some disappearing. It’s said humans are social animals, yet some are still unapologetically crude, arrogant, asinine. Some just don’t wish to be bothered. Some don’t respond. Or connect. Some are merely self-protecting. Some have no choice over the virus. Some say its punishment… even animals are ashamed of us. And Gods don’t know what more to tell us about kindness and giving. History hasn’t been good. The slave markets, lynchings, murders, rapes, opulence, greed, evil gratification, wars, conflicts, boats of begging refugees left to putrefy, leaving little kids famished, breathing their last on scalped beaches or with their small bodies burning without recovery, without mothers, crying and dying alone on impersonal makeshift tent hospital beds. Animals were not spared either. There’s an unusual hush. So eerie even a skeleton in a cemetery is scared, knocking on tombstones, begging other skeletons to keep him company for a while. Some humans could only hear themselves running in grey, opaque skies, densely crowded with cumbersome, soiled clouds standing around menacingly. And the sun didn’t want to join the uncalled-for cruel party. Stood afar pondering, “Shall I give them a bit of heat? Do they deserve it, yet?” On the sad flip, the streets had ample fresh air and the ozone was stronger. Trees too were a lusher green. One strength replaced by the other. Layers had almost crumbled, conflated, almost disappeared…darkened with soot still trying to remain alive like prettily

Published in Confluence, May 2020, and The Burrow, September 2020

COVID19 Stigma

Do you not have a secret? Perhaps an illness? A situation? And you show bias and beat up
those with COVID19? Or healthcare workers treating COVID19? Why the stigma? The anger? How did you even leave your home during quarantine to beat another?
Just because you’ve been fortunate till now….

Everyone on Earth who is human might soon carry a COVID19 “free” certificate. So, folks can hug, and kiss, and just talk face to face. So, folks can date and marry. Be close to someone. Heck, even saying a decent hello to someone. And you go about being judge and executioner? This is not HIV-AIDS, Ebola or MARS or SARS that somehow you escaped it by some tiniest speck of luck. Most humans will have COVID19. Period. Full stop. So, suck it up, and throw away your nastiness, anger and beat, kick, spit. Hold those hands in fear, humility, sadness, and constant prayer that you don’t get it.

Published in The POM-Medium, May 2020


She stood at the banks of the railings knowing she could breathe. Skyscrapers seemed hold-able. She knew she could breathe. Maybe even pick some up, slide into pockets, and still breathe. Was a bit nippy and city lights seemed welcoming yet far enough not to smother. Most knew they could still breathe. Few joined her for the dawn spectacular views. These anonymous knew they could still breathe. As she stretched her Namaste hands high above her head, her clothes raged in the tough wind, still, she knew she could breathe. She was a tree, an airplane and a boat, extending and firming. She knew she could breathe. She saw bias, hate and cruelty, twisting from side to side. Still some anonymous knew they and she were allowed to breathe.
Untimely and unfair deaths screamed in the belly of the water and sky. A haunting hymn sprung upwards like a tornado in reverse…
Who can breathe?
Can breathe?
Oh God, tell us, can we breathe?
God, tell us, can we breathe?
Who can breathe?
Can breathe?
Calm our soul, God, tell us, can we breathe
We don’t want not to breathe
Don’t want not to breathe
Yes God, we want to breathe
Yes, God, we want to breathe
Protect our souls, God
We want to breathe
Oh God, please, tell us, can we breathe?


Published in Confluence, September 2020

The Ghost of COVID19 roaming the corridors of Organizations

The murkiness of fake news. Fake people. Fake ideas. Fake injunctions. Fake promises, roaming the corridors of buildings now lying vacant. Covid19 stands like millions of ghosts vague about where to go. One of them spoke up,

“It seared through my body and soul leaving my heart behind holding the candle dangling midair with its beats fanning the flames to keep alive. My spectacles see all and my hat holds wisdom of all humanity. See, I’m the ghost chosen by those having passed by COVID19. You can call me representative X. I walk the halls of empty cupboards and homes, offices and malls, searching to preach. Don’t be fooled by my impeccable shirt and starched cuffs or the white hankie peeking from my coat pocket. It’s not a flag of peace. I’m like the defamed handsome Dracula on the prowl. Only thing you need to observe when I come near is the smoke rings of infected air curling viciously. Still, my heart was left behind so narcist humans could reign themselves in and take a road different. I don’t wish to represent any more human souls crying inconsolably when their loved ones couldn’t even say goodbye. Banshees are screaming in barren halls of working and living spaces and huge edifices are falling like baby dominos”

I step back. My chest heaves and I whisper, “We’ll take virtual working, if It’s okay. It’s very good. Family’s at home. Bonding. Planning. Loving. Easing it out. Folks stand like millions of cheerleaders pretty sure they don’t wanna visit you ghosts in the tacit, hollow eerie buildings.”

Race, religion, gender, plethora of biases still persist though. And injustices still continue in the deepest most calculating ways. Human race finds itself alone these days. The exciting, sexiness of finding alien beings, hearing their chatter on cosmic airwaves is receding like reluctant space stations with no one left to watch over Earth. Gods of all religions seem jittery. Flummoxed. Guards, receptionists, workers, timekeepers, bosses, custodial care, all equaled by a magnified rolling pin. Thousands of windows lie smudged with bird poop, cafes lie cold, elevators groan with rust. Will humans give up their fakeness now?

A stronger species

(not calling them the human narcist word, aliens)  

We don’t have to wait for a species, stronger and smarter to wipe out the human race. No, we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to wait for them to pick us up by our legs and toss us into the garbage dump. No, we don’t have to wait. Believe me, we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to wait for them to hurl the garbage dump into a landfill. No, no, we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to wait for them to use metallic dirt to cover the muck in which we lay dead, disemboweled, limbs broken, blood covered, and lit a match, and watch the humans go up in smoke, putrefying the very air in which we once breathed, in what was our home, Earth. No, we don’t have to wait. We don’t. We don’t. We aren’t. We are doing it ourselves, to our dead from COVID19.


Published in Age of Empathy-Medium, July 17, 2020

Hold on, baby, we’ll soon be home…

Covid19’s madness is all around us, churning, tossing, whipping and we bunker in the eye of the vortex in an artificial bubble of safety. We aren’t home free yet, baby. My son, the smile on his face, and the rest of my family and friends doing okay keeps my hopes sprinting, trying to find the path out the whirlwind of death encircling us like a snake ready to strike. We ain’t home free yet, baby. We are still living in an artificial bubble and mostly thriving. Yet, we ain’t truly home, baby. At this moment Covid19 maybe the giant in the Woodstock. But humans are astute and like ants we build, and build, and build. It will take time but hold on, baby, we’ll soon be home. Hold tight to hopes. Hold tight to strands of air you breathe to stay alive. Hold on to any make believes. Hold on to dreams. Hold on to future time. Hold on, baby, hold on, we’ll soon be home.

Created as a video poem for Doordarshan, Kolkata

Know Your Wheel, Homo Sapiens

Must know, I must know my wheel. It’s pretty sturdy, I think. Amalgam of a name, skin, bones, happenstances, genes, memes, heritage, future, my parents faces, prayers for my child, and all my journeys too. My receptacle is just a bit older now. Don’t wish to go as a piece of rotting meat with COVID19 stench emanating from me with no loved ones to hold my hand and look deep into my soul one last time. Ensuring life as my running partner, I keep greasing my wheel with joy, exercise, food, safety and sex. Maslow would be pleased. I struggle hard though to find myriad meanings to one profound word…home, home and home. Implications stumble around aimlessly like round plastic numbers in a lottery wheel. Wheels and circles of plethora identities toss within, sometimes fuming, sometimes weeping, or giggling or mocking self and others. Like a phoenix I reinvent myself, again and again. Renaissance and I are twins and the ashes of my memories don’t grow weary.

I did not desert my birth wheel when I left India. I kept adding, borrowing, chiseling, sometimes inaudible, discreet, sometimes glittery and visible. It wasn’t easy renouncing my birthplace. Wonder what picture life’s camera conjured of a single mom hungry for peace, holding

the hand of a young son in airport line waiting to board the plane. The in-law Jats had their wooden canes thumping ferociously, arms flaying, they promised blood revenge. And my clan, the Punjus laughed heartily, seeing only the merriment of departure to golden cities, not my tears I stirred into a painstakingly prepared elixir. None knew the ethos or depth of the storm brewing. If I left, it would be forever. And so, it came to be.


Then the melting pot, our new home, our haven, had me lifted like sincere waves, but I couldn’t always glide back like pro-surfers. World Educational Services took several months to pronounce me credential worthy what I had spent twenty long years in India to prove. Yes, yes, I came by choice with many degrees in tow, yet at an older age. Respect and foreign degrees aren’t a great cocktail. 


So, the wheel continues, generation to generation, blood to blood, breathing to breathing. And as COVID19 pundits’ bicker on how, when, where, why and who wrought this plague upon the world, the wheel of countless Homo Sapiens is being renamed, survival.

 Jats: A community in India

Punjus: Short for Punjabis, another community in Indi

The crystal Ball is “Sick and Tired”

Like Rosa Parks, Sick and Tired

While beginning to de-crystalize, the crystal ball was sobbing and curling round and round, agitated. I tried to get close and pat it, calm it. It scurried away almost petrified to be touched by a human. I could see a stream of tears descending and taking airborne everywhere, some sprinting with their hair frayed, and some walking achingly slow, each step seemingly weighing hundreds of pounds with soles stitched from the souls of untimely deaths not taken by COVID19 but by other humans crazed and evil. The plague’s been put to shame by murderers, rapists, exploiters, killers of all colors and hue who chose to attack when COVID19 was doing its unexpected rounds. And then, bombs, accidents, and fires decided to join the flaming pot for a share of the spoils of human lives. As if that wasn’t enough, some humans kept plundering nature and abusing animals. I see the wailing mothers, fathers, children, trees, plants, flowers and the very air we breathe. I weep with them. The crystal ball doesn’t want to be touched anymore it whispered to me. “Why would I seek within to foretell future of those who are not normal in the present…you humans.” It walked away trying to collect its rapidly sickening, splintering crystals.

Created as a video poem for Global poetry Web

COVID19’s Inverted Triangle

When sadness seizes and piles and piles on to COVID19’s lunatic inverted triangle. When murders, accidents, rapes, war, suicide, civil conflicts, law and order losses, and myriad diseases vie for double jeopardy during that very COVID19’s irrationality. When mortgages lay peeved in vaults. When vaults are empty. When homes are fumigated. When poor are dehumanized. When animals are terminated. When nature is brutalized. When everyone’s only identify can be survival, then an artificial world churns and churns and churns…all life at the mercy of a seething gale gone intractable. I am all and all are in me when I’m sad and scared. I’m the hug that most may never have again. I’m the knee most are begging on to spare their loved ones. I’m the smile, laugh, cry, shout, climax, scream, run, birth, walk, sleep, that are lost in the chimes of lonesome deaths.

Why God, why? Where’s this anger, disdain, discarding of your creations on Earth coming from? What sins, wrongs, arrogance, disrespect did we knowingly or unknowingly commit? Why am I questioning you, God? Narcist humans experiment, misuse, abuse, violate any and all species on Earth. You must be sick of us, God and turned the life triangle upside down.

As I lay in bed each night, my prayers are for my children and millions in the rotting inverted triangle. Later, I turn and lay on my stomach and tears dampen the bedsheet as thoughts of not having someone spoon with me again mist my heart. Love is even more ephemeral now. Holding hands, kissing, making love are even more priceless. 

Where are those now who vilified karmic cycles with their vulgar chants, “money, power, money, I have millions/I don’t need you and you and you/Go live in your cheap pavilions.” Can they turn the inverted triangle around? Can love turn humanity around? Can a new base be built? So, that God can rest for a while & also us.

Accepted for the Anthology, 100 Poets, 100 Poems

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a professor, poet, short story writer and children’s writer. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. More on her here
Gaithersburg, Maryland. 

You can connect with Anita on Linkedin. Check out her blog and her website to see more of her work!

Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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