(a tribute to our courageous medical professionals)

the five elements conspire

to assault my senses

with that lethal, invisible nemesis

each agonizing breath borrows

a minuscule puff of oxygen

as i enter the township of solitude


they remain masked, calm,



yet we connect deep-

in my desire to cherish, those

outlying undreamt dreams

and their humble urgency

to shield a choking soul

from the fangs of Yama*

doctor and patient follow

time’s footsteps into

the elated intersection

of life’s Venn diagram


we connect in our hopes

(hopes are not wayfarers,

they have a destination)

my focused hope to heal

a fragmented consciousness and

theirs to lend that sanguine glow

to yet another dying flame


we connect in our aspirations-

mine to see them conquered

in fulfilment-smiles

(Orpheus takes the path from light to dark

and back to light)

theirs to watch my exhilaration

in victory-lined eyes


when gasping breaths first met them,

when hopes were but a sea of ash,

i was merely a COVID number

they, the summoned saviours

strangers-in-arms then,

we are soulmates now


we connect in our optimisms

in a two-star constellation

draped in the same dreams,

we battle the same foe

hum congruent hopes

we breathe synonymous desires


we connect in our goodbye gestures-

their plural palms in farewell cheer

my folded hands, grateful tears

their nests woven in my heart,

i say a silent prayer



an artfully-attired careful spring

in singular poise, in dainty pace

inhales deep, the

ethereal, mystical, morning-mist.

*In Hinduism, Yama, also referred to as Yamaraja, a Rigvedic deity, is the Lord of death and of justice. In the Puranas, Yama is depicted as having four arms, protruding fangs, and the complexion of storm-clouds with an expression of wrath.

Let's keep the music on

“we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

fear-tethered unity across maps

bereft of dots

resonates in unmatched grace

virtual synergy in cyberspace

kindred tears, parallel dreams

remain dressed in their formal best

defying blackholes of the time


promulgation, communication

from sanitized sites of seclusion

from bondages of quarantine

death in a hurry, whirlpools of misery

outsides clad in ghost-shadows

(Goya’s dead escape from his dark paintings)

but the insides, in meditative chants

keep the music on


Vishnu* beseeched, Indra invoked

earth rechristened hell

seas remain formless, skies smothered

the sun limps on crutches of shadows

universe measures its memory’s depth

in recall of moribund songs

of the savage grippe espagnole**

yet raga bhairavi*** meanders in

to keep the music on


heavens wrapped in grey shrouds

muzzled beaks of singing larks

thoughts circle broken mirrors

brutal history carves itself

on the city’s throbbing face

yet, that infinitesimal spark of hope

eludes the ferocity of annihilation

to keep the music on


the wrinkled man whispers love

to moist eyes of an age-bent wife

tears too have dreamshe says

the third eye of the westward sky

has its own tale to tell—

homeward birds are flying in

with the loving, distant folks and kin

to keep the music on


past water-rapids, through forest-shades

anticipation in green embrace

wings its way to earth’s door–

the rare orchid will bloom again

herons will fly the sky in flocks

gentle zephyrs would sing once more


who says

melodies are extinct?



*Known as the preserver, Lord Vishnu is one of three supreme Hindu deities. Vishnu’s role is to protect humans and to restore order to the world. Indra, in Hindu mythology is the king of gods.

**The Spanish flu of 1918

***Bhairavi is a Hindustani Classical sampurna raga. This  raga  employs the notes of the Phrygian mode which is one of the traditional European church modes.

Time too has an oasis

they manufactured death today

in a state-of -the-art lab

called it ‘black devil’ the famished raptor

that ravages in malignant manipulations


Artemis* at our threshold

humankind captive in time’s frozen frame,

unable to dream the form of a flower

in metaphysical skyward gaze,

sighs at universes beyond, their lucent suns,

illumined stars, in anticipation

of cupping their moons in eager palms


handcuffed deities in sanitised shrines

echo an uncanny, surreal silence

myth nor mystery can light a lamp

tomorrows lurk in agony

questions spark tearful tales

shadows, just a memory


‘black devil’ on the garden fence

orchid-clusters, withering-roses

in blue autumn isolation,

strive hard to withhold colour,

the subtle hint of sweet fragrance

cuckoos’ carols melancholic

empty rustle of pensive leaves


do jasmines ever blossom in death-land?


‘black devil’ in hot pursuit

City-dreams in smithereens

pallor stretched across the skies

Rabia the frail adolescent

mother’s callused palms in hers,

trudges dazed through dust and haze

homeless, bleeding, migrant feet

on sun-rained, rugged, grey concrete

till dusk turns the corner


where are the pathfinders to promised lands?


a shadow theme to these throbbing words

assuages the restless, perturbed soul–

history’s witness that crafted rogues

only live their carnage in sacred lands

where cosmic rays fall like gems

where plural gods in unison

choreograph the ascent of stars

craft smiles of wistful moons

(liquid notes of Beethoven’s moonlight sonata float in)

where nights wake up from dreamless sleep

to hopes draped in morning mist

where, time too, has an oasis.


*Artemis, in Greek religion is the Goddess of hunting, of wild animals etc. Armed with a bow, quiver, and arrows, she sends plague and death among mankind and animals.

National Science Talent scholar and National Scholarship awardee Dr. Rita Malhotra is mathematician, poet, essayist, and translator. A Mathematics PhD, she was Principal and Professor, KNC, Delhi University and Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Paris. Her research papers have over 250 citations. Recognitions include The Woman Achievers Award 2020 (ECRF), The World Congress of Poets Honour 2019 and The WIN Canada Award. Compositions, translated into thirteen languages are globally published. Author of 14 books Rita is translator of French, Hungarian, Chinese and Mongolian poets. Affiliations include Academic Advisor Soka Ikeda College Chennai, President Poetry Across Cultures India, Member Executive Committee, TPS(India).

You can find Dr. Malhotra on her Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

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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