Not just a number of lives

a COVID-19 storm-ravaged India

This virus has claimed so much more than just a number of lives
A much beloved poet gone
who had recently written about the power of our voices in society
his voice stolen by this virus

A friend’s mother gone
I do not have the words that he needs to hear
a mother’s love snuffed out by this virus

A famous actor, a cultural icon, dead
leaving behind decades of work that defined childhood memories
beautiful talent extinguished by this virus

My timeline is full of deaths
notes for loved ones who leave behind a void too big to fill with
elections, “development”, religious fundamentalism, division, division, and more division among people

The virus spoke loud and clear —
I will not spare you, whether you are in the north or south, west or east, black or white, Hindu or Muslim, Dalit or Brahmin, old or young, voted for media-hungry conmen or voted your conscience

We were not prepared for this plague
despite being warned over and over
people felt invincible, celebrated, partied, violated guidelines

The virus stood in the shadows and flexed

Fellow Indians, dropping dead like flies
inconceivable pain, insurmountable trauma
I do not have the words to describe the helplessness in my heart

The toll this virus has exacted is much more than a number of lives
all our fault lines now lie exposed, our strengths stretched thin
but has it opened our eyes?

Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Minnesota, Ph.D., researcher, dancer, forever student of learning to deal with freezing temperatures.