Islander in the City:

TWELVE MONTHS OF A CRUEL YEAR

Another year of lockdown is over

Twelve months of unspeakable surprises

And weary weeks of isolation.

 

Close to twelve months

Of wearing assorted masks

And frenzied washing of hands

Even as we are threatened

With new variants of the virus.

 

It was  a year

When the churches turned empty

Of devout worshippers.

 

It was a year

Of deserted schools.

Of deserted theaters.

And empty shopping malls.

 

It was a year

Of living on food packs

Sardines and noodles.

 

Those were months

Of live streaming.

Artists performing

In the privacy of their abodes

And getting applause

All at the same time

From all over the world.

 

Those were months

When millions lost jobs

And went hungry

With many left

To beg in the streets.

 

Those were months

When the poor and their hungry children

Were magnified many times over

On prime-time television.

 

It was in one of those months

A hungry mother of four

Died while waiting for a ride home

That never materialized.

 

True

TV viewers have never seen

So many desperate people

In so many places

In the city

And beyond.

 

A blind tenor sang in an empty cathedral

After recovering from the virus

Which he kept from the public

Until later.

 

A pianist performed

Her last Mozart in Ohio

And a last Bach in Seattle.

 

It was the last New Year concert

In Germany

For a brilliant tenor.

 

His first and last ringing Donizetti in Manila

And saying goodbye

To Traviata

And Romeo and Juliet

In Germany.

And another cancelled

Debut at Concertgebouw.

 

It was the year

Of strange kindness

From the government.

 

The streets were suddenly turned

Into long queues

Of the poor and the hungry.

 

It was  a year

Of stranded commuters

Living under skyways

After cancelled flights

To nowhere.

 

t was a year

When overseas countrymen

Lost jobs

And turned to

Scavenging for food

In the streets of Abu Dhabi.

 

It was  a year

When some public servants

Were unmasked

In the house of the people.

 

On the last night of June

TV Images went blank

As audiences

Watched the last evening news

Of a major network.

Gone were public interest

And replaced by private cunning

In support of lord and master

In the Palace.

 

And then the ogres came

With their share

Of greed and avarice.

 

It was a year

Of horrible storms

And recurring floods

Sending people

On the rooftop

Waiting for swirling waters

To subside.

 

It was a year

Of helplessness;

Even more so

Of a seemingly helpless leader

Given to absurd soliloquy

In the dead of night.

 

It was close to

365 days of dreary solitude

And horrible ineptitude.

 

It was time for self-reflection

For the blessings

As well as the vagaries

Of fate.

 

It was a year

When we barely made it

Through the night.

 

It was a year

When we lived through

Partings without proper farewell.

 

All over the world

Millions rested in peace

Sent off by prayers

On their last journey

Unto the stars.

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