Reading Bhitai During Lockdown
We read Bhitai, the eighteenth century patron saint and poet of Sindh. A friend and I do readings on a WhatsApp call across borders. I choose Sur Sorath, the story of a traveling musician and the king of Sorath, who offers any reward he wants, so besotted is he with the musician. The musician wants nothing but the king’s head. Sadly reminiscent of the time of coronavirus:
Neither rich nor poor escape its clutches
It takes whosoever’s life it wishes
In its snare rulers and kings turn to dust
May such a seeker never come to town
Whose coming is the call of death
— Nighat Gandhi (India)
* * *
I’ve been doing online yoga with a friend, the poses channeling my motion. We don’t realize what freedom is until it’s restricted. My son says I seem more active in lockdown than in normal life—daily yoga, my government-permitted walk around the block—but I feel like a hamster on a wheel. Outside in the silent streets time seems in freefall, spring slipping away without us. One day the lot down the street is full of wildflowers, the next day it’s clods of brown earth. I remember that last afternoon at the beach: feet walking, then running.
— Lisa Suhair Majaj (Nicosia, Cyprus)
* * *
You Are Loved
The edifices crumble.
I felt this way when my marriage fell apart. I looked at our 150 year-old brick house and saw it dissolve into sand—this tall building that I thought was firm.
Yes, my friend replied. I’m alone. I have the symptoms. Fever. Cough. I can’t get tested because I didn’t come in contact with someone who has the virus. No one knows if they have the virus because there are no tests. I have to be in respiratory failure to get tested.
If I die, who will take my cat? Who will take my birds?
— Laurie Marshall (Novato, California)
* * *
Poor Queer on COVID-19 Post
ACT UP New York posts an image referencing David Wojnarowicz.
The Twitter queers and allies tear it up.
“Why Mar-a-Lago? … this ain’t it.”
“DO NOT COMPARE THESE TWO.”
They forget that the poor and the colored bodies were most impacted by the HIV/VIH and AIDS/SIDA epidemic(s)…
They are suffering.
Cada dia, noche, y año.
No access to health care.
Upward mobility blinds—blinds the better off.
The comparison? The poor and colored bodies suffer(ed) the most.
So if I die because of a lack of resources, take me to Mar-a-Lago.
— Alined Bolero (Orange, California)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.