The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues
JUNE 2020 Issue

The Decree

You are lucky you have your masks,
nearly all your personal protective
equipment. And you have your
instructions. The virus protocol
is a complete code of life.
Use the Coronavirus App
on your [expletive] smart phone
before it puckers.
Value these precious
minutes of the lifetime SIM
now ululating for the occasion.
Of course, you will wash your hands
ever, but you will not wash
your hands off the world entirely.
Every one of you
is a unique touch-me-not.

Reports agree the virus, a novel
terrorist, is omnipresent;
nothing’s out of its reach,
mineral or vegetable, animal or human.
Caught half way casting off
its uniform, it seemed to escape
from one spot, then from another,
leaving numbers and ghost towns
gasping for breath; yet it has stayed.
For this, we have no prophylactics,
only sticky prefabs, porous border walls.

Touching folks is lethal.
Sanitize 24/7, and keep your sanity.
See no one, shake no hands.
Ask no one to coffee.
Dating is out,
though chatting via video link is O. K.,
and for G-7 parties, kosher.
Love without touching
is chemically pure, neat. (Ah, Plato!)
Weddings are banned.
Funerals are such a lazy dispatch.
Why stand on ceremony
for bodies on the redundancy list?

To all ends and purposes, online,
you will be homeschooled.
In your pueblos and cramped tenements,
you have you and your rotor fix,
to work and play in splendid isolation,
your new society.

Stay within your national bubble,
Let no one puncture it.
If you want to know the weather,
check the stock market chart.
If you have other ideas,
it’s past prayer time.
Beware all doors,
(save makeshift hospitals and morgues),
all possible doors, outlets, exits,
places of worship, parks, colleges,
have wired Yale locks.

Feel socked in?
Turn on your service laptop, full screen,
and take a good look at how the world was.
See how the purple and yellow crocuses
spread wild in the city’s main squares?
Given the chance! No wallpaper,
it’s the name of the fragrance
in real time.

In here, true angels in spacesuits will feed you manna-
o-salwa. The state’s done up.
You will be watered round the clock
with the choicest drinks.
The houries will nurse
and please you,
even if all the fine perfumes
of Arabia will not sweeten
their smelly big feet.
You will activate or rest
in their caring celestial arms;
and in good time
with their beguiling charms
they will lovingly put you to sleep.

© Alamgir Hashmi


Alamgir Hashmi

Alamgir Hashmi is the author of numerous books of poetry, including My Second in Kentucky (Vision) and A Choice of Hashmi’s Verse(Oxford), as well as several volumes of literary criticism. A Pushcart Prize nominee and a Rockefeller Fellow, he has won high honors and awards for his work, some of which has been translated into several European and Asian languages. He has taught as a university professor in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is Founding President of The Literature Podium: An Independent Society for Literature and the Arts.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues