When Earth Locked Down

We mastered the art of smiling
                                         with eyes.
It didn’t matter that a mask
covered most of our face. We could still
express compassion.

The sky looked a shade
brighter like it was mighty glad
to wipe away veils of dust and finally
be at ease with its true visage.
The sun stretched limbs
wider, further
                          and smiled in content. The moon
beamed and stars sparkled like they had
acquired a brand new wardrobe.
Birds warbled louder, or so it seemed, a
happier song, like they were glad
they finally had an audience.

Sitting inside homes we became
experts in the politics of vaccines and how
they worked, or didn’t.
                Keyboard warriors we argued online
                about the best methods to beat
the virus. Was it really necessary to get
                                          jabbed or
                            should we
wait to see how it reacted
                             on others, our fellow
human lab rats, before giving ourselves over
                                                       to the herd mentality.
We read extensively about new trends
in medicine, about
spike proteins, new variants
and mutations in the virus creating
problems in our bodies and watched the news
unfolding about the greed
                                          of Big Pharma and Big Tech
               to rule our lives, our thoughts and our actions.

We became aware that we didn’t really need
to go out to the shops every day.
Our lives would still go on if we didn’t
have another pair of shoes, another
dress. We surprised ourselves by our hidden
talents to cook up gourmet meals with just
a few ingredients.

We also realized we weren’t
the only ones that mattered.
The world didn’t revolve around us. There were
                           others on this
                           ride around
                                         the sun.
Many more than we had ever known, and we
sure were surprised by the numbers.

Breezes wafted gently; cooler, softer.
Rivers ran any way they wanted and the salmon
moved upstream
unafraid of being
stopped, pulled out
from their quest to spawn.
Animals relaxed and oceans
heaved in relief. Running into shores unoccupied
by humankind waves played games with each other,
trying to see who could swirl round
trunks of coconut trees or peep
onto abandoned roads.

For once it was like it had been
at the beginning of time. No one,
except for a few, roamed the streets aimlessly.
Shops were boarded up for a long haul.
We retrained ourselves to be
more caring, to understand the less fortunate,
to give to those
that lost their jobs, help others.

But not all were concerned about
the poor and disadvantaged.
Pictures from resorts and exotic
destinations, photographs of gluttony competed
on social media on who had it better, while
others went hungry in silence.
Some slogged miles to get to homes far away
unable to pay the rent, shut out from
places of work their plight a good story for journalists
ravenous for news to make a name. Gaunt faces,
tired looks earned accolades

while they trudged on,
on weary feet. Families tried hard
to understand how they would
feed themselves without
money anymore. Didn’t have enough funds
to hoard food in bulk, didn’t own plastic
cash to order food online, feed children
that didn’t know why.

We gained valuable knowledge about
ourselves. About
                Our uncaringness towards
                 the utter
insensitivity to their plight.
We became aware of
the wickedness within us,
hidden for so long, but now
emerging to the fore, not wanting to
wear masks, wash hands because,
well, for how long were we supposed to do it,
and who cared, anyway?
We learnt a lot these past few months,
long months to sit      and ponder about
                who we really
                were, the inner us.

We also sensed that a mask could
                            hide a sneer
             and a truckload of
             other ugliness.







Shirani Rajapakse
Image Nick  Victor


Author Bio

Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and short story writer. She is the author of five books including the award-winning Chant of a Million Women and I Exist. Therefore I Am. Rajapakse’s work appears in Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry, Litro, Linnet’s Wings, Berfrois, Flash Fiction International, Voices Israel, About Place, Mascara, Counterpunch, Deep Water, Silver Birch, International Times, New Verse News, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Spark, Lakeview, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Harbinger Asylum and more.


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