standstill

standstill

By Miriam Alex
10th grade, Nashua High School South, NH

With lines from “‘I Am so Afraid’: India’s Poor Face World’s Largest Lockdown” by Tim Sullivan qnd Sheikh Saaliq, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

 

voices whisper / from dingy television /
holding malady / on their tongues /
in the way / they spit / the words /
illuminating / street-peddler’s face /
brown eyes drop / to weary fingers /
four hours / until world stops /
stands still /
four walls / holding tight /
don’t feel / dizzy /
four mouths / means /
a pound / and a third /
of rice / a household /
four walls / speak of /
captivity / carcasses / cremation /

they told / of illness / but the
hunger / carving cavity / in stomach /
was now / the cluster of slums /
bathing / in silence / was now /
four knocks / met with go home /
through closed door / was now /
a fistful / of rupees / left in /
ragged palms / was now /
spilling / from cities / back /
to ancestral / was now /
swarming / as sun / beats skin /
soles broken / was now /

to risk then / over now /
how could they? /
how could they? /
how could they? /
did anyone ask / the poor /
what they / are eating? /
gaping mouths / empty /
leftovers luxury / rations split /
they live by / paradox / :
death / in prevention /

street-peddler tries /
to close / tired eyes /
and asks to dream /
of when / tomorrow /
is an answer /
not / a question //


Miriam Alex

Miriam Alex is an Indian-American writer from NH and a rising junior in high school. When she isn’t writing, she reads and sings in her bedroom. She hopes her poems can help reframe the world around you, even if it's just a little bit.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Fighting Words Poetry Contest