The Poetry Bar

Quarantine Prayer

for them counting breaths
in strange seclusion, in
complex friendship
with oxygenating machines

for family denied intimacy
in loss, the final goodbye
through digital noise

for the walking tragedies
of national infrastructure
they built, dragging,
collapsing, dying
to get home, dying
on the way home

to them who will share
graves in the overcrowded
cemeteries of Manaus

to them drawing tears
on the map from Bogotá
to Venezuela

while my coffee brews

for them lamenting
an unforeseen stigma
and loss while we
legalise our opinions
on the courthouse
of social space

to them exposed
for their frontline love

to paradoxical leaders
caught in flawed imagination
between saving power
and saving lives

and not forgetting

the forever quarantined
prisoners of North Korean

detainees of re-education
in northwest China

kidnapped girls auctioned
in the grotesque markets
of pleasure

my unequal nation
I love and loathe between
habitual bouts of
middleclass apathy

Almond Syiem is from Shillong, a hill station in northeast India. He writes poetry, short stories and reflections on culture, politics and spirituality. He is also a singer-songwriter with an eclectic range of musical preferences. His poems have appeared in several magazines, journals and anthologies including Indian LiteratureThe New Welsh ReviewArtem and Lyric among others. He has published two collaborative works: Sleepless (Heartland Press), a poetry-photograph ebook with Australian photographer Tim Wallis and Everest (Heartland Press), a poetry-sketch book with Australian artist George Tetlow. You can read some of his poems on and short stories about real people on


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