After Ocean Vuong.

Body shocks awake. As if pulled up
by a far-off circadian swell.

As if anticipating good news.
The only kind worth

an early rising.

The price of smoke pumped by a
fresh black market. Polyester sacks
outside a defunct shopping mall
tucked away between dust
and desertion.

The opportunists lied.

Before next-door’s grocery
flips open

a hit of tar never harmed
the concentration.

There is so much we mustn’t move outside for.
The weather in Widea’s forecast by my phone
in Hafeezpet. A virtual map pinpoints its unobtainable
expanse across the Mumbai Highway—
a preternatural neighbourhood, with a faerie name.

If I could I would visit Widea and from there
walk home again.

The distance covered—
Delhi—Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh—Bihar
Rajasthan—Madhya Pradesh

kilometres, hundreds
soles on macadam
beedi, biscuit, tibea of
straw, particulate marrow
extrusive ribcage.

A country of locking joints

a country walking home.

The shutters of starvation rattle down faster than infection.

Safety is a village; the journey, a roulette—

beauty is truth
truth, beauty

home is health
health, home

fear—hate hate—desperation

an exponential spread nothing mandatory

chlorine—water curfew—camp


Home beckons, brims over like a bathtub spiked with rose-scented salts.

Setup for a joke for our times—a writer,
an artist, a journalist, a scientist
don’t walk into a bar, but instead
chat online.

(‘We are all supposedly doing well!’)

The artist is adapting
to the situation. Turning inwards
to a style only his own: unimpeded freefall.
A crystalline new prism, interior-walled.

Empty with hours, cushions of
privilege. Upstairs the neighbours
heave cargo incessantly
across my ceiling.

I wonder what kind
of alternative lives

they’re arranging.

Life above. Life below. Life on the road.
Me to Widea—

one day I may
think back along the terrain
we need not have

Kathryn Hummel (www.kathrynhummel.com/@katscratchez/friendswithdrinks) is an Australian writer, mixed-media artist and multidisciplinary researcher.

Featured image: Adnan Abidi/Reuters