Bug Season
Bharat Iyer

Simply put, paranoia tends to be contagious; more specifically, paranoia is drawn towards and tends to construct symmetrical relations, in particular, symmetrical epistemologies. — Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

I

This was the year bug
ripped through the city;
when trains ran empty
and cigarettes lay
unsold by the cartons.
Bug turned dance floors into ghost towns
and highways into scrap yards.
Parades shrank between start and finish.

First bug hit unnoticed
a slum here a slum there;
an urban village folded up overnight
into an origami wreath.
Soon tiring of the pustules
around the city’s beauty spot
Bug flew past the welcome arches
the dhabas and the landfills.

Some said bug grew
in the clear, cool liquid of our eyes,
others called it an inheritance
from our primate ancestors,
a patient and picky customer
that finally found the precise conditions
for its emergence.

II

And then one day
there’s that slight burning
when you pee
A mounting cough
from last week
You close your eyes and you can feel it
climbing inside you, casting its clans-folk
into your vessels and fibers and cavities.
A little trouble sleeping at night,
the mattress hardens against your bones;
an itch in unreachable places
under the skin.

Brisk walks and no more instant, you told yourself
but this,
this calls for drastic measures
hand sanitizers;
every stray dog now,
every spoon, park-bench,
co-passenger a possible suspect;
the air you breathe is a bag
left unattended.

There’s a lump rising in your throat,
a soap bubble of acid
turning round and round,
it never stays the same size.
Is this the time we call
our certain Someone’s?
Do could-have-been’s not burn
like wood, like flesh?

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Bharat Iyer
Bharat Iyer's work has previously appeared in Nether, Beyond Borders: a SAARC journal, and Papyrus: The Poetry Journal. He resides in New Delhi.