Covid-19 & China’s soft power ambitions
The Great Disruption of 2020

A Pandemic Far Worse Than Covid-19

MaskWARDLEY BARRY

A man searched for someone to confide in,
to discuss the things he has heard and seen.
But all his neighbours had their gates closed and
beside the road he cannot find a friend.

This road, once the heart of daily routine,
has been left barren by Covid-19.
He dragged his suitcase along the pavement.
There was no buai. He cannot pay rent.

He tried to understand the pandemic.
Was it flu or funds that made people sick?
If they're healed without drugs in the village,
why lockdown? Then came the WhatsApp message.*

And he knew the pandemic he's fighting
is a lot worse than Covid-19.

* Refers to a conversation between members of PANGU Party that was leaked on social media. You can read about it here

 

Comments

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Michael Dom

Hi Wardley, this sonnet is technically precise.

The double couplet rhyme scheme, a-a' b-b, a-a c-c, d-d e-e, a'-a, with two slant rhymes (a') in stanza 1 and 14, is effective and not overly ornate. Except for line 14 all the lines are in pentameter.

Each stanza provides a unique phase in the unfolding experience: 1) the search, 2) the struggle, 3) realizations, 4) resolution.

There is a specific turn in stanza 4, line 10, right where to expect it. This is a component of sonnets too often overlooked or openly abused by less adept poets.

Alliteration in the first stanza is quite smooth, 'searched for someone', 'he has heard' and 'find a friend' hold the separate lines together with internal rhythm. Although there is less of this in the following stanzas, alliteration is not compulsory for providing rhythm.

There is subtle manipulation of the diction, especially the structural use of Covid-19 in the syllable count.

The use of barren in line 6-stanza 2 adds valuable context of the streets being unproductive, the absence of life activities, rather than merely deserted, ie with no one around.

Also, line 7, 'dragged his suitcase' shows us that this man is exhausted or feels lethargic without saying it. Good imagery.

However, why would he have a suitcase? This may be metaphorical as in 'a bag of troubles' or 'bearing burdens'.

But a suitcase seems out of context with a guy wandering our PNG neighborhoods, especially a resident.

In this case it may be useful to provide a much more solid reference image that we can relate to like slippers.

Lonesome or lethargic people with preoccupied minds often drag their slippers under their feet unconsciously. Importantly, the sound of dragging slippers is familiar to your audience.

Also, stanza 2 may be more coherent if the third and fourth lines were reversed. This would also provide a thematic link with stanza 3.

In fact that line: "There was no buai. He cannot pay rent" seems disjointed, unless it's referring to the man being a vendor, which is an additional layer of complexity that may or may not add value in this particular poem.

It might be worth trying something amusing like:
"I've got no buai and no bloody rent"
"I drag my slippers along the pavement".

(A note on personalization coming.)

Contrasting 'flu or funds' was good word play and vital to the resolution he arrives at.

Also, and again subtly, contrasting village life and modern life was a valid reflection in PNG context.

It's the resolution which, although clear from the preceding narrative, is more problematic.

Firstly, personalization of 'I' rather than 'he' brings us with you as participants in the story, rather than as detached observers, which is probably not the position you may want us to be in.

(eg. start with; "I had searched...)

Secondly, it's not all about 'he' or 'I', so including us (readers) in the poem (a powerful tactic) by using 'I' to make to us walk with you and to note our condition through your eyes and in your resolution 'we' to include us collectively.

Then line 13 becomes:
"And I knew the pandemic we're fighting".

Moreover in the last line provide a hedge, an uncertainty, that makes your resolution a theory rather than an assumed fact.

So that line 14 becomes:
"may be much, much worse than Covid-19".

(The alliteration and pentameter returned.)

Compare this couplet with above:
"And I knew the pandemic we're fighting
may be much, much worse than Covid-19".

All in all this is a good construction and a very philosophical, morally and materially valid issue to comment on in poem.

Thank you for your write.

Lindsay F Bond

Wardley, I applaud your teasing out matters not easily understood.
One way to clap hands is to grasp meaning from other places and people.
For instance, "...Residents in Queensland's Indigenous communities are protesting against "discriminatory" coronavirus laws that prevent them from fishing for food..."
See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-14/coronavirus-queensland-indigenous-restrictions-yarrabah/12230492
Once again, Australians in Canberra igloos ignore logic of people impounded and impacted at Palm and Yarrabah.

Would you not count yourself lucky to be independent of the muddle of mingle at mainland Oz?
Yet having said that, my comments are not to intrude on PNG conversation about truth, 'mistruth', and mistrust.

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