A sestina on isolation

Hari Bravery

It’s easy to think there was a before,

when each and every minute

was packed with bubbling laughter;

a laughter that spills and laps

unimpeded by cobbled walls

of silence – before this great breakdown.

So silently did normalcy breakdown.

So quickly did we hunger for before.

Now all are trammelled by cavernous walls

and doze within an endless mire of minutes,

hands knotted tight in laps

as the TV spills canned laughter.

‘There is no such thing as too much laughter’,

and how funny to see the world reduced and broken down

to a minute glowing rectangle that sits upon your lap.

Was it like this before?

Does every grey and lonely minute

reveal those bleary prison walls

we all exist within? Walls

that constrain and ensnare - however gilded with laughter -

may finally be illumined, if only for these fleeting minutes.

So we can see they needed breaking down.

The times that we desire, the before,

paces around our mind in arcing laps.

All this empty time simply laps

us up, like sea brine spurting over gabion walls;

no wonder we all yearn for an illusory before.

Yet in silence there’s a subtle kind of laughter,

between beans-on-toast breakfasts and the daily doled breakdown,

that makes me want to cling to every isolated minute.

Normalcy intones “I’ll be back in a minute!”

and soon we’ll rest our heads again in its maternal lap

as lockdown melancholia too breaks down.

And home’s mundane gaol walls

will melt away and be brimful of laughter

Just as it was in some vague time before.

These grey armies of minutes that pound our sanctuary walls

soon will float away to nothingness, and grainy black-and-white, vintage laughter

will lap again over recollections of this breakdown, just as it was before.