Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Karthik Sethuraman





Winter flowers,
their fragility

— the sweet peas
above the fireplace.
I imagine Mendel
in the backyard,

pruning plants with
striped sepals,
stems with buds
opening down.

A blood orange
bee saunters in
on the noontime
wind, rests her

wings on the
vase, some pollen
rides her neck,
her spotted

waist. She visits us,
then Mendel, then
our neighbors who
bring kumquats

in late November
as their children
head to school.
I think of how

I learned to count
parents, children,
grandchildren in
a notebook,

tally who gave
me my tongue,
my hair which
stands up on

your skin, my eyes
strained against
your whispers
to pour out

the water, to bring
up the drapes, but
I step down the
staircase and forget

to close the
window and forget
to replace this
group of thoughts

with the next.


Patches of dew, kneeling down

I keep warm in my mother’s
   hair   her swallows humming in
my cheek   I’ve waited the length
   of a photograph   tumbled
the weight of her buried bones
   now the elms no longer whisper
now I see a man in flannel carrying irises
   the brook which separates us
is brown   stamp this place with
   a duration   we are within the reach
of some god   and each carrying
   shelf stable prayer books   before
we could read we imagined every
   word as our mother’s   which
casket is the labeled one   or
   whose   every time I mourn
I lower myself   I cleave myself
   but still the light peeks in through
the top of the well   boarded up


Photograph of Karthik Sethuraman by Kevin Lu.

Karthik Sethuraman is an Indian-American living in California. His works have appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, Lunch Ticket, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Fugue, among others. One piece, Saramakavi, was performed at the Asian Art Museum where he was a Kearny Street Workshop writing fellow. His chapbook, Prayer under eyelids, is forthcoming from Nomadic Press. In addition to English language poetry, he spends time reading and translating from the broader Tamil diaspora. More from this author →