Rumpus Original Poetry: Four Poems by Arati Warrier





New Years, 2018

In Atlanta, Georgia, in your parents’ house,
in your bedroom: I lower myself
onto you, delve deeply into only what is real.
What is flesh and vibrating and wet.

Gone are your parents – somewhere in India laughing
and drinking chai, eating biscuits with family.
Gone is their shame – their inability to see me,
their impossible anger. Not gone is the anxiety
their homophobia has wrecked into you – the way
it’s wrought around the stairway banister and unwinded
slowly into the air.

I grasp firmly onto the reality of you, laugh
into your hips, “just imagine your parent’s faces
if they ever find out the demon girl ruining
their daughter is eating all their groceries this week.”
I pull laugh after laugh out of you and breathe
my own air into this room.

When we are finished, I slide back to your side,
pull your leg over my waist and curl the tendrils
of your hair around my finger.
January sneaks in through the window crack

And in the silence of the aftermath,
we are acutely reminded of where we are.
In your childhood bedroom
in your parents’ empty house.

And suddenly I am all out of jokes, suddenly the room
smells like cum and I am terrified your mother
will sense my filth in her house from halfway
across the world. You grimace and try to distance
yourself from me. I press a cool palm to your
forehead and we both try to breathe.

Outside, a bird cannot stop chirping.


sex less ness

Twisted spinster of my accord // drier briar patch between my legs.
Desperate // the search for heat
someone else’s hands rub twigs together // between my thighs.
My mind intent on the // movement.
The rest of me gives up // convinced // I didn’t want it anyway.
Crouched // reached down // wrenched myself
out of my own hot mud //  the first time at 9.
Touching myself // being touched // enough.

These days the withering in me // finds much more practical reasons to run wet.
Coating my tongue in saliva // I still covet a good night kiss.
Willing cerebrospinal juices // ensure my brain is happy //getting enough sleep.

But sometimes a brief moment vibrates in my chest // leaves me to chase desire.
Pull at the pulse of each moment // find my arousal again.
To cradle my beloved in this // bring her hands // any part of my body willing to ignite.

What is sex other than // rubbing of two bodies to make heat?
What is heat if not //  faith with which my love holds me?
Knowing I am not always wet // I am still hers.
And this warmth // keeps us sleeping // through the night.



Remember that year in middle
school I played club volleyball? And
it was me + the entire 7th grade A team
and I was the worst player?

But Meredith and Amanda and Claire
and Nicole couldn’t say shit to me. Not
Ashley or Holly or Elaina either. Because
I was there. And my daddy drove me
all throughout Texas to show up at those games

and serve the ball and save it from the ground
and I wore that red & white shirt and my knee pads
and what were you going to do? Be mean to my
face? Nothing you could say that I hadn’t already
said to myself. Nothing you could think that I
couldn’t already tell you were thinking.

I still played the game. Listen: bushy hair
sweaty brown girl never had a boyfriend
in her life. But. I was on that team. Check the photos.
I was there.



In another world, I love a white man
and it is easy. I do not question where

this comes from. I am not afraid
for my heart, my body, my mind.

I did not peel my skin back to reemerge
in front of him. My tongue, anything

but a useless offering, anything but a home
to burnt sugar and shifting sands. I put

a  flower in my hair and it is not a metaphor
or a statement. When I lie next to him in bed,

there is no rumbling in my chest daring me to find
another world. I did not barter for this position;

I arrived here, billowing in my own grace. I don’t
worship anyone’s man, but my own. In this world,

my love and I share cupcakes on the kitchen floor
before climbing into bed with a book of sudoku puzzles.

Her arm encircles me, making a small planet of my waist.
The thick of my hair, draped on her shoulder, envelops

everything. We are magnificent and we are here. Because
we made it so. Because I chose a love that saves me.


Photograph of Arati Warrier by Katytarika Bartel.

Arati Warrier (she/they) is a queer South Asian American poet from Austin, TX, currently living in the Bay Area. She featured on the final stage at Women of the World Poetry Slam 2014, is a recipient of the Andrew Julius Gutow Academy of American Poets prize, and is a 2014 national collegiate poetry slam champion. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in The Aerogram, BOAAT Journal, and The Shade Journal. Arati's other interests include dancing, reading, and loving intentionally. She is a part-time vegetable enthusiast, a full-time youth and community worker, and co-author of the chapbook Longing and Other Heirlooms, forthcoming from Eggtooth Editions. More from this author →