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Kuruvi: Two Poems by Karthik Sethuraman

Older now, the sparrow God / gave my grandmother in place /of succulence.

Poetry, poetry | poetry
May 12, 2020


Older now, the sparrow God
gave my grandmother in place
of succulence. An ordinary thing
to hold her wants. Flesh. Spine.
Texture. She wants to be not left
alone and unremarkable, more
than the sparse words scattered
in her song. Her bird can sing,
can’t it. Keep in water, seal
itself tight. I shouldn’t, but I hold
this part from her, that I know
she only begged for sustenance
and in turn received a shovel,
a bag of seeds, a cage, her sparrow
swallowed by the din of buses,
arguments on her doorstep,
the phone company laying
a line past her toes, and she asks
what it is about need that we each
must listen for some echo,
never really knowing if we are
the prayer or the promise.


I can barely close my lips around my
toothbrush before turning off  the lights,
stepping over the leaves flayed from the

tulips. Believe me, I didn’t mean for this to
be a poem about flowers or stonefruit. A man
pulled me aside on my way out of  the theater.

Was I watching the same film as him. A hunting
rifle, three stars, an enumerated distance between
baby teeth, he thinks it ends with something like

a love story. A mother tucks her arms under her
stomach and holds someone’s child warm, he
says this is a parable for America. When my

mother gave me my first peach, she warned
me to suckle its stone like a promise, but I can’t
keep many more words between my mind

and my tongue. After dinner, I halved a peach
down into fourths, eighths, pieces small enough
to carry my chores, daily remembrances to ring

my parents, the clothes I’ve stepped over to get
here, and I have no confidence in detergent,
especially not without a washcloth, the mill in

my grandmother’s yard. I’ve poured out tea,
watched it drain through pits, the stray crow
picking at day old rice, and the man asks me

if  I know how to digest something so heavy, to
keep something lodged in my esophagus and
cough it out on command, this is his psalm on

duty, and I tell him somedays, my mother goes to
bed by nine, hides her fingers under her pillow,
begs to dream of  a place where nothing is asked.