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Process Questions: Two Poems by Karthik Purushothaman

‘Which poem can defeat / the fear of dying / a meaningless death / and how to write that poem / staring into the barrel?’

By Karthik Purushothaman

In June, days after the Supreme Court lifted legal blocks on President Trump’s Muslim Ban save those with “bona fide relationships” to the United States, we asked writers to imagine creative openings and counter narratives as to what a bona fide relationship might be. Trump’s latest iteration of the travel ban goes into effect October 18, and in the lead up to that day, we are publishing a series of stories and poems on The Margins that create new narratives and futures in response to the Muslim Ban. These two poems are the latest in our series. Read more and follow along here.


VISA Interview

What does your uncle
do for a living? How come

he’s letting you stay
at his place? Don’t you have

problems in the family?
Why William Paterson?

Why grad school
and especially why

writing, choosing not to use
an aerospace undergrad

making missiles? What kind
of bombs can you build

with words? Where do you
intend to plant them,

and why you
when American poets

are perfectly capable
of blowing themselves up?


Process Questions
A reaction to three shootings of Indian immigrants, in Kansas, South Carolina and Washington

How to read poetry
over the barrel? How to tell

the angry lipless faces
I’m just here for the poems?

Which poem will win you over?
Should I dance in the ring

or tear at your sheets,
would you buy my poem

as an adhesive for the rift
between us if I showed you

a valid passport, or will you
also shoot at my VISA?

Can I dodge bullets
as well as the White House

Press Secretary?
Which poem can defeat

the fear of dying
a meaningless death

and how to write that poem
staring into the barrel?

The Bona Fide Relationships Portfolio was published with support from the David Rockefeller Fund and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics.