Karthik Purushothaman

Self Portrait In A Laundromat Mirror; Passport to Equality; Don’t I Wish I Was Taking Giant Steps: Karthik Purushothaman

Self Portrait In A Laundromat Mirror

I’m watching
the year’s first
early sunrise
News 12
with last night’s
snowfall foot
-noting a plane
crash in Iran
the drizzle
from sixty
-six lives
not making
as big a pile
as six inches
of snow to
cave dwellers
fanning their
own flames as
above the drone
of dryers I hear
myself saying,
That’s sixty
-six less
people who
don’t have to
worry about
expiring Visas.

Passport To Equality

is Power of Equality performed by
Red Hot Chili Peppers Istanbul
Oud replacing Frusciante

Farsi-funk anti-fascist anthem
my hype song. Apple watch
counts down. I enter the arena

at six instead of seven minutes
left in heaven—lemonade stands
at every street corner LED screens

force-feeding ethnic movies like
they’re sports teams (if everybody’s
winning, where’s my trophy?)

here I am, hosting poetry
readings trying to win audiences
back from streaming platforms.

Knock, knock. Who’s there?
Nobody. Nobody who? Nobody
cares for the brightest flower

blooming in the dirt. Our vice is
power, appetizer, entrée and dessert
feeding on false idols more than

the Greeks, a handful of Goliaths
handing us our asses. Big Oil
Big Pharma, Bezos, Beyoncé

can’t paint in two trees and call it
a landscape. Choosing between
evils is not democracy whose

ashes you scatter across the planet
American passports access cards
to all-inclusive resorts economies

autoerotic asphyxiate to sustain,
and here I am traveling through
time and space without one.

Don’t I Wish I Was Taking Giant Steps

A greying man clings to his sunglasses
running for his life past the kind of houses
guys working 9-5s could once afford says
my friend Andrew who identifies as
musician at a time when robots make music
as I slump in my seat taking the gut punch
of a rejection email, the blow not softened
by a talk-show host on a phone so smart
that it will replace us. I worry about the girl
leaving me for a guy who hits the ground
running, has money enough to keep her
producing Hallmark social media content
and is funny like this talk-show-host guy
whose crisis is he’s chased by millions
of people laughing at Andrew and I
as we watch him, washing down
a beverage whose makers are at least
being honest about selling us a product
we can’t help wanting more of, raising
the bar on what it takes to fulfill even
a girl who claims she loves you, unlike
Andrew who at six learnt to live with
a Tonka truck instead of the action figures
he asked his parents, unlike I who keep
ignoring my mother when she inquires
if I want more money she knows I know
we don’t have, so I tell her I make enough
although I don’t. Like the talk-show host
admits he’s lowest common denominator
among Men with capital Ms, I admit that
I’m one with a small “m” for watching talk
-shows when I’m supposed to demonstrate
I have extraordinary abilities just to get to
stay in the country—fuck the guys who say
we’re stealing their jobs. Don’t I wish I was
taking such giant steps, shoulder to shoulder
with Andrew who rips the JUUL until it dies
on him and tosses the pod out of his Honda
Fit as the two of us jump out of the car and
run after the talk-show-host-looking-guy
beating him on a road that goes downhill after
giving us a short glimpse of the City skyline.

Karthik Purushothaman is a poet from Chennai, India, who now lives in New Jersey. Currently writing his first book of poems, Karthik has been nominated for the Pushcart Prizes and Best New Poets anthologies, was a special mention in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, and has had poems and essays in Boulevard, Hyperallergic, Rattle, Subtropics, The Common, The Rumpus, The Margins, EVENT, and Writers Resist: The Anthology 2018, among other places.