Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Prayer for sleepless mornings


One ray stretches into memory another
into fiction I occupy the space at the crossing
half-remembering half-reciting a hymn
each morning a monk asks his echo about
the night before and receives a promise he
cannot resolve he cannot retrieve what rests
on the tip of his tongue in the sweat on his neck
I reach my mother instead and she tells me
the moon comes before and after the sun
this is her way of telling time her hair is streaked
with vermillion she is not permitted to perfume
herself — she gives me a list with groceries
I can determine the difference between the present
and the past by studying which items I have bought
already but now the wires cross again
a child is crying I smell smoke tears are easy
to forget over a cigarette but we do not smoke
a child is crying he holds a flame in his palm
I scratch camphor off the list — my mother
finishes the echo alone is a state of mind not
a state of being but before she disconnects
I stop her love is the word we use to describe
the thing that begins and ends all things.

Karthik Sethuraman is an Indian-American living in San Francisco. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in sPARKLE & bLINK, Kestrel, Hematopoiesis, Berkeley Poetry Review, Vassar Review, and Barren Magazine, among others. Recently, he was shortlisted for Glass Poetry‘s 2019 Chapbook series. Along with English language poetry, he spends time reading and translating poems from the Tamil diaspora. Follow him on Twitter here.