In this poem, I am an outlaw / though what do
I know about headstones or hemoglobin / my
father promised me that Morricone captured the
most important feature of existence / the whistle
preceding a bullet / and if Charon flashes his palm,
the watchman’s swagger / my scent in the empty
ashtray / even where I limp to die, someone else
requires penitence / I am hardboiled in the sun /
unbuckle myself into a ditch / doesn’t everyone
dream of this, depending only on themselves /
this is the shape of the wild / a man walks into
town and is a catastrophe / and am I any good
if I am sired, un-orphaned / so when I construct
myself, I leave out the flesh / my tongue tracing
ruin from a lover’s bones / the sound of dying /
the sound of a man afraid of dying / the bleak /
my face against my father’s hand / I think age /
a sequence of steps out of the desert / a cell
phone tower / and I am afraid of growing larger
than a narrative / my heel held dry from the wake

Karthik Sethuraman is an Indian-American living in California. His works have appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, Kestrel, Berkeley Poetry Review, Hematopoiesis Press, and Barren Magazine, among others. He was selected by Chen Chen as runner-up in Fugue’s 2019 poetry contest, and his chapbook, Prayer under eyelids, was shortlisted by Glass Poetry Press and BOAAT Press. Along with English language poetry, he spends time reading and translating poems from the Tamil diaspora.