Poetry: punctum by Teja Sudhakar

Exploring conversations around race and erasure through the framework of the poem’s title object, Teja Sudhakar writes a scathing and striking lament and a plea to “keep your eyes soft,” to see first the “veil” and then through it.


A punctum is the little, unexpected extra in a photo. It is the face or the hand or the expression or the animal that you did not notice as you took the picture. It is simultaneously never the subject and entirely the subject. – Diana Weir


my earliest memory is of learning disappearance / on my father’s lap smudging an eraser across the page / even then i knew what i could lose if not careful / how whiteness operated to disappear you / have you ever been the first to leave a room / have you ever made your place behind the camera / my children might know me only out the corners of their eyes / when birds slam against rainbacked windows they leave their outlines / the water continues as if there was not dying all around it /
are you seeing this / i ask someone here are you seeing this / how many buildings have i passed through without a sound / how many years only remember me by my imprint / when we speak

a word we are naming each of its previous utterances / i fear i am only the language i have kept alive / i fear i am only my name being poured down a hallway / are you seeing this / the light we look through took years to get here / to see the disaster you must first see its veil / our pupils not made to hold all this bright / our eyes call their blood to the photograph / to take an image you must first take all the light out of the room / please hold as i steady / please keep your eyes soft / as i click /

Teja Sudhakar

Teja Sudhakar is a second-year MFA student at Indiana University. A native of Chennai, India, and long-time resident of Lexington, Kentucky, their work explores queer and immigrant narratives of the transnational South. They now live and write in Bloomington with their cat Soup.

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