Carolene Kurien


I can’t say I invited her
in but what are you gonna do to an old person,
say no? She pushes her way into the kitchen
and coos over “the darndest little fritters”
on my counter and I say “they’re called ulli vadas
Sharon” and she pays no mind, instead talking
about how “Nancy’s apple pie tastes like a cat
in a frying pan” and I never did understand Sharon’s
figurative languages or the way her eyebrows dare
reach toward the sun despite their constant massacre,
and she’s talking about her garden and she’s talking
about worm death and the basil blues
and how she “can’t wait to pop those fried donuts
in her mouth;” “ulli vadas, Sharon, ulli vadas”
I say and she responds “pulli radas bulli nadas,
they’re all just biscuits to heaven.”



Meen Varuthathu1

My sister and I fight for the eye
of the kingfish, jealous of the one
who gets the crunch. She towels
her masalaed hands on my hair,
I threaten to reach down her throat
and pry out all the food she’s ever
eaten without me. Who gave her the right
to live her own life? To move to Rhode
Island with sea as lone sibling, to
spoon parippu2 in her own twilight?
When I prickle alone, plucking briars
from my ankles, I long for lives so close
they itch. So much so that when Appa
pops the eye in his mouth, breaking our brawl,
I’m almost disappointed. I’m almost ready
to lobster claw an arm into her side,
pinch togetherness into being.


1 Fish fry
2 Lentils



Carolene Kurien is a Malayali-American poet from South Florida and a 2024 MacDowell Fellow. She received her MFA from the University of Miami, where she was a James Michener Fellow. A Tin House alum, her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Salt Hill, Redivider, Bennington Review, BOOTH, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. You can view her work at