Amit Majmudar


A migraine heats the wires red behind
the panel     seizures down a power line
& slap it writhing     writing     on the pavement
the problem with a problem of the brain is
you never cure it     only manage it
the fuses thumbed across again     the bucket
ascending from the truck     to hitch things up
until the next storm     messes with the grid
a tumor means a swelling     what swells here
is starstuff     layer by chatoyant layer
until whatever sand grain got inside
the cloister     has become a pearl     that
backlights the eardrum’s opal shaving
ossicles ashiver     eavesdropping on light

There’s no electroshock     no once-a-day
to manage neuroastrogenesis
no burrhole in the skull     to cut you clean
& plunk that fireball     into a basin
no triggers to avoid     & no vaccine
I got my diagnosis     at thirteen

Some people     said my doctor     studying
my EEG     like a zagging seismograph
demanding mass evacuations     some
unlucky people     grow a star inside
their brains     that’s not a bad thing in itself
the problem is     not every womb is hooked up
to a birth canal     the brain is like that
she said     it has its ovaries     its tubes
its uterus     but things conceived inside it
have no way of getting out     & so
they grow     the skull is bone     it can’t expand
you see the risk of all that pent up heat
developing a heart     & growing feet

My parents drove me home     I took
my two proverbial aspirin     & melted
letters off a page     by staring at them
I felt the words begin to orbit me
like orphanyms     they tugged my empty pockets
begging meaning     when my mother gave me
Ayurvedic remedies     I spooned
my turmeric     & told her it was helping
but she could see my pupils for herself
surprised like cat eyes creeping past a flashlight

If I don’t die of it     I’ll live with it
even a knot     of fusing hydrogen
lodged in the crook     of my corpus callosum
If I don’t die of it     I’ll birth my star
alpha centauri     unreachably
far off     blowtorching its way out     dead center
through my forehead     first a dot     & then
a lashless fissure     splitting with a hiss
my third eye bulging     pulsing     alien
fixing on the sun     to find out who blinks first




     I praise my making
though I’m made
     to mourn. A fool

keeps running
     while the treetops
shred the kite.

     I have loved.
I have died.
     I have been reborn

rich & foolish
     with bodies
to burn.

     I get reborn
as a mayfly every night.
     Come morning, I’m slain

& made again
     like a god on a
bed with a

     stain. Where there’s
nothing to father, there’s
     nothing to mourn.

I get reborn
     come nightfall
in a musty hutch,

     a rabbit warren.
The fool keeps sniffing.
     Meanwhile a rifle

settles on a pair of
     elbows. I sing
with all my being

     but I sense
I’m being

I praise my unmaking.
     Some machines
dismantle themselves;

     it’s how they learn.
I strip myself down.
     I rhyme. I return.

Some mating calls,
     some madrigals
fall to adoring

     their echoes
& reckon their
     bodies reborn.

I praise my making.
     Whoever made me,
listen: Next time

     make my flesh less
fleshly if you mean
     for me to scorn it.



Amit Majmudar is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist. Majmudar’s latest books are Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary (Knopf, 2018) and the mythological novel Sitayana (Penguin Random House India, 2019). A historical novel, Soar, is forthcoming in India from Penguin Random House in 2020, as well as a poetry collection in the United States, What He Did in Solitary (Knopf, 2020). His novel Partitions (Holt/Metropolitan, 2011) was shortlisted for the HWA/Goldsboro Crown Prize for Historical Fiction and was named Best Debut Fiction of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and his second novel, The Abundance (Holt/Metropolitan, 2013), was selected for the Choose to Read Ohio Program. His poetry has appeared in The Best of the Best American Poetry 25th Anniversary Edition, numerous Best American Poetry anthologies, as well as the Norton Introduction to Literature, The New Yorker, and Poetry; his prose has appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2017, The Best American Essays 2018, and the New York Times. His first poetry collection, 0',0', was shortlisted for the Norma Farber Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, and his second collection, Heaven and Earth, won the Donald Justice Award. He also edited an anthology of political poetry, Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now (Knopf, 2017). Winner of the Anne Halley Prize and the Pushcart Prize, he served as Ohio's first Poet Laureate. He practices diagnostic and nuclear radiology full-time in Westerville, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, twin sons, and daughter.