Amit Majmudar is a poet, novelist, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist living in Dublin, Ohio, with his wife and three children. His most recent collection is Dothead (Knopf, 2016). He is Ohio's first Poet Laureate - and his next book is a verse translation of the Bhagavad Gita, with commentaries, entitled Godsong (Knopf, 2018).


     Death and the Maiden

Amit Majmudar


And I said, Death, you cannot have me.

In a far-off country there’s a suburb.

In that suburb is a sidewalk.

On that sidewalk is a bicycle.

On its pedals are purple sneakers

And in those purple sneakers is a girl.

In that girl is love

And that love is for her daddy.

That love of hers may be the closest thing

To a soul I’ve ever had.

I keep myself there, in her love.

I keep her warm like soup in winter.


That warmth, Death, is the living heat of me

As she is pedaling into her future.

She bears her love for me,

Which, being more than me, is what I most am,

Inside her, safe.

Because she is too good to lose her father

As long as I am loved I cannot die.


And Death said, Don’t you know by now

I take no special interest in the middle-aged?

Check your phone, your wife’s been texting you.


Taking out, as he said this,

From deep inside his black trench coat,

Held in one hand, like an empty soup bowl upside down,

A child’s helmet with the chinstrap dangling.


Amit Majmudar

My great-grandfather    married a hurricane,

taking a hold      of her whiplash wrist.

She stopped spinning       and let him love her,

a wife in her weathers       while his parents despaired.

She bore him babies,   three at one scream,

then dissolved over land,      leaving him dad—

shards and shingles            on a mortgaged mile.

Each baby’s birthmark      was peril and prophecy,

the littlest triplet’s         a forest fire

branded on her brow.       She gobbled boys

like Californias!      Coal in her fist

would crush to ravens         that knew her name.

How could she not       be known and courted

through six counties?     My father’s father

flung his future      in a fistful

of heartshaped confetti      consumed by her hunger.

She bore him a boy         with cheeks like

a volcano, wicks           twisting out of his navel

in a blasted bouquet,       poisoned pistils;

then left him for a lover,      an April migrant

picking strawberries,       her bronze Apollo

en espagnol.     He cut her throat.

My father, when he turned       twenty-three, fell

for his mother’s memory,       a storm with a name,

raven-haired     and raving mad.

She kept us cowering,       scrambling for cover,

every vacation        demanding sandbag

barricades at Marriotts,     retreats to the roof.

So now you know         my love life’s

embarrassingly bad         genetic juju—

if you want in     on this wicked lineage,

let’s skywrite our names      in smoke and money

with paper planes          we’ll light and launch,

let’s bury ourselves         in the burning sand,

start up a business          on the ill-starred boardwalk,  

in a haze, in heat,         in hurricane season.



Amit Majmudar




I hear my blood listening

to my past and my ears listening

to my blood


I hear Gandhi


while he bleeds out on the grass


I hear the tattoo needle

kiss the skin

over my right shoulder blade


I hear the sound sound makes

when the universe isn’t here

to hear


I hear a voice I exiled

crawling up a mineshaft into speech

and sobbing Home sweet





Amit Majmudar

I am willing to die for this. I am willing to kill for this.

I need you to lie for me. I need you to lie still for this.


Shocked, are we, at this brick through the window? You put me in the kiln.

I’m calling this one “Kill Fugue.” I’ve never killed, but I will for this.


I am your biggest fan. I am the greatest of fanatics.

I hear the virgin martyr student soldiers getting shrill for this.


You have to be dying to kill for the cause. Because the cause.

Empty yourself and become a believer and kill your fill for this.


If religion is a drug, it’s PCP. Deathwish/killwish.

Dervish, the room is spinning. Doctor, is there a pill for this?

Shell Games

Amit Majmudar


Speech is a shell game, phon for all.

Under one of these three sounds is wear where ware

The meaning isn’t isn’t isn’t.



‘I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down!’

Speech threatens meaning.

Every poem is another little pig’s swine song.



I only like operas if I don’t speak the language.

Bizet’s cigarette-factory girls can change into angels!

Quid est veritas? La fumée…la fumée….



Meaning is to speech

As latitude is to penguin. You know you’re in the Arctic,

But how did you get here, and how do you leave?



Speak the speech, I pray you, as I mean the meaning.

What am I saying?

We don’t have a prayer, do we?



My two cents: Say nothing, and all three cups

Shelter conceivable pennies.

Speak, and you’re two cents poorer.



Meaning moans in the mine

While spry speech clambers up the throat’s shaft

Into disappointed daylight.



‘The world is all that is the case.’

Inside that case?




A spokewheel, catching the sunlight,

Seems to shirr in reverse, toward a speech willed

Prior to meaning. Back to poetry.



Ooga-booga, Jorge Borges.

The consensus is that sense is

Tohubohu in a pita pocket.



That’s why I write in a plain style.

I write things people get. They sense

I mean it when I don’t say I say when I don’t mean.

Innocents Abroad

Amit Majmudar


            The cathedral-as-

museum: Dinosaur bones,

            buried in the air.


            “This is our stop. That

English isn’t spoken here

            goes without saying.”


            Futures breed like the

rabbits capitalists reach

            in their top hats for.     


            “Of course they hate us!

If you were them, admit it,

            wouldn’t you hate you?”


            Swab your cheek and check

your genetics. We’ve all got

            a touch of Genghis.


            “The Saudis wanted

to build it bigger than St.

            Paul’s, next to St. Paul’s.”


            The way they pronounce

“guard” I thought she was saying

            changing of the god.


            I came here to see

what London looks like. Surprise:

            London looks like me.


            This, Winston, is how

you conquer a country. Not

            with guns. With children.