Poetry | ‘Reincarnatic Raga’ by Amit Majmudar | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Reincarnatic Raga

    Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
    What are the names that I’ve been called?
    Emmet, Ahmet, Ahmad, Amos—
    Amit by any other name is
    Oblivion redivivus, né Oblivion.
    Rebirth ain’t much, but it’s a living.
    Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
    Show me the bodies you recall….

A hazeleyed Chickasaw humming Brahms while spitshining his hatchet,
Hybrid highbred Injun even then:
                                                      Identity a polyhedral
A black boxer whom Tommies a world & a war away named artillery shells for:
                                                      Identity under construction now but someday my cathedral
Aurungzeb’s easygoing Sufi brother, translating into Farsi
The Isha Upanishad out of ishq:
                                                      Identity the selfhell’s watchdog Cerberus-cerebral
A five-foot pigtailed indestructible Cantonese laborer
Perforating the Sierra Nevada with staccato headbutts:
                                                      Identity that puts the hole in wholly writ
A Jesuit worrying his crucifix while Cabeza de Vaca trotted on ahead:
                                                      Identity the problem that I have a problem with
A Kilkenny clergyman on neither the Cuyahoga nor the Nore, his gaze
In a blue flux between fleabane and wild phlox:
                                                      Identity knit unknit reknit to naught
A mongrel whelped by a minor Mongol in entourage of Hulagu:
                                                      Identity a net in which only the water is caught
Goethe, for love of Shakuntala, dancing with his shoe on his head:
                                                      Identity branding its numbers on the forearm of this river
A Norman fiddler in a forest north of New York
Teaching the eager Onondaga gigues and gavottes:
                                                      Identity kaleidoscopic improvising patterns out of inner slivers
A movie producer, born a Belorussian Jew,
Who gave Kansas a wheatblond mythology of Kansas:
                                                      Identity a simulacrum crumbling into something real
These are my forebears, né, my forebirths, my ten avatars, atavisms all
                                                      Identity this sentence I cannot appeal
Throat-singing this twelve-tone hip-hop calypso qawwal:
                                                      Identity this holographic hollow that I step inside to feel


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/Penguin Random House India, 2018) and the mythological novel Sitayana (Penguin Random House India, 2019). His fourth poetry collection is forthcoming 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 LiteratureThe New Yorker, and Poetry; his prose has appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2017The 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.

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