Combat

We, the soon to die, salute you. That was what
the gladiators shouted on the way in.
Boar’s-head helmets, tridents, broadswords, fishnets—
dressed to kill, they literally killed
each other, or the lions shipped from Barbary
worth more than any human in the show.
“We, the soon to die” takes five words in English,
one for each of the senses. Latin fits it
in one word, morituri, which might well
be Japanese for that one blowfish
that either tastes the way sex feels, or kills you.
Rome had a close relationship with death.
It lived on top of death, the catacombs
a sister city with her own ambitions.
The gladiators knew which Rome all roads
were leading to, the one aboveground or
the one below. They knew that Claudius
or Nero or whatever sucker sat there
was only waiting out the customary
eight months before his bodyguards would bury
their knives in him. But what the lions knew
was something else entirely. Slow and calm,
they licked their paws of the last round’s Christians.
The cage door rattled skyward. Free of tension
about the future, free of the future tense,
subject to death but never in its power,
they strolled toward the sunlight on the blades.

Amit Majmudar

Amit Majmudar

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, was released this year in India from Penguin Random House, and a poetry collection in the United States, What He Did in Solitary, is forthcoming from Knopf in August 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.
Amit Majmudar

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Author: Amit Majmudar

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, was released this year in India from Penguin Random House, and a poetry collection in the United States, What He Did in Solitary, is forthcoming from Knopf in August 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.