The Rumi Variations

 

1.
My mother tongue had a single word for myself and yourself.
The word for self was God, so when you said “my God” you meant “your self.”

In our Book, she explained, everything means something else.
The words stand for God. The white space represents yourself.

Mahdi, Twelfth Imam, Messiah: Smoke rings in a cyclone.
Why show up, they ask, where you are barely present yourself?

In this city, everyone’s awaiting someone else.
The Immanence commands: Absent yourself.

You’re always asking us the way to Mecca.
Kafir, maybe it’s time you went yourself.

99.
Sing of heaven. You have to open your mouth to kiss that world.
Sing of people. Visionaries look directly at this world.

After a Night Journey to heaven, they come back to this world.
Worldliness can be otherworldly. This world is that world.

Evil needs enemies now. Seekers of heaven, resist that world—
Heaven’s purpose is down here, to serve as a catalyst world.

God’s eyes are an atlas of the past, his inner world the saddest world.
We tried to fix America. Who knew how much we’d miss that world?

1001.
Something’s been burrowing into my brain. I feel it laying larvae.
Gray matter, white matter, neuron neuron neuron: layered larvae.

My prayers twitch and hatch into limber nymphs,
Still playing the word games they played as larvae.

Under my breath I see God’s shadow swim:
A spiny, whiskered fish that preys on larvae.

The old lush took flight. No one imagined wings on him!
Just goes to show you, what look like earthworms may be larvae.

When you pray for wings, specify what kind.
A handful of pearls can hatch into mosquitoes.

Doubt is standing water in the mind,
A shallowness that brews mosquitoes.

‘Did you trek inland, Amit, and find the divine?
Or were you discouraged by a few mosquitoes?’

∞.
I said the Ninety-Nine Names.
And then, somehow, the rhymes came.

Kafir’s mirror image is rafiq, is friend.
I recite and I scoff in skewed time frames.

Rumi, too, they shut out of the Blue Mosque.
I’ve found companionship in this sublime shame.

I’m most spontaneous when most in form.
Only a tame mind would find these lines tame.

Amit’s meaning, in Hebrew, is friend.
I know the name of your God. Can you name mine?

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.