Amit Majmudar

Joint Effort
February 10, 2014 Majmudar Amit

Joint Effort


Let the hunchback lie hump down

upon the Bactrian camel. On that snug foundation

let the leper stand tiptoe, balancing

the cripple’s cane on his nose, while the cripple,

upside down, balances atop the cane, index finger

on the hook handle. Let the cripple’s legs scissor

and interlock with the gymnast’s, whose chalked hands

should support the flatfooted orangutan.

Let the orangutan be trained beforehand

to hold a dead veteran overhead, the body draped.

On the veteran’s shoulders and hips let the retiree

align the rubber-nubbin feet of his walker

and, standing tall, wear a hardhat with a flagpole

coming off it, atop that flagpole a circus elephant,

one leathery foot planted, the body rocking back.

On the top curve of that elephant’s S-shaped trunk

let the seal lie arching its back, on its whiskery snout

a beach ball that looks like a globe, spinning.

Let the five-star general clap his hands on that beach ball,

as you know he wants to. Let him do a handstand on it.

Feet on his feet, let the poet turning clockwise

support a fruit bat on his head, and let that fruit bat

in turn support a larger fruit bat, between whose ears

should rest the toe of the ballerina’s vertical left shoe.

Let the ballerina hold the stepladder steady.

At this point, the tower will have crossed the cloud cover;

the shelf should be in view, and what is kept upon the shelf.

Now let the child skip school. Let the child

climb the tower to its tippy top and place her hand

inside the jar and bring the cookies to earth.

Amit Majmudar is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist. Majmudar’s latest books are the poetry collection What He Did in Solitary (Knopf, 2020) and Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary (Knopf/Penguin Random House India, 2018) as well as two novels published in India, Soar (Penguin Random House India, 2020) and Sitayana (Penguin Random House India, 2019). 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.