Amit Majmudar


The Pencil

You sensed it sharply since your schooldays—
this fuel rod, deep inside.
There’s something dark and leaden in you,
and it’s the part that writes.

You fed yourself into the grinder
and shaved and shaved away
the wooden sleeve that hid your core,
your grief of graphite gray.

There was no point to any of it
except to wear you down
while keeping an illusion up
of meaning-making sound.

You would erase it all, but all
erasure does is blur
the page beneath, your hurried shading
unearthing every word.

No length is left to sharpen now.
Write with it, if you can—
this wand that held no magic spell
and vanished in your hand.

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, is forthcoming in India from Penguin Random House in 2020, as well as a poetry collection in the United States, What he Did in Solitary (Knopf, 2020). 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, Granta, and The New York Times. Winner of the Donald Justice Award, the Anne Halley Prize, and the Pushcart Prize, he has served as Ohio’s first Poet Laureate. He writes and practices radiology full-time in Westerville, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, twin sons, and daughter.