Three Sonzals and a Mythological Love Poem by Amit Majmudar


Gutenberg Sonzal

Lightning at midnight, ink on paper.
You’re flensed at a touch. Your skin is paper.

Throw back your head. Let out your mating call.
In God’s hands, every bird begins as paper.

Verse served you well, as a scratch pad. The problem’s solved.
His immanence has crushed you thin as paper.

Give in, give in. Love, impatient, wants it all—
Penetration, the butterfly pinned to paper.

After the vision flashes,
It flickers firefly pixels.

Another paper airplane crashes.
Another vision dies in pixels.

Earthly dust tickles Amit’s lashes.
His visionary eyes cry pixels.


Miraculous Sonzal

Igneous heart, crack in half on heaven’s stones.
I cannot river until I’m riven stone.

Bread of angels, loaves of rock.
Love alone can leaven stone.

So much care has shoveled, filled, and stocked
This little fishpond with the seven stones!

Quiet. I sense my stalker as I walk.
He’s crouched low in eyes, hollows, even stones.

Squeeze juice if you must from sandstone,
But never barter words for bread.

Words are for one listener alone.
Breath is leaven for a purer bread.

“That scrape and click you hear is Amit’s bones.
He cooks up rhymes when he should search for bread.”


All or Nothing Sonzal

My all is the gift I give the God who needs nothing.
He sends it back, saying he has time to read nothing.

Seeker, too soon off the stem is sour.
Ripen slowly. Impatience speeds nothing.

What raises, razes. It’s a single power.
In the mind’s maze, all ways out lead to nothing.

All for nothing have I toiled hours.
These words are stones and will seed nothing.

You spill him. You must call feeling to your aid.
His absence is too huge for you to think it all.

I said, “What wonders you create!”
He shrugged. “Really, it’s nothing at all.”

You’ll laugh some, yes, but laughter’s only half your fate.
The rest is suffering, but Amit, sing it all.


Story of the Creation

for Ami

What Vishnu thought was belly button lint
and almost picked at with his pinky
turned out to be a fullblown lotus
with a newborn old man inside

I want to create us a universe, said Brahma
taking a sip of immortal nectar
All I need you to do is make me laugh

so Vishnu told him the one about Time
with such picosecond-perfect comic timing
Brahma laughed through pursed lips, sending
amrut spittle in a geyser over both their heads

and those were stars

All I need you to do now, said Brahma, is make me cry

so Vishnu told him the one about Time
and Brahma’s four faces
struck midnight all at once like grandfather clocks
and once the tears filled up the void

that was the sea

But there was no one to sail the sea
and no one to rocket to the stars
no one to drown
no one to plummet to earth

So Brahma took a mixture
seventy percent sea, thirty percent star
and shaped a black hole out of that
and called it hunger

he shelled two stars of their light
hollow spheres
no number of dawns could fill back up

and those were eyes

he slid the onlunge out of two waves
and slid them into starfish

and those were hands

clawing their way along the sea floor
and then along the sand

in every hungry mouth he stitched
one of his lotus petals into place

and that was the tongue

I say your name with
to reserve tonight
a universe for two
where we hold starfish hands all starry-eyed
crylaughing through this marriage

as we tell each other the one about Time

hunger and hunger, held in trust

each new sea change starring us


Editor’s Note: the Sonzal, a hybrid of the sonnet and the ghazal, is a new verse-form invented by Majmudar.

About the Author:

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 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.


Cover image by Thomas Quine via Flickr (cc).