Saturday 21 July 2012


by Amit Majmudar

for Jorge Luis Borges

I stand before the books as I might stand
beneath the night sky. They’re in stacks and stacks
of self-contained infinities demand-
ing exploration. I have neither maps
nor ladders to pursue these stars,
these books that burn within themselves. That’s when
he comes and shows me where to start,
a blind librarian with a lantern and
a hand that takes my own. He knows the books
for me, he knows exactly where they are.
When he points, I at last know where to look.
The deep night sky he navigates by heart,
and as he shows them to me, one by one
I find those far stars opening into suns.

Working Title. Thats what I'll call it.

I carry a notepad.
A moleskine.
Is that too pretentious?

I carry a notepad. I have lots of them. So many that notes get lost. Sometimes I even carry a pen too. My notepads are legion. there are ratty old spiral-bound ones, measurements, stains, sketches, lists, recipes, stories. Most of my stories never make it out to paper, most never make it out to anywhere, they stay in my head, crumble, decay, and are gone, overwritten, forgotten, fragments of sentences, sometimes whole words and letters,  or maybe just a crushed ampersand in the dust. Were it ever to happen that a pathologist scooped out my brain, I'm sure beneath it would be all the leaked words, stories, dreams.

Today, this morning, I had to go out to the phone shop, yet again. That's a saga in itself.
Afterward I found a cafe, sat on a leatherette bench, looking out at the world and at the other customers. Across the cafe, in another bench/table/bench booth, was a young woman with her two small children. She had a laptop open, and was obviously trying to concentrate, as her children swarmed over her.

I was fascinated. They weren't loud raucous kids, they were inquisitive, experimentative, I can't guess the age, maybe two or three, maybe twins? One slightly bigger than the other, girl and boy, the girl slightly bigger. Clean, neat, moderately affluent, the thing that struck me was that there were no boundaries between them, like puppies in a heap, they squeezed into the space between her and the wall, tried to climb over her back behind her neck, and she grabbed the clamberer, hushed and repositioned it, without taking her right hand from the keyboard, nor her eyes from the screen. They clambered over her thighs, played with her hair, tipped over a sippy-cup, tried to poke a straw in her mouth.
At all this, she seemed unperturbed, quietly coping, looking around a curly head as it blew bubbles against her neck.
Nothing they did seemed to faze her. I'm, of course, sitting there with my coffee, yes, coffee, not tea, though tea is my default beverage, and scribbling, drawing, trying to write something completely else, trying to concentrate on a zillion things I need to get done, but which slip through my fingers like greased piglets, not that I've ever actually encountered a greased piglet.
I'm trying to look as though I'm the sort of person who sits in coffee emporia and knows what all the things listed on the menu board are. I'm always totally humiliated when I try to order.  Still, unlike the 'barista', a sternly goateed young man, who's probably studying Nietsche, I do know who Starbuck was.

Here's an interesting digression. I always digress, y'know, I'm doing it right now, digressing from my digression. And that's why I'll never ever complete my novel, (apart from the fact that I never started writing it). Where was I?. Oh yes digressing, Starbuck, oh.
The first Hawaiian royalty to visit London.   King Kamehameha and Queen Kamamalu. They travelled to London on a whaling ship, captained by Valentine Starbuck.
I don't recall where or when I learned all this stuff, but the sad gist of Kamehameha's story was that, just like Pocahontas, he died.
The Hawaiians had no defence against measles, and that once-common childhood disease killed their king and queen.
Anyway, Starbuck. I'm not sure if he was the one who Melville based the first mate of the 'Pequod' upon.
Something I didn't know, and just learned, whilst looking up Kamehameha's name's proper spelling, is that the captain of the royal naval vessel tasked to return the bodies of the king and queen to Hawaii, had consulted with Captain Starbuck upon sailing directions, and Starbuck had mentioned an uncharted island and plotted its position. The captain, George Anson Byron, charted the island, in the Kiribati group, and named it "Starbuck Island"

Meanwhile, the small girl makes a grab at mummy's top, pulling at her shirt, and as she grabs, a breast pops out. Pale and rounded, ripe fruit, with dark areola and upright nipple. Mother calmly scoops it back into the briefly revealed pink bra, does that settling jiggle, and... I'm busted. She looks up, catches my eye. I pretend I didn't notice but I'm blushing. More embarassed than she is.

I'm thinking though, of the way the children  see no boundary whatsoever between themselves and her, I'm musing on motherhood, and how my own lady's kids are, though much older, forever as much a part of her. How its understood without words that the bond is absolute. They're growing up, starting to fly free, but where it matters, there's no distance between them. You can disagree with them, get mad at them, but they know, when it comes to it, there's always forgiveness, always love, always closeness.

I think of children, how they start, completely part of their mother, how they take over her body and mind as they gestate, how totally reliant they are when born, how that bond is created. They've been part of her body on the inside, then they cling to it to suckle and sleep, how fearful they are when she passes out of sight, how her reappearance is what they need. I'm a man, I have no children, I've no claim to any of this, I'm an observer from the outside.
The woman in the coffee shop.
Maybe she thinks I was ogling her and staring at her boobs.
I was envying her.

; "His Love of Semicolons"

His Love of Semicolons

The comma is comely, the period, peerless,
     but stack them one atop
the other, and I am in love; what I love
     is the end that refuses to stop,
the promise that something will come in a moment
     though the saying seem all said;
a grammatical afterlife, fullness that spills
     past the fullstop, not so much dead
as taking a breather, at worst, stunned;
     the sentence regroups and restarts,
its notation bespeaking momentum, its silence
     dividing the beats of a heart.
"Amit Majmudar is a diagnostic radiologist, specializing in nuclear medicine, practicing full-time in Columbus, Ohio. "
So says the Wiki.
We label people by their work, their hobby, their family, their tragedy, whatever glib ticket we can stick on the box.
I'm always aware of this, of how when someone asks "What do you do?', meaning, "what is the occupation that pays your bills?". 
And I'm always aware that the answer is the tiniest possible clue as to who the person is. 
Do we expect our radiologist to be a poet?  
And I look at people, try to see beyond the facade, wonder what mysterious, imponderable world they inhabit.