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poetry Invasive Species

Taking a global perspective, Ohio poet Amit Majmudar masterfully links issues of ecology and refugees.

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Invasive Species

By Amit Majmudar

The bees are Africanized. All elm disease is Dutch.

The carp is Asian, the python of the Everglades

specifically Burmese. The plague bacillus

sailed from India to Europe. Europe coughed

khaki back at India. Everything is alien,

especially starthistle with its spurs and bursts,

unearthly, mapping its home galaxy

like a foundling with a fleur-de-lys foot tattoo.

Though even lilies hitchhike—every ditch lily

was once a tiger lily, treasured in the garden

of a Mughal. Everybody thinks the Mughals

Indian, but Mughal comes from Mongol.

Invaders make themselves at home and home

remakes them into natives. Everybody comes

from someplace else where they were royal

refugees. We flower where we flower,

flinging roots like ropes from runaway

hot air balloons to snag a city’s skyline.

It never feels like an invasion when

you’re doing it. It feels like parenting,

like cooking what you’ve always cooked, like dancing

with your grandma at a noisy wedding.

But then you turn to see the horrified

park rangers staring at you, calling in

the experts—look at this, what do we do,

they’re everywhere. You wonder who they mean,

but then you see. Their poison hemlock? That

is you. Their brown tree snake. Their killer bee.

Amit Majmudar is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist. He writes and practices in Westerville, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, twin sons, and daughter. His latest book is Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gitawith Commentary (Knopf, 2018). Two novels, Sitayana and Soar, are forthcoming on the Indian subcontinent from Penguin Random House India in 2019, as well as a poetry collection in the United States, Kill List (Knopf, 2020). His prose has appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2017 and The Best American Essays 2018, and his poetry has appeared multiple times in The Best American Poetry anthology.