poetry 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-Gita, with 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.