Track and Field
I wanted to title this “Ode to my Chicken Legs,”
but what you see up there’s a little kinder
to the last ninth-grader in Ohio
to start shaving,
and not for want of fuzz.
These are runner’s legs, I told the mirror.
Runner’s legs, I told Sarah and Nikki,
who noticed and snickered.
I must have believed it, since I did try out
for Track and Field.
I springboarded off a folded Nike,
that winged Goddess of Victory torchbearing me
through my former births, a whole Panchatantra
of animal forms, Bengal fox, snow leopard
backing through the squall’s white curtain,
last of the grey wolves that showed up
in the fairy tales and then the game bags
of a Europe once forested, once fanged.
At last, my fitful Ovidian flickers
settled on a shape, a caracal
slender and brown and alert like me.
My runner’s legs, my poet’s hands
destined soon to mythmake admissions essays
furred and padded to paws
that turned the track to a field
of clouds like the one I’d seen
out of a Boeing’s oval window on the flight
here from Ahmedabad five years before.
My teen fuzz grew into whiskers, my stride
grew sleeker, noiseless even. I was flying
again, not home, never again
home, but into an unfamiliar
all-American glory, arms
rising in a V as I lunged face
first into the future, shoelace
fluttering its aiglet. One last
metamorphosis for me, spread-eagle: returned
to my body of origin, my domicile: denied entry
on the roster. A running joke forever after.
Sparrow brains huddled in a row and chittered at me
as I limped twenty-six miles to the school nurse
with my palms bleeding human blood,
my cheek and elbows bleeding human blood.
Under me, the only trace of all
my transformations: skinny, scraped-up,
feathered and three-pronged chicken legs.
Amit Majmudar is a diagnostic nuclear radiologist who lives in Westerville, Ohio, with his wife and three children. The former first Poet Laureate of Ohio, he is the author of the poetry collections What He Did in Solitary and Dothead as well as two other poetry collections, four internationally acclaimed novels, an anthology of political poetry, and a translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. Awarded the Donald Justice Prize and the Pushcart Prize, Majmudar’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Best of the Best American Poetry, and the eleventh edition of The Norton Introduction to Literature. A memoir, Twin A, is forthcoming in the United States in 2022. Two novels are forthcoming in India in 2022 as well: an historical novel about the 1947 Partition entitled The Map and the Scissors, and a novel for young readers, Heroes the Color of Dust. He is currently co-creating a graphic novel/web comic, The Kali Yuga Chronicles. Visit www.amitmajmudar.com for more details.