— By Amit Majmudar
Well yes, I said, my mother wears a dot.
I know they said “third eye” in class, but it’s not
an eye eye, not like that. It’s not some freak
third eye that opens on your forehead like
on some Chernobyl baby. What it means
is, what it’s showing is, there’s this unseen
eye, on the inside. And she’s marking it.
It’s how the X that says where treasure’s at
is not the treasure, but as good as treasure. —
All right. What I said wasn’t half so measured.
In fact, I didn’t say a thing. Their laughter
had made my mouth go dry. Lunch was after
World History; that week was India — myths,
caste system, suttee, all the Greatest Hits.
The white kids I was sitting with were friends,
at least as I defined a friend back then.
So wait, said Nick, does your mom wear a dot?
I nodded, and I caught a smirk on Todd
She wear it to the shower? And to bed? —
while Jesse sucked his chocolate milk and Brad
was getting ready for another stab.
I said, Hand me that ketchup packet there.
And Nick said, What? I snatched it, twitched the tear,
and squeezed a dollop on my thumb and worked
circles till the red planet entered the house of war
and on my forehead for the world to see
my third eye burned those schoolboys in their seats,
their flesh in little puddles underneath,
pale pools where Nataraja cooled his feet.
PICTURE / Sara Caswell-Pearce, “Third Eye,” digital collage made from scanned antique and vintage illustrations.
POEM / Dr. Amit Majmudar, from The New Yorker Aug. 1, 2011 issue
Dr. Amit Majmudar, a diagnostic and nuclear radiologist in Columbus, began a two-year stint as Ohio’s first poet laureate in January 2016. His poem, “Dothead,” first appeared in the Aug. 1, 2011, issue of The New Yorker. Dothead is also the name of the poet’s full-length collection.
Editor’s note: “Dothead” uses what are known as slant rhymes – not perfect rhymes such as “cat” and “hat,” but “freak” and “like,” “treasure” and “measured,” “myths” and “hit.” They are hard to spot because there are no stanza breaks in the lone three-line grouping (all others are couplets) ending with “bed, Brad and stab.” The ending “b” of stab echoes the beginning “b” sounds of bed and Brad. It has the effect of turning the mere sounds of words in combination into music to a listener’s ear – left over from the day when poetry was always presented aloud and brought back to public attention lately in rap and hip-hop music, as well as the slam and “spoken word” genres of poetry. Good slant rhyme can make a poem move forward with a lilting flow without the reader quite knowing how or why.