Baba’s Asana

Andrés Amitai Wilson

 Man is all symmetrie,
Full of proportions, one limbe to another,
 And all to all the world besides;
 Each part may call the farthest brother,
For head with foot hath private amitie,
 And both with moons and tides.

From George Herbert’s “Man”

His corduroyed knees

of falling leaves collapse

expertly on the bald

head that I like to rub

when we hug.

The old sergeant

rolls up and down

in his ancient fatigues

above the spotted kitchen rug

of Massachusetts dirt and

blood; Massachusetts that the natives

named “many mountains” and he was

nearly as native as they.

Already in his eighties, Baba asks

miniature me—perhaps four and

aflame—what I have eaten for breakfast

on an autumn morning of fuzzy

sweaters and talk-radio hustle.

While mother brews English

Breakfast then scurries off

to desks far away, Baba stays

to demonstrate what he learned

in India and Burma as the other GIs

went mad in opium clouds

or the laps of working women,

he stood as so many mountains; he

stood as warriors assembled, as heroes and their triumphant

Vedic dogs facing up and down on breath’s resilient command.

His lungs and throat would surge full

of Earth-rumbling stardust,

then expel universes back

into the endless.

I doubt Baba ever

killed anyone over there

in World War II. They didn’t let

most blacks kill—confining us

to the cornbread and the patriotic

pots and pans. Then, of course, there’s that legend—

bitter as the alcohol that he had “never even

tried”—of being on leave in Georgia, already

a sergeant with a lapel full of supernova,

sitting arm in arm with Nana on a park bench

when the angry mouths drawled “no

coloreds” and tugged hard at the dark

matter around the stars and stripes.

In a new millennium that he

wouldn’t see, where we lumber

like plastic zombies through

the digital, I—sort of a man now—

roll my spine across floors

and remember.

I have learned that this funny dance

of yolking the disparate

pieces of self to Self is called “yoga,” that,

though words are but blurred signs, fingers

pointing to constellations, but not those shapes

themselves, there are lots of long Sanskrit

scribbles that speak of motion, that yoga

itself is a dead metaphor, etymologically

related to other words that seek

for “to unify” but is only

known twisting bones

and wringing muscle and

and reaching down to earth,

but also up to the sky,

letting the breath

and the heart

do the work.

But on those mornings, I only thought of Baba

doing his weird exercises on the floor—

an old man, blacker than event

horizons—not twisting like an ancient,

but smiling from the black face of my America.

Dr. Andrés Amitai Wilson teaches English, music, and mindfulness at the Roxbury Latin School. His chapbook of poems, Glitter Glue the Slowly Sinking Idols, will be released next year through Alabaster Leaves Press. Andrés is also a session guitarist with numerous credits and the exhausted father of three young children.

Issue 3

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