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
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.
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