by Michael David Sowder

The eighth vowel of the Sanskrit alphabet.
Under this letter in Sir Monier Monier-Williams’s
Sanskrit-English dictionary (1891),
I stop at the word,
Seer, poet, sage.

I have heard that seven seers, ṛṣis, received the sacred vedas,
hymns of perigee and apogee.
And I have heard that seraphim touched
Isaiah’s tongue with a burning ember from the altar of God. 
That Moses stepped into a cloud of fire that said,
I am I am I am.
Teresias, Homer avers, turned female, to read the leaves of prophesy.
And no one listened to Cassandra, murmuring of Agamemnon’s mariticide.
The Baptist munched on locusts, spat out carapaces and lizard feet,
washing the new apostles, prophesying The End Of Times.
To Mary, Gabriel brought rumors of a son,
and shepherds gazed into angelic theophanies.
While eastward, Nagarjuna, Sorcerer of Emptiness, stole
from writhing serpents
lost revelations of the Buddha.
In Hira cave Muhammed prayed and fasted,
fasted and prayed until Gabriel held up a veil with letters of gold
and commanded Muhammed to Read!
Joan heard the call and began sharpening her father’s sword.
Teresa uncovered the secret in seven mansions of the heart.
And old blind Milton in Book III presented the Birth of the One Light. 
Later, in upstate New York, Joseph Smith read gold tablets with magic spectacles.
While Whitman, in Manhattan, set the type
for the New American Bible.

And at exactly the same time, Sri Ramakrishna tracked God to center of the atom,
but found his tent pitched in the landscape of the heart.

Forgive them.

They sought to write the music that they heard.
So who will be the seer of our days,
as we spin our planet into flame?
Who can hear the music of the turning spheres?
Think this through carefully, Friend,
the only ṛṣi now is you.


Poet, essayist, yoga and meditation teacher, Michael David Sowder writes about wilderness, fatherhood, yoga, and spirituality. His books include The Empty Boat, House Under the Moon, A Calendar of Crows, and Whitman’s Ecstatic Union. You can find his work in such places as American Life in Poetry, Five Points, Sufi Journal, New Poets of the American West, Pilgrimage, The New York Times Online, Shambhala Sun, Poetry Kanto, The Bombay Review, Muse India, and elsewhere. In 2014, he was a Fulbright Fellow to India. ऋ is from a collection of poems in progress, Learning the Language of God, each poem based on a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Image: Robert Katzki