Pancha Maha-Bhuta

पृथिव्यापस्तेजो वायुराकाशमिति भूतानि
Nyāya Shastra 1:1:13


Akash, Sky


You are not this.
The body you now wear 
will tear like silk.
Khuda spoke, Be—
and you were
a blue expanse, 
sinew moored to bone.
This house of stone
and mortar already falls apart.
Inside your chest
a swan will silhouette against the sun—
Who looks up
whose body flies above, shadow
blackening the earth,
wings beating as a heart? 



Vayu, Air


A flute knifes 
its breath until mid–photic zone
an ink cloud distorts
any sense of shade, or light. 
These boulders weep
and I too have become stone,
igneous, pōhaku singing volcanic 
song, scree pierced 
by airshifts: 
vent and koholā spout,
parasitic zone of ash
in fast dry, and my music 
splintering into sand
of gold, gold sand of coral
and bivalve bones.
The miserere nobis caught 
in a humpback’s cranial sinus
porpoises its tone for miles.
Sprung of darkness:
air and sound.



Agni, Fire


This morning the sun summons green 
into leaves. Come fall, 
they burn in reds, yellows, 
oranges—until, brown,
they release themselves
to dust.
You marry around a flame,
you will burn as an offering in the end.
Your pyre’s trees, woody now,
thick in their past lives’ thickets. 
But for now, light a clay lamp—
At noon your skin darkens
then smolders into white.



Jal, Water


Speak, so this month of monsoon
blows into deluge. Look,
your torn veil cries out
in the shehnai’s voice,
snagged on a thorn or under
Krishna’s foot—that villain. 
The clay pot you carry
on your head he smashes with
a hurled stone, and look,
your sari floods—
Naked footed, you dance 
on the potsherds. The Jamuna
is now swollen, is now dry.
The blue god haunts the air—
a storm gathers as music.
You are a clay vessel that breaks,
sweet water called back to cloud.



Prithvi, Earth


The foot’s drum, a spinning body,
hand molded into breath,
dissolves into carbon, nitrogen, 
oxygen, and phosphorus. 
And what composes the thrum
of the beating heart—
chemical or alchemical? 
What the skin envelops,
a star-nova, a universe expands
and contracts—
Don’t you know this phrase,
this larynx, is clay?
Even the reed at your lips
that drinks your breath
springs from the same soil
that you 
return to.