to feel the breath, flowing
up the spine, up the neck where the vertebrae click
in the teeth of the ratchet
wheel, where concentration forces spirit upward
on the hinged pawl of perfect
self-control to the crown of the head.
Next the birds come
with their bits of straw and fabric and thread.
In the pose of the standing tree
I am a patient bodhisattva, enduring a spring rain
content to forgo enlightenment
and be reborn again and again in the pose of the downward-
facing dog, inhaling the fecund
April earth with first one then the other nostril
to practice the sacred shifting
of consciousness from mind to mind. In this disciplined
exchange of breath
we train for distance runs at altitude,
incarnations as mountain cats
or Asian trees, our life’s breath finding
a home in every metabolic niche.
Elephant, lotus, monkey, banyan, we bend boughs
and snouts, balancing the ineffable
as it rolls and pitches from throat to lung
to abdomen and out of these
Robin Becker is an associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and serves as poetry editor for the Women’s Review of Books. Her fourth collection of poems, All-American Girl, was published in 1996 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.