Sun Salutations with Betrayal and Departure

Although this room is full of moving,
sweating people—all of us lunging forward
or folding ourselves in tangled shapes,
obedient to Sanksrit names we’re told
mean “mountain,” “plank,” “dog”—
downward facing, I feel a sudden anger.
After, I talk with a woman.
For years I’ve called her a friend.
We lean damp against the mirror.
If there were a Sanskrit name for what I am
to her, it would be following flower,
the loyalty of a blossom that opens
beside its colleague on the branch.
We talk of our work. And I sense, the way
spines know the limits of their curvature,
that she has lied to me. I feel the places
where the teacher touched my face with oil
while I lay on the mat like a sleeper, insensate.
Months from now, my friend will explain
the truth is a limb that can bend,
words too a flexibility, contortion
learned through daily practice.
What else should I say?—that soon
others will try to break me like a small bone
in the foot. Soon she will not place a hand
on the hunched sadness of my shoulder.
I will be left to learn the correct pose
of warrior for myself, heels aligned,
belly tightened as if waiting for a punch.
If there were a Sanskrit name
for what she will do by doing nothing
to help me, it would be passive river.
It would be silent moon of cowardice.
It would be kneeling hyena with averted gaze.
Or, put unbeautifully, she could have warned
that others were trying to hurt me.
And there are injuries no stretching can undo—
we live with the twinge in the back.
Months from now, I won’t say good-bye,
my leaving not marked by a mallet
dragged on the edge of a singing bowl,
harmonics emerging from the empty
slope of the vessel. The divine
in me won’t bow to the divine in her.
There will be no pressing together of palms.

Copyright © 2017 Jehanne Dubrow. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.