For Kellen

Tenth consonant of the Sanskrit alphabet,
pronounced like the ny  in banyan.

Monier-Williams’s 1891 Sanskrit-English dictionary
lists the following words beginning with ñ,
(none found in existing works—only in lexicographer’s lists):

A singer, a heretic, a jingling sound, an ox, the planet śukra (Venus). 

On his way to Kāśi, holy city, astride a white ox, horns painted blue
and jingling with bells,
the heretic sings of the planet śukra.

Call me Śiva, Call me Hijra,
Call me Lucifer, Circe, Crow,
Call me Ishmael, Hecate, Kālī,
Call me Coyote, Loki, Toad.
I am the return
of all you’ve cast off.
I carry the jewel you covet most.
Will you open the gates of the city for me?
Look up!
Śukra, the morning star, lights my zigzag way.

Photo by ADITYA PRAKASH on Unsplash

Michael David Sowder

Michael David Sowder is a lifelong yoga and meditation teacher and student of Sanskrit. He travels frequently to India, where in 2014, lived as a Fulbright Scholar. His essays and poems have appeared in The New York Times Online, Five Points, American Life in Poetry, Shambhala Sun (Lion’s Roar), Green Mountains Review, Poet Lore, Sufi Journal, Birmingham Poetry Review, New Poets of the American West, Pilgrimage, and elsewhere. A professor of English at Utah State University, he teaches poetry-writing and courses in the History and Philosophy of Yoga in the Religious Studies and Yoga Studies Program.