On sheepskin mats in our teacher’s basement
we breathe the breath of fire
flex the hara, forcefully expel the breath.
Upstairs the stove hisses and crackles.
Each new sip of air taunts us with the scent of broth
we will not stay to taste. A voice from above
begins to read in Russian, lulling us with stories,
sprinkled with soprano accents—our teacher’s sons
conversing with Babushka from Kiev.
Our teacher, Japanese, speaks German
—atmen ein—dreissig sekunden mehr—
so the other students can understand. At the end
of practice we will chant Ek onkar. Satnam.
And when the German-speakers leave, she
and I will speak English over tea. In shavasana
I chase the scent of soup with a mental
grocery list—onion, garlic, butter,
tomato, cabbage, beet.