The Mom allows the eight-year-old boy to sit shotgun for the first

time. He watches red cars glint in the sun as they drive.


She tells him he needs to learn a shloka. She’s making him sing it at

Temple Sunday where the incense smoke soaks into his clothes.


The boy didn’t know sitting shotgun came with a price. Mom’s voice

distracts him from the woosh of shiny cars passing by, but he knows

better than to bargain with a voice that stills him.


Yaakundain Duthashaarahaara Davalaa, she sings & he repeats,

sullenly. He repeats as she corrects his duhs & dhuhs. Her voice soothes but he

remembers the lady in Apollo 13 humming her sweet song in the shower.


He is determined not to let beauty lull him into false security. That

mother’s voice could drift out of his reach at any moment. This is

why they teach detachment at Temple.


So he stays sullen as he repeats. Yaakundain Duthashaarahaara Davalaa.


He feigns apathy. Saraswati Bhagava- She interrupts,


bhuh not buh. Herepeats. Saraswati Bhagavati.


He repeats, in his head, until the syllables that are not yet words loop,

until the sounds that are not yet symbols are recited automatically

when his Mom wakes him from the couch to go sleep upstairs.


The song—Yaaveena Varadandamande Takaraa—


creates a sail—Yashwestapad Maasinaa—


of Sanskrit syllables to clutch,

but only in the dark.

Rushi Vyas teaches creative writing at the University of Colorado-Boulder where he is a poetry student in the MFA program. He serves as the Managing Editor of Subito Press and Assistant Managing Editor of Timber Journal.