Yama died, stepped across the divide of the pasture;
there he sat on the cool grass, drank the fresh pressed Soma
as he thought of his sister Yami he left behind: she was
a lover he had denied, his twin of destiny /desire –
they lay together in their mother’s womb – man/woman.
Her flesh he shared, her breath his, the hair that
blew on his face as she bent to pick a flower,
he had gathered into curls of order on her neck,
the down on her neck he had seen bristle on cold evenings
that they as children spent alone on the banks of the river.
Their beautiful mother the dear daughter of Tvastr,
the free spirit of the skies could not be made to yield to
banalities of parenting: changing diapers, cleaning snot,
spooning messy drools of porridge. She complained
she had perpetual headache and that light swam behind her eyes.
After bearing Yama Yami she refused to lie with her husband,
Vivasvat – the glorious Sun; he was too radiant, gave her a migraine.
She darkened the chambers in her palace with thick curtains,
desultorily spent the afternoons sipping cool chalices of Soma
as her neglected children sat in the cold porch outside her room.
Yama and Yami the inseparable twins were the only mortals
in the world of gods – blood and clay, sweat and desire
that made and unmade them at birth. One day was like another
as she baked bread and stirred soup for him – she felt
alone as life passed by, angry that he never touched her.
Eyes rheumy with age she sat in the dark kitchen
not quite recognising the man her brother became –
shifting on his feet, looking into the blue depths of the sky
beyond the radiance that their father shed on the earth.
One day she brought him a kernel of pumpkin soup
and found him dead, the breeze from the mountains
on the skin that she knew so well. It had never happened before-
Death. Gods didn’t know what to do with a dead man.
But Yama knew, lived for this death
to step into a world that was left for him to create.
No Viswakarma could do that convincingly:
you should have lived to die, have the fire claw-singe your flesh,
feel the body mix with the earth, eyes with the sun,
breath with the wind. Death calls for compassion,
to deliver the dead you must be compassionate like Yama.
(Yama and Yami were twins, born to Saranyu and Vivasvat or Surya. Saranyu was the daughter of Tvastr or Hiranyagarbha, she was a wild and free spirit who could not be pinned to domesticity of marriage and child raising. Yama was the first mortal to experience death . This poem is drawn from the allusions to Yama and Yami in the Rig Veda (10.13, 10.14, 10.15) where Yama is still a human persona and has not been mythologised into the Lord of Death.)