Vishnu’s Voices

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Photo by Shiva Kumar on

Ready to jump into the hungry abyss,
I stood, silent, upon that old cliff,
my eyes glued to the horizon,
whispering my woes into the wind.

Yet I only almost leapt that day.
For there, swimming aimlessly,
I saw a fish and rubbed my weary eyes.
Its size tripled in that blink.

I, Matsuya, command you yield.
It grew and grew, to the size of clouds.
Are your troubles greater than I?
Search your soul. Must you die?

A great tortoise beneath us groaned.
I, Kurma, dressed in mountains,
grant you my shell on this day,
should you have nothing to wear.

Only mountains, great Kurima? Ha!
A boar greater than the horizon stood.
I, Varaha, sat this world on my tusks with ease.
Take an ounce of strength from me.

A lion-man, blazing fast, fell from its eye,
then ran to me, his fangs bared and bloody.
He ripped off a single claw to hand to me.
I, Narasimha, command you to fight.

I nearly tripped, but a child tugged at my trousers.
Standing upright I looked him in the eye,
only for him to grow far taller than I.
I, Vamana, will not let you fall alone.

I closed my eyes and reopened them, distraught.
A man holding an axe patted my shoulder.
He offered it to me and sneered defiantly.
But I, Parashurama, shall fell your foes instead.

“Enough, enough,” I cried, my head spinning.
Yet it is not enough, a calm voice declared.
A young smiling man sat on the cliff beside me.
I, Rama, will tell you tales until nightfall.

The sound of a flute, clear as the sea,
echoed from across the great chasm.
I thought I heard a voice in the song.
And I, Krishna, shall play you to bed.

Surrounded by these specters, I sat.
I knew not what to do, where to be.
My will to leap had vanished, but I was lost.
As the shadows faded, I heard footsteps.

I, Gautama Buddha, forgive you.
In shock, I spun to face him.
There he stood, his visage peaceful.
But only if you forgive yourself.

A great voice roared out above me.
A horse neighed amidst sounds of fire.
And I, Kalki, order you to go home.
The end is not for mortals to decide.

I felt defeated, but strangely relieved.
Turning, I realized Buddha had gone.
In his place was a sack of ten gold coins.
Bowing my head in apology, I left.

Vishnu, in his many forms, had spoken.
Be it delusion or reality, dream or epiphany,
it had made my problems seem so very small.
I cannot carry a world, but I will at least hold me.

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