My friend,
fate is a potter, cold and cruelly proficient.
He takes a raw
clump of earth—my heart—
and sets it on his terrifying wheel.
Ill fortune he lifts
like a cutting tool and
sets to work.
What he hopes to produce
I cannot tell.
This poem, with a word or two changed, is attributed to Lady Vidya in a well-known anthology.


Two Bhartriharis are known to India. One was a mystical grammarian who wrote an important linguistic treatise, the Vākyapadīya. The other Bhartrihari, a poet, left between two hundred and seven hundred poems. A Chinese Buddhist pilgrim to 7th century India, I-Tsing, noted the name Bhartrihari in his travel Journals. He heard that grammarian and poet were the same man.

Andrew Schelling is a poet and translator, wilderness advocate, and student of persecuted languages. He has published twenty books and lives in the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion, where he teaches at Naropa University.