Both Poison and Fine Wine

Author: John Lucas Kovasckitz

Written from Jodhpur, extension of “We Shall Overcome”.


The wheel of human suffering
begins and ends and starts again with ignorance;
and ignorance can be a choice,
for I know in my spirit that I have chosen not to see you.
I have spun the wheel with my eyes closed.


This land makes me uncomfortable to the core.
There are no good hiding spots -
for you or for me.
Here you have no modesty,
and I am not quick enough to avert my eyes.


I have seen your nakedness;
why did you expose yourself to me?

I have seen your hunger,
your thirst,
your sickness.
I have smelled the reek of your poverty -
your filthy hands have grasped mine,
refusing to release.


Is my life worth more than yours?
I know the answer to win applause,
but I know the true response of my heart.

For if this were not the case,
my conscience could no longer float in the sea of my guilt.


But you beg not for the paltry coins of my guilt,
for guilt requires only a meager sum for relief.

No, you seek a ransom -
the fortune of my awareness,
my presence,
my very being.

You ask for all that I have to give;
for awareness is the road to love,
and love requires The Path of Suffering.

I have seen without Seeing;
to be aware is to suffer.


I do not know if I can leave the comfort of my home behind.


This land makes my inheritance of perceived righteousness seem a curse.
I did not ask to be born into the false promised land,
on the winning side of this invisible border drawn in the dirt.


I have taken pride in my righteousness,
but is this blamelessness in the sight of others
merely the privilege of my unearned inheritance of violence?

Starvation has never required my hands to steal,
or to harm another in fear of someone also hungry or afraid.


Oh God, why must you have come as a beggar?
You have shown me my own nakedness,
my own violence,
my own hunger,
my own thirst.

I am a false king from a false kingdom.


Oh God, I am willing to see.
Spit on your filthy hands and rub the blindness from my eyes.
Kneel with me on the banks of the Ganges,
and we’ll sift for the gold left behind by those gone before -
small as babies when they’re thrown back to the water.


The river is murky with death,
but this is holy water -
both poison and fine wine:
the wine of brotherhood.

Dip my body in the waters before the pyre
burn the ignorance of my flesh.


For in this water I am you and you are me.