Incense

         for Sarika Singh
         In a large lecture hall in Denver, she spoke of the lifelong painting of tangkhas – a living with the sacred.  It lifts you, painter or observer, out of dailiness, accepts mortality.
***
      An Indian art, mother of Asia, no longer in India.
      Caves bear witness.
***
      One of the six Indians present said: the caste system is gone.  We have places reserved, in each university, for shudras.  Like America.
      How many of you are of shudra ancestry, she asked?
      No one raised her hand
      How many brahmans?
________
                                        
If you marry a Buddhist
and you are an outcaste
Brahmans burn
are you accepted
incense if you are present
as an equal
are you a shudra
DJ Ambedkar
yes
if you are fighting
avoid your presence
clean up their shit
even a wind’s breath
for opportunity
they did not
no matter how smart
no matter how hardworking
no matter how beautiful
(they might rape you)
you must stand aside
burn incense
ritual
open sewer
they will use force
as in Mississippi
drove Buddhists out
as if there were a hope
of India long centuries
ago
said W.E.B. Dubois
a brahman
burning a big
pile of incense
a bonpyre
that even their ashes
in the Ganga
could be clean

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