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Ballad of the Bourbon Man — A poem for Torah Portion Shemini

Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication
Leviticus 10:9

I didn’t drink, for no reason at all
for more decades than I can remember.
I think it was a reverse peer pressure thing

as I’m the kind of person who you could
tell to breathe and I would insist no, no
I get my oxygen in my own way.

So when I saw the text prohibiting
drinking wine that will lead to intoxication
I began to reconsider Judaism altogether.

My goal is never to become intoxicated, but
I’m a light-weight and I have to take a nap after
just walking near the wine shelves at Trader Joe’s.

No, I discovered the joys of the sacred beverages
in my thirties, skipping right over whatever they
do in college to get the job done.

I approach it with a yearning to know
what tastes like what, and how it was made
and why it’s better when it’s older.

Since that first Kahlúa and Cream which
broke my personal prohibition in a Las Vegas casino
for no reason at all, I moved on to beer.

I bypassed senseless years of Bud Light and found myself
in a Lambic brewery in the city of Brussels
where a cat followed us around the self-guided tour

as any self-respecting cat would if they had
any idea who I was. I moved on to wine and
eventually found myself in the Loire Valley

where I assume I had the best wine that existed.
I won’t mention my first wine-tasting experience
outside of Solvang, California when I

drank everything they put in front of me
and then found myself surrounded by miniature horses
and streets filled with giant wooden shoes.

I’m a bourbon man now. I’ve sampled it in the
holy-land of Kentucky, and its cousins
in the greenest pastures of Ireland where

the angels take their share.
This is all to say I am relieved to know
there are times to do this, and times to not.

Like Aaron’s sons who didn’t know the difference
and brought their strange fire into the Tent
intoxicated with confidence.

There are consequences to doing what
you shouldn’t. Know what they are or
the Biggest Fire will take you away.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 25 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “The Tokyo-Van Nuys Express” (Poems written in Japan – Ain’t Got No Press, August 2020) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

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