BY JAN HAAG

INTRODUCTION + POETRY + ESSAYS + MUSIC + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART [ Read 1595 lines ]

HAAG’S BIO

ART & POETRY - ACCUMULATIONS



ONE HUNDRED AND ONE

POEMS

Collected 1991



INDEX


* * *


A CONSCIENCE ACCOUNTING


Curiosity eaten migrants, a cantata
of old velvets of darker-than-mossy-green shroud chic
nacerous white baby’s breath sprays in cinematic
spots down below the delicacy where mixed seco
candle wax drips tears with running blood. Mystical Mu
illuminates grotesquely bubbling phenomena.
Egregious energies scorch pitiful flesh of taut
neti neti Indians who survived a mini
creation blast to become iniquitous, fine-drawn,
each-hand-out, kindly people, toothless, smiling, trembling,

aggressive. In horror I shrink from long, hermetic,
crumpled fingers picking swollen limbs or quickly go,
coining reasons. Or not. Beneath my bosom-clutched purse,
only just breathing, knowing I am he and he sees,
under my pale urgency, the horror which panic
negligently accepts as living proof that, “Si, si,”
times advance and feelings blow to proportions too fine.
I hide beneath the crumpled, verdant velvet where non-
noisy babies breathe, eaten by curious antic
gruesomeness, gently languorous, loathing you and me.




A TOWN CALLED BOULEVARD

A sign pointing to the left said: “Boulevard, Population 12,006”

I

It was one block wide and forty miles long, all the inhabitants
hung out on a line like laundry, like clothespins put up for shooting

at with a twenty-two. Strung out so long and so thin and so far you
would say it almost doesn’t exist, that town called Boulevard.

II

O God, if a town called Boulevard can’t make me serious,
if it can’t divide me from dualism, what can? Two streets
and a yard of grass between them running down the planes
of the desert, planted with palms -- that’s a boulevard all right.
A strip of difference, a strip of nature between two concrete
lanes of flattened over earth -- and they named the town that!

I hear echoes in my head of poems and voices and cries and kyries,
screams about being run down, chased between concrete streets.
I’m that roll of grass between the paving that keeps the sky
from the earth, that keeps the earth from sprouting green trees, from sprouting
palms right up through the floor boards of Fords
and Toyotas. O yes, I am that creature that keeps the macadam
down, the tar in place, the LaBrea bubbling. I am that creature
that brought the oil that built the road that ran through the desert
that once was nowhere and is now a town called Boulevard.

If I could block out the voices, cut off the Hydra-headed monster
that forms my soul, forms yours, if I could unpave the world,
untemper the sword, replant the universe, reconstitute the oil
back to the chlorophyll that fed the dinosaurs that roamed the earth
and are gone, that roamed the earth with us and are gone like we
will be gone when the town called Boulevard will be palmed on both sides
with dates, no doubt, and coconuts and in the middle will run streams
of celestial harmonies and all the voices now raised in cacophony
will even out into a smooth running unity that will mesh into one cry,
one psalm, one blade, elegantly divided with one back and one front,
one up and one down, one zone beveled ridge down the center,
one difference between the right and the left, then the
town called Boulevard will be a gas station on the way to Paradise.

III

A lady in white and buff and hibiscus strolled across town,
eating dates, whistling at the palms, she walked right up
off the boulevard into the cotton-soft sky.




A TRICK OF THE MIND


I saw a dead bird. How still I’ll lie one day.
Nobody is devoted to me and I to nobody neither.

The concourse of my life lies outside the normal
course of everything.

When I participate it is so wholly
unconsciously that, coming to, I stand outside the event,
no longer remembering, thinking

nobody was ever devoted to me and I to nobody neither.



ARIZONA DESERT


I walked off the highway,
back behind the beer-bottle line,
among the rabbit tracks and the sidewinder trails,
back in the winter sand -- barefoot --

looking out for miles, beyond eternity
and the grey hills bronzed by the setting sun,
in the wind and the silence, wishing we were gone
and our shacks had fallen to ruin

so our grandchildren could hear tales
of the settlers who tried to make it here
when the land was still untamed,
and who left

because they didn’t want to make a garden
out of the grandeur of God’s desert
or an oasis out of the sand.
People are not the only owners of the land,

nor trees the only expression of God --
so are devil’s claw and the tumbleweed,
the creatures of the night and the big-horned sheep.
The whip-tailed lizard sticks out his tongue
at our presumption to garnish the land.

He laughs when our wells run dry
and the moon sets from an empty sky.



BALLAD


After she met with love and regret,
she sighed the day long.
She mooned in the night, a beautiful sight,
so softly singing this song.

During the day, she slept by the way,
her trials and her tears made her strong,
a beautiful sight in the dead of the night,
so softly singing this song.

At dawn she would croon goodbye to the moon,
laugh with the sun, beyond wrong,
and sit late in the dusk, scented by musk,
so softly singing this song.

As the season went round, she altered her gown,
a new love for her came along.
Now mother and daughter sit by the water,
so softly singing this song.



BLUE


The Blue-headed God with the Golden Trunk --
they call him Ganesh in India,
or Gajendra, King of the Elephants --

the Blue Umbrella of Pink Flowers
spread out like a Canopy imitating the Sky --
can they be Clouds waiting for the Touch of God?

The Blue Nile in a distant Land I have only heard about --
does it wander just like a River, between
Banks of Sand and Rock and Silt?

Are there any Trees? Yes, they say, in the Jungle --
Jungle of my heart, where the Blue-headed Elephant
walks and the Pink Flowers bloom in the Sky.



CENSER


We lay in the red and gold light
of warped moired silk shades to shun
the curious, also the night,
nibbling flowers, thinking it fun
to admit we acted as one
in the dark, sanctioning wild schemes,
inhaling the incense cotton,
the thick-scented smoke of old dreams.

On a pale pallet under bright
dawn, while the immaculate sun
kept walled reality in flight,
we smoked out hope, making her run.
Not old enough to be clean, none
too happy with life or sweet creams,
we blotted the quip and the pun,
the thick-scented smoke of old dreams.

We rose after hours in tight
spaces, tracing the fuming gun
of hard candy fancies, a kite,
a drum; nowhere a buttered bun,
even for breakfast. Like Trajan,
we began to hide behind teams,
wondering why we’d only won
the thick-scented smoke of old dreams.

Now we stand at midday, all’s done
and old, knowing stark, silent screams
can do nothing, only beckon
the thick-scented smoke of old dreams.



CHALLENGER


Seven angels spread their wings,
took their places, hovered, watched.
Eleven children wept by
wisteria not in bloom,
lilacs not in flower. There
is no purple, there are no
tears. “O, Angels of the loom,

weave my mother back into
the warp of time, slow the drift
of hadrons to trace again
my father’s face, for there is
no purple, but too many,
many tears.” Leaving relics
of flesh, a bit of bone for

the mourning world to dissect
with precision, bury with
pomp, they danced off ecstatic,
one perfect Bang, electron
to electron, dispersed in
the cool wind. At zero, plus
seventy-four, marking time,

having slowed down to speed up,
eyeing the peace of space, blue,
deep, the white bullet, tagged
by destiny to explore
polar regions of the sun,
shattered. Whizzing atoms shot
fragmented past facets of

emptiness searing human
images across the clear,
icy void, the nothingness
of free Bubbles of silence.
“O, astronaut, astronaut,
hide yourself so cleverly
among the moons that you cannot

be found. Become the marching
universe, become every
particle of it. Let those
who look for you not find you.
O, astronaut, astronaut,
scatter your molecules, merge
with the quarks, be our vanguard.

Send us out, at our choosing,
to explode among the stars.”




CHOICE


I

In the beginning was wo-man.
Then, due to a temperature
change during gestation, came man.
His pistil outside, he could plant
seed, but he couldn’t reproduce

himself. He made things. Frantically
filling up space, everywhere,
taking the air that had been used
for breathing as breath for his things,
he left the world gasping. For some

time the people, while they lived and
reproduced, left men to play with their
things. But, soon, men made things too
dangerous to be allowed to
continue with their violent /

foolish / destructive games. People
hadn’t minded men wanting to
hack at each other with swords, or
shoot each other with guns, but when
nuclear bombs endangered the

lives of the people, laws were made
restricting and regulating
their play.


II

Attempts were made to civilize
men. To make them more gentle, kind,
intelligent, like the people.
But because of something deeply
askew in the nature of man,
few could

learn to be loving, nurturing,
as people could. Few could be taught
control of their anger and their
egocentricity. Now the
people, having learned how to breed
and clone

themselves to produce only true
people, restricted men’s breeding.
Nonetheless, pitying man as
an endangered species, some were
allowed to copulate. The best
seed sires

were kept in posh zoos where people,
who wanted to risk their lives (or
sanity) in heroine-ic
attempts to breed gentle men, could
volunteer. Once or twice a strain
would seem,

for a few generations, to
stabilize. Civilizing seemed
possible.


III

But even those few men allowed
to sow seed persisted in their
insatiable necessity
to make things. They kept littering
the world. Therefore, an old-fashioned
custom was

revived: the Potlatch. Each year the
people took the things men made and
burned them so that the cities, fields,
woods would not be cluttered. Men wept
at this, but the people could not
bear the mess,

the plastic bottles, the gewgaws,
the “necessities.” They thought in
time they could teach men to delight
in simplicity and beauty,
but weak strains would not allow the
desired

characteristics to firm up
in the genes. The Potlatch worked well.
Even the people made things to
burn. Then one Potlatch eve there was
a great hullabaloo. The men
sent a troop

to the people to beg them to
let them preserve one of their things:
begging on grounds of usefulness,
beauty, mostly on grounds of greed:
how much thought, effort, cash it had
taken to

build a supercomputer. But
the people stood firm, knowing the
brains of the few in the zoos thought
far too much, invented far too
many things already, without
computers.

They knew it was unhealthy to
calculate so much. It fed a
restless, insatiable fury,
just as power drills and ringing
cash registers bred violence
in those who

spent all their time in building or
selling, as if there were nothing
on earth to do but con, build, shop
and kill. So the people said: “Burn
it all. Keep the earth clean. Look at
the crystal.

Admire the stream, the earth below
and the clouds overhead. See the
world. Enjoy it.”


IV

But always the men in the zoos
attacked each other. A vote was
called. It was decided to let
them eliminate themselves. This
distressed the volunteer mothers,
because many

had grown fond of the male children.
But in the end, finding the genes
hopelessly contaminated
by auto-exacerbated
psychosis, the people voted
to let them all,
like the dodo bird, flightless and
fearless, forgettable, goose step
into history.


V

Now, as in the beginning, peace
and harmony reign on earth,
the people, serenely, bring forth
only after their kind, the whole
paradisian universe
sings hosannas to

the Goddess for the elegant
lack of things. A few people make
a few beautiful things which are
burned each year at the Potlatch. Fine
artists, like the peaceful people,
as plentiful as

leaves on the deciduous trees,
live their lives graced by nature’s strict
temporality, joy.



CICADA


The cicadas emerge upward, hideous, crawling,
underground
creatures, like sickness on a tree, moving
with their claws, pinching, clinging
to the bark. Ascending fence posts,
or any soft-barked, upright thing,
they wait as hump-backed
shadows, silent, so silent,
still, so still. Not
a sound,
not
the slightest sound as the brown shell-back
splits open, lets a new head, a second consciousness,
enlightenment emerge. Greyish, pale, the pupa quivers.
An infinity passes as, like a fiddlehead fern, a green delicacy
rises, a question mark from the slit in the mustard-brown, scaled
armor: Self will? Gravity reversed? Necessity? Gossamer, the color
of unripe apples, gathered stumps emerge, ferried on inevitability, the legs,
doubled, crossed in prayer on its corrugated chest. Still no sound. Only rising,
the question rising. Now the wings extended, stretch out, open down, slowly,
stately, trembling like the night-blooming cereus. The cicada stands hovering
upon its first body’s corpse, freed now from a house that seems too small,
too dense, ugly, restricted to have contained such wings, the awesome
potential for flight. It rests and rests, not a flutter, only the unfolding;
no movement, except a shimmer of retreat from my stroking. The wings
darken, a pattern of tan, brown, black, like the pottery of the Anasazi,
clarifies on its back. From green its stumps turn transparent, black
veins appear. The wings begin to stiffen -- they become filaments,
like the dragon fly’s, with color only at the shoulder. How soon
will it fly? All night on my straw hat, it rests unmoving. Silent.
At dawn motionless. Through the morning unmoving. Then
I find it on the floor. Only at noon I think, “It needs a leaf,
to stand on, to nibble, to gather strength for its flight.”
By its wings I place it outside my screen where
it clings. I bless it, blessed by witnessing
a transformation I can only long for.
No second body is vouchsafed me.
When I’ve done my practice
the cicada is gone. A hum
like electric impulses
buzzes through
the universe,
wrapping
Gaia
with
a

mesh of awareness.

For Helen Hawley for a cicada body from Australia. For David Hannauer for a cicada, body and soul, from the Gila.


CO-AUTHOR


Wander the rug merchant’s shop.
See hues of browns and reds and
blues, patterns of guls, hooks,
gardens, heaven and earth woven
with symbols wild as the runes.

Women sit on the burning sands,
or wrapped high beside the snow
fed springs, weaving, and carry
their looms from the mountains,
down from Tashkent, down to the

plains, and up again in summer,
from Baluchistan, Isfahan, Fars,
patterns of earth and branches,
physics and philosophy in umber
and indigo, crimson and tan. A

history of the world, infinity,
stretches from your feet worked
in pile. Tread softly. Admire
the colors, praise the weaving,
the time, the pattern, the rugs.



CONQUISTADORS


O, remember ancient Rome where Romans sat
numinous under their conquest of the world,
queerly troubled by far blue Picts and black cold Celts,
unduly craving more land, more fealty.
Ikaros fell blue and blazing silver from
sky and sun and soaring. Does anyone need
the prick of a sword? Won’t we all expire soon
alone? Will we be more attractive with two
dorsal fins? -- with pocked purple eyes? With warheads
ordering evolution, might we take a
restful stroll with the brontosaurus? Pyrrhus,
surely you quipped for Greece, for Rome and for us.



COURAGE


At fifty-five I begin to see the necessity of courage and the lie.

For years now I have been asking people about death -- mostly contemporaries, but some older, some younger. I find almost universally that, like me, people would prefer lying in their graves, asleep for eternity, no longer having to cope.

The consensus is, it (life) is not worth it, but either they’re 1) afraid to die (Are you afraid of going to sleep?) or 2) find it (life) interesting enough, in spite of the pain, to stick around to see what happens next. A few hypers -- like the lovers of greed and lust -- keep themselves so busy exercising their powers they don’t think about now -- or later.

So here we all are. And it’s burdensome on the rest of us for you to act like a victim, to seem pathetic, unhappy, depressed. Keep up a front of good cheer. Don’t form anxiety in your neighbor’s breast. They long for rest, just like you. We’re all sad and in pain, but let’s laugh about this joke of a world.

You’d think if God were going to think up a world, He/She/It would do a better job than this. HSI could have, when creating humans, made a happy, loving creature full of constant joy and helpfulness, tested by good cheer instead of pain. HSI could have had us test one another by happiness not hatred.

O, I see how the pain functions: you test me, I test you, and it goes round robin. “Our finest hour” comes out in war, earthquake, famine, flood. But it could have been different. Or we could tell the truth: we could admit our love of war, pain, disaster, the opportunity to show off our courage, demonstrate our magnanimity -- if only for an hour.

Ever met anyone who got rich and wanted to move closer to his fellows? O, many send money from a distance, from behind their high walls and gardens. But nobody wants a homeless human, especially not with a starving baby, squatting under their rose bushes. Nor would one with a billion bucks in the bank pay her an “excessive” wage -- say enough to feed herself and her babe -- to pick the roses, dethorn them and put them in a vase. It would spoil her character, raise her expectations, make her love and trust a fellow human. What DO the rich tell themselves when they see people starving in the streets? What excuse do I use?

It could have been different. So the last recourse is to admit we like to do what we are doing. We enjoy the earth the way it is -- or we would change it. So remain of good cheer. Don’t haunt your family and friends with anxiety. They, too, would just as soon be peacefully asleep in their caskets.

Make everyone’s life as cheerful and pleasant as you can. Make your own cheerful and pleasant. The goal of life is death; we’ll get there soon enough and sleep gratefully forever. Lie still, lie quietly, no one asked you to tell the truth.




* * *


DEVAYANI USES GAFFUR’S FORM

GAFFUR’S FORM, AVIARY, CAUTION, CHANTING, HOMELESS, GIFTS, SUFI, TREASURE, URUMQI, ZEN


GAFFUR’S FORM


Everything means something to you;
The dying flowers,
The newness of the year.
A red dress.
Nancy’s laughter. Norma’s chanting.
Water flowing, wide, swift,
Silent as silk, then breaking over
Stones, rushing toward shale and sea,
Places you’ve never been, but of which you also dream.

Today you slept. When you woke
remembrance lingered.
This too meant something. The dream which woke you
Left you satisfied
In desires you no longer have. You smiled,
Turned back into the down. But it had gone,
As villages flee beyond the train’s window,
As the Queen of the Night closes to the day,
As a jet flies into the sun, as the kitten
pauses, sun-dappled before dandelions,
But runs on.

Moments held in the eye,
So that even you, Devayani, imagine
In this darling landscape
Eros lovingly choosing his arrow,
The leaf’s shadow passing over the kitten,
Fountains plashing in courtyards never seen.
The night-flower’s brief scent.



AVIARY


Birds of paradise sit golden, blue and orange
in the gardens of the Angels, thick-stalked,
tall and juicy. A thousand blooms spring
from one plant, with leaves broad and long.
O note, Devayani, how thick grow the flowers.

The leaves and the stalks grow thick, choking, turning
brown, until a human hand clips the birds
of paradise, controls the leaves and trims each plant.
Then each remaining plumaged bird sings with the fullest throat,
shimmers in light, preens itself on life.

Note, O Devayani, when you sing to sing each wild note,
to sing the order and progression, to remember
in each tamed note the beauty of the wild.



CAUTION


The hills of the Angels’ City
stand forth sharp as a silhouette
under the clouds,
under the smoke.
Sometimes the sun shines through
like the beam of a crystal laser.
They say, O Devayani, the beam of a laser
can touch the moon,
coherent light shines on
beyond Andromeda.
Even beyond the boundaries of the heart,
it shines on.
So much clarity,
O Devayani, so much clarity for we who live
on the hills, in the clouds, in the smoke
would blind our two eyes
and make them one.



CHANTING


Her back as straight as a rule,
her repose as solid as stone
she sits in the middle of the music
which makes the bell hum,
which resonates the drum.

Her song the murmuring of bees,
the sough-soughing of pines --
O Devayani, such peace!

Listen to the grey nun
sitting in the middle of the music,
each luminous note,
an infinitely reflecting pearl,
a node of Indra’s net.

Feel the waves of the music
as they pass the barrier of silence.
O such peace!

O Devayani, can there be such peace for me?



GIFTS


The dead leave us their gifts.
O Devayani, don’t you find,
now that your mother is dead,
you are kinder, sweeter, like Mother?

Don’t you find, now that James is dead,
you are more generous, loving toward people,
like James who had infinite charm?

Don’t you find, now that Auntie is dead,
that you long for the company of a timid,
old lady to lead among the flowers talking
of the leaf’s hue and the petal’s form?

You have never inherited wealth you say,
but what of the infinite fortune left by souls
shedding their weight, dissolving into light?

Those useful human traits, Devayani, shed
because of their weight, take on your corporeal form,
making it lighter for the rest of the journey.
The wealth of knowledge left by love,

absorbed by love, makes you lighter
and closer to death,
closer to leaving a fortune

to those who willingly assume the burden
of learning. O Devayani, accept the traits
and the learning, grow lighter, lighter,
eagerly shedding the weight
that binds you to ignorance,
the corporeal form.
Spend your inherited fortune lavishly,

spend it on friends, spend it on lovers,
spend it on family, share it with Shiva,

go lightly into death.



HOMELESS


The tea warms the hands if you clutch the cup.
If you enfold the cup in your cold hands
the heat of the tea will warm your fingers.

O Devayani, even thus
if you hold a kitten or child close
they will warm your hands,
touch your heart.

But if you set the tea on the table,
if you keep the cup on its saucer,
if you buy a table on which to keep the cup
and the saucer, you need lace to cover the table,

and a house of infinite rooms
where the babe and the kitten are not welcome,
the babe less than the kitten.

Then the tea cups are too fragile
to wrap your hands around them,
the tea too thin to warm your heart
or your hands. The kitten
bolts and the babe dies in a house
of infinite room.



SUFI


In Poona you met a Sufi from Uzbekistan,
curly-haired and handsome,
dressed in a long black gown.
Remember, Devayani, sitting on the lawn
in the rose garden at his feet,
he drank sweet tea,
and offered you one cup.

He told you a story, Devayani,
which haunts you still.
Was it a question, or was it an answer?
A woman standing in the middle of a river in flood,
holds her baby.
She has a choice: to drown with the baby,
or to stand on the baby and keep her head
above water.

Was it a question or was it an answer?
Remember, O Devayani, try to remember.



TREASURE


The rain falls from the sky,
the smallest seed shoulders
the earth aside.

It is not lost in the darkness,
it is not lost in the soil,
in the mud or the muck,

it is not harmed by the rain,
nor frightened by the wind.
The smallest seed in the earth

is warm, O Devayani, warm
at its mother’s breast.

You, too, O Devayani, have only to lie
in the mud, to touch the earth,
to hear the heartbeat of your mother.

Do not be afraid of the mother of darkness.
The lotus sleeps in the wind and the rain,
the Solar Scope sleeps in the dirt.

Buried in the earth like a seed,
the Solar Telescope mirrors
the source of heat, light, life.

Sleep in the wind and the rain,
O Devayani.

Sleep on the earth.
Sleep under trees.

What is most precious greets
the wind, greets the rain.
Greet the wind,
greet the rain.

Become as valuable as the Scope,
as a diamond deep in the mind
flashing with fire.

Fire springs from each fire in the firmament,
each seed of light in the sky.



URUMQI


Let me winter here beside the birds
in a pomegranate tree whose vermilion fruit
hangs as globes from a jester’s
cap -- in Urumqi, farthest from all
the oceans.

Let me scratch dry earth, pluck small seeds, watch
helpless heaven gather rain. O Devayani, pray down
the moon from the western sky and die
complete, God’s light,
God’s whisper.

In a sigh of ruby light, remembered
golden dawns, through sea searching
streams and bare harsh rock, metaled black
and brown, where the crust of the earth thrusts
up, harsher than the moon, wander

farther than Urumqi from earth’s
oceans, man’s delight. Do they dance
in Urumqi, too? O Devayani, do they dance
so far from the blue, the sea, the sky?
Are there oases and gardens, roses, fruit?

Does the vermilion bird warble her
song for the bright blossom
in the pomegranate tree? O Devayani,
rest your head, winter, a bird in paradise,
a thought of God, complete, content.



ZEN


Do not think of the clouds of yesterday,
or the winds,
do not imagine the love that might have been.
It is here, Devayani, O Devayani,
in the golden floor,
the clouded window pane,
the sun rising.
And if in the garden you watch
carefully, Devayani,
a seed domes the earth.



* * *



DIVORCE III


It’s a setting free, you know,
it’s a turning round, a letting go,
it’s a dance, done modern style.
It’s a change, quite small, from day to day
for other loves, others gone.

It’s a little training for death.
You’ll be happy when you’re eighty,
you know, having had a little experience of letting go
from day to day, of others gone.

There will be others’ love.
There will be others gone.
Divorce is two
a voice is won.



DIVORCE V


I opened my hand, the bird flew off
I opened my heart, and all flew in
I opened my eyes, the world was mine

No bird did not sing for me
No heart did not beat for me
No eyes were closed against me

This world was mind, could have been thine



ENCOURAGEMENT


Grinning and groaning, but grueling the work,
welcome and well done, warms the boss,
flying and fighting, first every night,
never nod, never lie,
cover your cries, and accrue your time
tentatively, non tempered, trade while you can.
Remember melodies re-emerge from loss.



THE FACTS


There are approximately three-
quarters of a ton of termites
for every person on earth. They
eat wood and produce methane gas.
Methane is increasing in earth’s
atmosphere. Could be the paddies
of rice eaters, could be the swamps

of the whooping crane. Could it be
man’s accumulating garbage?
Japan’s entire four-million book
national library can be
recorded on a chip hardly
bigger than a grain of sand. Lose

it on a beach -- who would know? Makes
you wonder which grain of sand Blake
was talking about. Who knows what’s
encoded in the particles
created by seven trillion,
two hundred sixty-eight billion,
five hundred million generous

pounds of termites, nibbling? “They could
take us over,” my father says.
“Gas us,” I add, remembering
we weigh approximately one
hundred sixty-nine thousand, eight
hundred fifty pounds less than did

some fully grown brachiosaurs.



* * *


FAME

FAME, ACE OF CUPS, DREAM OF THE MARBLE BRIDGE

FAME


Greta Garbo turned 80.

My father (79)
thought she was Gloria Swanson:
“Talks about health foods.”

My mother (78)
thought she was Ingrid Bergman:
“Married that Italian.”

I (51), who ate
health foods and had walked
the beach with Rossellini,

knew she “wanted to be alone.”



ACE OF CUPS


I

Fame, Greek: Speak

A

I thought being a famous author would mean
associating with people the way I do with books:
I read a book, love it, I do not need to talk to it.
I have no desire to meet its author.
Of course, I might entertain the slightest daydream,
but in actuality I have met enough authors --
and had nothing to say to them.
Embarrassed I stand, tongue-tied.
I do not care about their frustrations or frugality.
What they have to say to me they said in their book.
My only curiosity: to read their next book.

B

Now I realize, to be a famous author you’re expected to meet others,
to be fascinating, fascinated, curious, to have questions, give answers.
I have none of these. What I have to say I said in my book.
For the rest, I am mute, inconsequential, alone, silent.
If I have more to say, I’ll say it in another book.

To meet and talk particularly with famous people or rich or fanciful
is supposed the gist of life. I find it boring. Reality fascinating. People boring.
If I can watch people from a distance or, at a party, from someplace alone,
unperceived, as long as I don’t have to talk, to pretend, to be interested, to listen,
I can love. All I learn from other people I learn in silence,
what I learn from myself I learn in silence.

But I keep on writing. I keep on reading. But not fascinated
or fascinating, there is little opening in the literary ranks.
My books are nonexistent on the scene.


II

Anonymity, Greek: Without name

seems to be a channel into love.
When I speak to no one but strangers: about the price of peapods,
fish in the ladder, the growth of the pine, the lilacs’ early bloom,
the bus’s lateness or whereabouts or doom, advise the night
photographer on the freeway bridge to wait for fog --
it is then my heart sings, it is then my smile radiates
from the thousand petalled lotus in my breast,
it is then I am contained and human.



DREAM OF THE MARBLE BRIDGE


Cold

Volga
flowed the dark,
purple, blue, black

night,
red sunrise
when it began.
The carved marble

bridge, rich as an emperor’s
tomb, lifted,
oiled and smooth, the great
revolution. Horses fell
with their carriages, stars

through the embryo
of time in up-
side-down worlds,
flowered
white,

bright
cheeks, dolls
twirling
like tire irons: you
could hardly see their
sex or imagine their

consciousness. Yet a certain
gaiety emerged: outside
gravity, the river flowed
swift, thick in the dawn or
the dusk or the day.
Automobiles,
old, oblong,

jumped
time,
windscreens,
fragmenting
into frost, trailed
laughter and dusters,
Milky Ways among stars.
Large hats, lilacs aflower

showered the white horses, hobby
horses, substantial buildings,
squared energy. Gnarl legged,
over the bridge they
lept, nutcracker
figures and
sugar
plums
of

high hats
and high hue,
booted, furred, foxed
fairies. Apogee:
the bridge yawned down, marble
crumbling, alabaster, time
fluted, garlanded, heavier than
steel. The horse righted itself.

The carriage disappeared
into corrected
time, sucked back toward
the moon. There
was no
sight,
no

place for
forgiveness,
nowhere to swim,
for the oiled surface
reflected, mirrored, shown.
Afraid to jump or float, the

overcoated gentlemen knelt
up, down, stood for joy. It was
a surprise, a vague, dear
surprise. The tree-lined
streets held iron
benches. The
bridge closed,
cats
crept,

baby
fish wiggled
upstream. The sun

broke through, a balloon
went up, the weather’s test

was fine up high; below, damp.



* * *


FAMILY

PUBESCENCE, RAYNE IN LOUISIANA, FATHER II, THE SEVENTIES, TECHNETIUM, DORIS SOPHIE PEPPLER SMITH, PURPLE I, McDONALD OBSERVATORY II, GRADUATION EXERCISES FOR SUZANNE

PUBESCENCE


I had an uncle once
who languished in Marine’s
Memorial Hospital.

I don’t remember why
or when. Even now the
MMH, where we went to

visit, stands high, alone,
and terra cotta pink,
commanding Beacon Hill, south

of Seattle. Freddy
had been a soldier -- not
a good one -- in World War II,

medically discharged
for the craziness we
all took for granted: his songs,

Buddhism, three suits -- one
over the other -- no
teeth, speaking Greek, consuming

desires to argue
about God under a
yarmulkah only on the

birthday of Christ. After
our hospital hop we
paced wooden stores, perhaps brick

ones, too, saw photographs
fading in the windows
of closed cleaners, dusty drugs

held for patients in that
solemn, brick deco plinth.
Other than that, we never

went to Beacon Hill. My
uncle lived for many
years, gumming spaghetti and

Chinese noodle soup, but
bit into my mind that
afternoon we visited

him before walking plank-
floored groceries, looking
for cookies, smelling the dust,

the cedar, the warmth of
incipient summer.
I sometimes wonder that I

remember only him,
whistling Tannhäuser
toward Venus, and no one else

that day. Was I with my
sister? my mother? I
recall only ancient stores

of simpler ways -- where staffs
bloomed -- that would have burned up
had they not been torn down.



RAYNE IN LOUISIANA


Brown buildings, brown steps, the high hot scent of Cajun cooking
coming through -- smells in the humid air.
Small steak cinched with bacon, red cabbage flavored deep,
chicory coffee tasting of chocolate -- I lick it up in the yellow light.

The crickets cry and the frogs croak by streams gurgling
in the night. The choking beauty of water
hyacinth, purple in the dark, climbs lolling trees
bowed down with gilded pearls

of rain sluicing through the town called Rayne.
In Louisiana, where all the relatives are dead, moss
cascades from the oaks. At the ends of avenues of fine old trees,
chandeliers hang on in naked rooms.

Closer to town is the smell of the brown buildings, the brown steps,
Cajun cooking, hot in the humid air.


II

Years ago Sister, Auntie and I drove through Rayne
and stopped for supper, then drove on beside the unseen hyacinths
in the soft and humid night. Now Auntie’s gone and I’m half gone,

the last of a lengthy line. Why we stretch back to kingdom come:
little pebbles along the shore, no big ships at sea, just the gossamer
lace of the mosquito’s whir, busy at the edge of the bayou.

The swamp land’s deep, the swamp land’s wide,
mind the canoe and the paddle’s thrust, mind the crocodile’s eyes.
Sister’s the matriarch, the one who reproduced.

All I’ve got are memories of hyacinths and humid nights,
drops of locust honey rain --
and a fireplace to burn them in.



FATHER II


I suppose it’s time I start appreciating my father.
I find his name strewn
here and there, now, on pictures, on paintings,
articles and events -- things he never did.
He had a common name,
so common, it used to be uncommonly seen.
But he never did anything.
He lived --
the highest praise he could give his mother
when she died was “She raised six kids.”
He made money enough for food and shelter,
and he loved to go on errands,
to nod in on the world wherever it was happening:
an errand to Frankfurt,
or to the corner grocery,
a twenty-mile drive to see the condition of a dance floor,
or a six months’ dedication of patience to fix
the window of my car. He loved the daffodils, and told us not to move
on the Ides of March.
In later years his eyes began to tear speaking of “the family,”
a unit that had been, for all the years I could remember,
more invisible than a galaxy to the naked eye.
But it’s odd,
I, too, get tears in my eyes for a family,
dwindling now because of convictions held
about child-bearing during the child-bearing years,
and accidents of sterility to my brother.
It seems in time one begins to think of human children,
where they come from, what occupation to give them
while they are here,
where they will go, taken from this father into
silence.



THE SEVENTIES


Mother and I were sitting
in the glass, formica and
chrome cafeteria of
the Swedish Hospital. It
was April and overcast.
Father was on the seventh
floor -- a small operation,
yet none is safe.

We had coffee and donuts,
something I never eat and
say she shouldn’t eat either.
And we talked family business,
something I never talk for
it does not go beyond: “He
is busy. She is well. They
liked Paris.”

Yet the memory of my
small, round, sweet mother, and that
tidy, featureless eating
place of hospital help and
visitors comes to my mind
years later with poignancy,
wanting to touch that moment
again.

We were just drinking coffee
and eating donuts (bad for
you), talking family business
(dull), worrying, but not too much,
about the man upstairs to
whom we’d become visitors
for the days he lay in bed,
and,

about whose mortality
I thought at night, at home, with
Mother, eating fish, and the
vegetables that were good
for you, knowing she thought
of coffee and donuts with
him, and her mortality too.



TECHNETIUM


Have you seen mom’s rare bones dance green,
her chartreuse head bobbed, shimmering,
her bright, illumined bladder preen
isotopes for the bone scan king? --
a rare, a most beautiful thing?
Have you seen the technetium
sparkling like a friendly wing,
just over the couch where I’m from?

Inside mother’s skull have you seen,
translucent as old, fine blue Ting,
her large brain pan sliced through to mean,
holographically, a carving,
multi-layered like good, rare Ming,
her convoluted, gray, awesome
matter in cochineal flinging
just over the couch where I’m from?

Note her long rooted tooth, a bean
sprout, her lopsided skull, singing,
the jagged noseholes, themselves, keen
for anthropologists to ring
reality anew, to fing-
er attachments gone all quite numb
with age, and without any zing
just over the couch where I’m from.

I saw the arterial sheen
of her tagged arteries running
rivers on the terminal screen
like deltas of the long, laughing,
red Rio Grande dividing
a continent, looking for gum.
Too much yang and not enough yin
just over the couch where I’m from.

With the fiber-optic machine
I saw my mother’s rosy, bing
cherry insides, gold, carrageen,
pink cells, viscous fluids, which cling
luminous, satin scurrying
right from her tum down to her bum,
her guts most precisely cueing,
just over the couch where I’m from.

After all fine efforts convene,
“The real you,” we cry clapping:
the skull, the bone and the gene,
nuclear isotopes dancing,
encompassed, accounted, no sting,
revealing mother’s unique plum,
her love adhering and clinging,
just over the couch where I’m from.

Knowledge of her beauty humming,
I hear one vasty, sighing aum:
she smiles, while cryptically spying,
just over the couch where I’m from.



DORIS SOPHIE PEPPLER SMITH


with nothing in her suitcase,
left for heaven. She’d have liked
to make each of you one last
strawberry waffle with cream,
or real maple syrup,
but her flight came too early.

With warmth and love we have made
you some of her favorite
cakes. Have a cake for Doris:
rich, like her heart, and sweet.
Her favorite flower was
the wild blue forget-me-not.

Have a wonderful journey,
we’ll not forget you, Doris.



PURPLE I


The jacarandas feathered high, high, high
above the cave of their royal purple
blossoms forming aisles to the sun.

It was a year to remember down there
in Beverly Hills -- that purple sunlight
and walking in the dappled air.

Mother and Father came to visit. We
were always good at talking about
flowers, trees, grass, the chaparral,

the sky, the birds, feather softs and feathers,
the buds, the thorns, though we weren’t much good at
talking about anything else

even under the royal canopies
of royal purple in green-gold rippling
shade down there in the Angels’ very

own city. Now Mother’s an angel, more
pink and gold and peach than royal purple,
and Father’s off to China to

find his way as I found mine seven years
ago, there, in China, where purple’s a
different choice and symbol and

divine prediction than under those tall
jacarandas years ago, so high, bright
and gold-edged, dangling their trails
of purple blossoms overhead.



McDONALD OBSERVATORY II


After we skimmed across the landscape,
Baby Rosa, Mama and I,
heading for the white domes to take
a bead on the sky, Mama watched for

flare stars; I watched Rosa. Rearing kids
is not my specialty, but her
irises, big and blue as the
ocean, seduced me. Mama, boyish,

fecundly wet, walks the dark as
if it were day. Grinning with the weight
of celestial computations,
she pushes buttons to open the

slit for the great green scope to train its
polished eye on the universe.
Rosa giggles as Mama “does
her lamps” (argon calculations) which

I explain (without understanding)
to Rosa knowing one day she’ll fly from earth,
if it’s still here, and think
it fun to breakfast out fifteen

parsecs around U V Ceti, lunch
by R R Lyrae, dine at the
dark Magellanic clouds, never
remembering her great aunt and first

days of crying, pooping and waiting
for dinner ’til Mama had, with
the telescope at zenith, filled
the cold box, got photons knocking loose

electrons, then hurried down from the
stars to share her dugs. I taught Rosa
bits of Sanskrit, old knowledge from
the old world sparingly so she, less

encumbered, could soar into both
the future and the pellucid sky.



GRADUATION EXERCISES
FOR SUZANNE


I can’t get over the feeling
Mother will be there --
at your graduation exercises --
my mother, not yours,
your grandmother,

dead these three years.
As I walk along the Angels’
streets and dream of Texas,
I feel I will meet Mother

as I step into the hotel room on Fifteenth
where all the family is gathered
getting ready to watch you be dubbed
Doctor of Astronomy, and Jim, Doctor of Physics.


II

“Why, Mother?
Are you so fond of graduation
ceremonies? When you graduated
to heaven we were all together, too, giving

you roses, holding your hand, singing
with the belief of an Indian faith,
watching your last moments with
Rosa, going home to conceive Natt.

Well, of course, you must come
in your peach-colored azalea aura,
with your pale red hair, light hazel eyes.
It was when I was in Texas

before that you were still in this world.
Why, indeed, would you not come
to see Suzanne in her black robes, sporting blue
and orange, to play with Tom, to greet Jana,

to bless us all with your smile of peace,
your faith in unity. The unity, now
dissolved, scattered, as we scattered
your ashes under the azaleas.

We do not walk on Azalea Way at Easter now.
We travel and talk, and work in different
worlds. Study and school are over.
We have learned what Buddha meant,

by ‘old age, sickness and death.’
The world seems flung to the winds,
the stress of the times mounts
steadily.” The interlude when the Angel

Doris dwelt among us has passed.
Her passing brought despair,
despair brought the counting of time,
and from time has come healing.

“So, why would you not come, Mother,
to sit with us on graduation day,
when Suzanne becomes a Doctor of Philosophy
at U.T. in Austin, and Jim becomes one, too?”


III

“There’ll be a seat there, for both
you and Aunt Weezie” -- two grand, old
matriarchs, who, impatient with the academic
process, with life itself, walked off,

arm in arm as they used to walk
up Twenty-third in their red jackets,
slowly, one leaning on the other:
kindness, compassion, love in their faces,

drifting toward heaven, after years of
attending to life on this earth.


IV

“Welcome Mother, welcome Aunt Weezie,
welcome Jana and Chris and Natt,
welcome Father, Sister, Dwight
and Sam, welcome Rosa and Tom.

We’re assembling in Texas for your graduation
ceremony, Suzanne, mistress of the stars,
mother of a new generation.
We’re here to exercise our right to life,

like the Constitution says, and liberty.
May a life of liberty and enjoyment
as great as your grandmother’s follow you
all the days of your life, may her goodness

and mercy, like the shepherd’s, be with you,
may her sense of fun keep you light-hearted, bubbling
with laughter as you gaze at the stars,
raise those kids, grow older with the years.

Visit Azalea Way from time to time,
on Easter, if possible, and know
that Grandma Doris and Weezie watch over you --
and came to your graduation exercises.”

Composed for Suzanne Hawley-Hughes on the occasion of her receiving her doctorate at the University of Texas in Austin
May 20, 1989.


* * *


FRIENDS AND LOVERS

MY DAUGHTER, WAITING FOR RUTH, MAKING LUNCH, DIVORCE II, HAAG & HAAG, PROOFS, THE SWAN,
RESEARCH, BUCK’S COUNTY, IN BROOKLYN, LINGERING, PUMPKIN-COLORED WALLS,
THIS IS FOR YOU SEDNA


MY DAUGHTER


O seed of my body,
pearl,
O drop of blue light,

my daughter,
child,
visible passion,

caught in purple, caught in
silk,
moments of joyous

agony,
now
held against my heart,

yourself capable of
joy,
agony, passion,

capable
of
catching blue seeds, blue

lights, transmuting millions
of
pearls, caught in purple,

caught in silk,
caught
in moments of light,

exploding seeds like
stars
in the firmament,

milkweed to
winds,
O my child, daughter,

caught in purple, caught in
silk,
pearl of blue light!

For Roger Landry and his daughter, Sheila


WAITING FOR RUTH


The night smells like vanilla
and is littered with pens.
The white cars wait in the muted glare
of the few lights Amtrak can afford.
My shadow rests on the fence.

Waiting for its passengers, the bus purrs.
Echoes come back from the palms,
up from the concrete,
bounce against the bricks.
I wait.

Everyone waits in the grime-ing gloom
in this dismal part of Oakland town.
The train lost two hours,
coming from the Angels’ City,
we lose four.

The yellow-helmeted men wait, listening.
One says:
“You’ll hear it before you see it.”
The Southern Pacific car directly across from me
says something about a Pig Service.

In the waiting room I put a few stitches
in my tapestry listening to stories
from people who’ll be late in Seattle.
I go back to commune with my shadow on the fence.
Choo-choo.

Ruth, like a boy, swings off the train,
with apologies and a green stone.
We drive to the heights of Oakland
to get her car. The world sparkles
all around, iridescent in low fog,

radiant in the high, clear night
straight up from the earth,
toward God.



MAKING LUNCH


Spearing the last dill pickle
in a deep down, sea-green jar,
she saw the grey bike again
in the blast of the Italian sun

with the blood red oranges
thriving under thatch below
the road, below the cliffs, down
under the olive trees, down, down, down

below the grey rocks, the high
rock walls, deep down, down under
the rocks foaming wild, white sea,
with birds overhead and sea blue sky;

and the bike purring between
her legs, her ex-husband, young
John Haag, angry, energized;
with grass between the olive trees, knee
high, under the silver, deep,
dank, where trunks twisted their ways
toward the Mother God for two
thousand years, the angry blessing. All

this at the bottom of a dill pickle jar -- remains for
the sandwich of life, to be eaten from a brown bag, cold, later.



DIVORCE II


I don’t know when it happened.
I’ve had two, you know -- one my
father got for me, from a
boy I never lived with -- but
did love, the other husband
got his when I was out of
town, on grounds of desertion

-- I thought that a charming cause --
he, having driven me to
New York in our little red
car, dropped me in the Village,
gave me a peck on the cheek,
ending ten years of worthwhile
wedding, not one of them bliss.



HAAG & HAAG


You’ve lived your life and I’ve lived mine,
not quite separately.
Once intimate, we can’t be wholly divided again.

On a table you left the poem Losing Touch
-- and I cried,
cried to know that love
does not overcome the desire for autonomy.

I’ve spent my life learning
and learning again,
that those I love

are not those I can live with.
Loving and parting -- a way of life
until alone, loving but unloved
was more comfortable.

Let love be scattered freely, less intense,
some for everyone -- the stranger the better.
No more partings,

everyone included, wherever I turn,
where I go, I love, mildly,
as if I were somebody else today.

I remember the passion and the need
and the hurt of terror,
the terror of hurt.

Now, knowing how to cope with pain,
tragedy, exultation,
you live your life and I live mine.

Moments were enough with you,
or any lover: Moments are enough.
The hours are for breathing in the night,

questioning
why water runs green
why water runs
why water
why

and the crystalline shades of summer
on hills, sun shimmering after rain.
How is it that this world sprouted trees
when all else is fire and moonscape?

Once in a while I appreciate
the oddity of living
-- as if cars on super Highway 101
were quite naturally what evolved from the ooze and the muck,

as if the overriding necessities of buying and selling
were exactly what God had in mind
when he sealed the cell in its membrane to pulse and absorb,

to flash gracefully, jelly blue, to slip,
less noticeable than a polliwog, back into the brine.
You lived your life and I lived mine,
clear as the golden whiskey for which we were not named.
I was once mistaken for the general’s wife, but I am not she.

You lived your life and I lived mine. Separate but equal.
We had more success than black and white.

My life was crimson and emeralds,
yours was orchids and puns --
too much passion to be stable, too much restlessness to settle.
We shared that if not each other’s presence.

You lived your life and I lived mine -- one strong drink,
one burning draft, searing, eclipsing
anything I thought about life.

Now I contemplate it.
2000 miles away, I’ve loved you.
But, O the poignancy of not being able to live
with that which one loves.

As we grow older, richer,
we retreat to mountain tops and
the isolation of silence,

in the blessed endlessness of time.
You live your life and I live mine.



PROOFS


You stood in the window,
I stood in the ivy
wearing a ribboned white
dress. Shady canopies
of morning glories blazed
blue in the noontime sun.
The Hasselblad made its
Rube, gear-grinding noises.
We laughed, making jokes
that wouldn’t be funny
if I told you now. The

black and white proof sheets
showed
us lovely and young, sun
tanned in white, alive with
laughter in the ivy,
you in the window and
me in the weeds. But when
the time came, neither you
nor I would spare money
to pick up the finished,
color photos. We just
never did.



THE SWAN


The swan, the sun, the lake, the air,
clouded with black diamond dust,
the dark angel, the black swans, two among the white,
the air opaque with sorrow…

In retrospect, in the sun, the white swans
rang like crystal, ran like wine --
tears of rain drenching the earth to rise again…



RESEARCH


The pillow folds radiate like suns from your silvery hair,
and you laugh with eyes slanted to the demon
design of rare Eastern art.

You speak deep in your chest and touch me
with fingers physicists,
hoping to clarify the beginning of the cosmos,
could profitably analyze for electro-magnetic impulses.

Will they find that first throb of love?
Could they trace the silent ecstasy of your heart
beating against mine?

They have important work to do -- the physicists.
Could they spare perhaps one computer run
to find out whence comes the urge to be,
and to be with you

in the pillow folds braving brimstone
to hear your laughter
and your speech?



BUCK’S COUNTY


With snow on the lawn,
glittering in the winter sun
on the winter grass,
we spent our time hunting for puzzles
in a Pennsylvania town,
not agreeing to note we had enough
of a puzzle on our hands already.
Maybe we should have known better
in that town of one concrete street.
Maybe we should have stopped --
I should have stopped

marching up and down that street
in my high-heeled, suede,
fuchsia boots, laughing.
Maybe I should have known
bringing home that boxed puzzle
would only be to avoid the quiet,
the solitude, looking at other suns
on other winter grass, watching
the crystal drops melt off the eaves
revisiting the maybes I should have known
then. With sun

on the snow, and determination in my heart,
I ignored the signs of the times that said No --
neither the puzzle in the box nor the puzzle
in my heart would be resolved by laughing
or suede boots, or pretending delight, pretending
extraordinary delight while you fuzzed out drinking
and doping. I was supposed to be politely puzzled,
sweet, and let you do as you wished.

We were artists in the wilderness, we said.
Maybe I should have known, but I didn’t.
I laughed in winter, sought out puzzles,
and woke again in orange sunshine
with the crystals dropping from the roof,
loving and realizing there is no way to avoid
one’s path, one’s decisions of which puzzles
to buy and which puzzles to work
and which to pass along with the buck.



IN BROOKLYN


I’ve strolled the length of Flatbush
where even the police don’t
saunter slowly at noon. I’ve
watched at the lily pond in
the Botanical Garden,
lotus blooming all around,
girls from Munch’s chinoiserie
prints perched on the edges of
ledges, ephemeral and
concrete as any substance,
memory. Twinkling into
being, I’ve seen Manhattan
emerge like the Milky Way
through God’s magnifying glass,
and perhaps it was.

I’ve lived with an artist who
honored the Brooklyn Bridge with
a print; marveled at public
funding granted to record
its creaks and groans; knew the first
fellow who, decades ago,
researched it seriously,
wrote its myths, its history.
He wrote about Roebling
designing the bridge thought to
be first of its cabled kind,
and perhaps it was.

I’ve made love in another
woman’s fifth floor walk-up, she
thinking about he (getting
twenty dollar parking chits
for parking in No Parking
places) all the while I was
there keeping her place spotless,
not touching her arrangements,
her garments, staring into
the courtyard well of her dark
garden, her life, soft, secret,
and Greek, convoluted and
neurotic, poetic and,
though strange, seemingly harmless,
and perhaps it was.

I’ve sauntered through markets,
and up along obscure streets
with buildings old enough, the
smell of humanity dense
enough to transport you to
Europe and the ghettos, to
ponder how all these people
were babies, these boulevards,
alleys, shops, the Library,
the Museum, and the Zoo
were new with life, growing, grand,
and perhaps it is.



LINGERING


That night
in the darkness
we made our own light.
Under the stars
winking and blinking
moving toward dawn
we touched the hope
that dawn would
not come.

That night
we made our own darkness,
hid, lingered, hoped,
no wind, whisper, nothing
would find us.

That night
we lingered,
our toes touching paradise
asking only the time
between dark and light
to play on the patterns of love,
to create the illusion
that we could linger
forever.

That night
we lingered because
the end of darkness
meant parting
forever.



PUMPKIN-COLORED WALLS


I feared the open windows
and the subway fare.
A grey squirrel scampered on the screen.

In the China closet the sherds from China remained
after I’d gone, like bits of broken heart,
like red arrows on oracle bones.

I’ll dance with the living
while you mourn for the dead.



THIS IS FOR YOU, SEDNA,


my dear,
this is for you.

The tea kettle whimpers like a cat,
a cat -- or a kit struggling from the womb --
in a box just beneath the stairs,
opposite the kitchen
and open.

The cat sees the milk,
the kittens cry like bubbling kettles.
This is for you, Sedna,
this is for you,

my dear,
this is for you.

This is for you, Sedna,
walking in the fields,
falling with the rain into the pond.
The big tear drops
bounce into the air again
as you dive beneath the storm.

The sky is electric blue.
The clouds are lonesome grey,
the wind will come, blow it away.
This is for you, Sedna

my dear,
this is for you.

This is for you, Sedna,
this is for you.
One flower in a vase --
a not quite perfect rose,
grey in its shadows,
white in its petals,

a blue bug walking the fine
turned edge --
would you know if
this is for you, Sedna?

This is for you, Sedna,
this is for you.
The next layer down
is vanilla
under the marzipan.

This is for you.
Sweet, very sweet.
Life is candle-lit joy,
straightforward and pure.

Then the kitten left,
the tea was drunk,
the pond dried up,
and the lark wouldn’t sing
anymore.

The rose withered brown,
its petals dropped,
the almonds were spare and hard.
Only it was for you, Sedna, for you.

The fire burns down in the grate, Sedna,
to a thin, muted crackle.
The logs are sparse, dampness creeps in.
Oh, Sedna,
this is for you.

This is for you, Sedna, this is for you.
Your face grows thin, your teeth grow long,
your eyes are strange and opaque.

If only, Sedna,
this could be for you.

I eat crackers, I sip tea,
the cat and the kits lie in my lap --
this is for you, Sedna,
this is for you.

I rock and I sing and I sigh --
this is for you Sedna,
this is for you,

my dear,
this is for you.



* * *


FROM MORNING VISIONS


A row of houses
a row of trees
and further on
a row of palms

spaced evenly
spaced wide
the leaves dense
the fronds green

the streets empty
the quiet complete
before sunrise
a cat’s purr

after sunrise
a day of fragile
golden light
buried under business



FROM THE COMPUTER’S DANCE


Inside, prior to thinking,
there was hunger, and there was death
and the grateful sleep of a fine sunny morning,
the grass as far as the eye could see, and it could see far.
Stegosaurus stood fifty feet high and weighed 6,000 pounds.

Sometimes it seemed as if it could look
right over mountains. The near mountains, of course,
but even those in the distance -- sometimes they seemed translucent,
the slope of one visible through another.

Brontosaurus lumbered to and fro over topping trees,
sinking right down to the bottom of a swamp thirty feet deep,
the mud cooling its paws, its great neck like a coil
able to turn twice around.

Its companions of the savannah, large and small, bony and reptilian,
archaeopteryx flying, la cucaracha creeping, chorused
in the twilight here long after Tyrannosaurus
stepped off the pages of history

leaving others gratefully to sleep on the edge of a fine summer morning
just before Shiva stopped dancing
and it all rested into
silence.



FROM THE JOCASTA POEMS #12 -- DESTINY


Tieresias says twenty years.
So much?
After the compulsions
of Menoeceus and Laius,
Creon, even one year
would be an infinity in paradise.
I’m not advocating incest.
It’s of little matter -- one more game
men challenge themselves with,

knowing they’ll lose. Anguish is
the key. Men attend festivals,
sing about anguish, celebrate
its inviolability,
build shrines for its contemplation,
dedicate theatres to its worship,
legislate its forms, make war
to create the quantities

for coercion, call their gossip
about it art, attribute it to nature,
turning their eyes on their books,
not upon the flowers,
the birds’ flight, the animals’ peace,
the earth’s embrace of all. Anguish
is the key. Civilization
is built on it. To forbid is

society’s sure mortar, to dispute
nature’s plan is man’s hubris,
his damnation. Twenty years
to live in the clefts between
others’ anguish. O, Oedipus,
I’ve long paid my debt to men’s
temples of greed and grief. Each day
I rejoice in the fate the Gods

have given me. O, Apollo,
wondrous God who created
Oedipus and me, out of your
very own substance of despair
I will create my joy.



THE HIROSHIMA FLAME


This Flame of Peace must not go out.
Let the one source become five billion sources. Guard it with your heart.
Nineteen years after the bomb -- that light that cauterized the world and
annihilated Hiroshima -- this Flame
was kindled in memoriam at Hiroshima.

If you stand at the cenotaph in the Memorial, and look through it,
you see the Flame flicker against the dome
of the single building left after the instant death of 80,000 people.
There is no place you can walk in Hiroshima
where someone did not die that August day;
there is nowhere you can turn that a lost shadow
was not left when that sun of a million suns incinerated
everything.
In 1964 we lit this Flame, to burn forever and ever and ever
to remind us that there must be:
No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more Hibakusha.*
No more war. Never again
will people extinguish people as this Flame can be extinguished.

(Put out the flame of the light you are going to rekindle and light it from the Hiroshima Flame.)

This Flame of Peace burns in remembrance of the Hibakusha of Hiroshima.
May it burn forever, guard it, light from it many Flames of Peace
in the hearts of all who pass. Let this Flame of Peace,
carried across America and in the Soviet Union,
be multiplied to be carried to every country of the world.
May its sun shine brighter each day,
may it become brighter, more incandescent
than those million suns on that August day.
May this Flame of Peace light the universe.

*Hibakusha are survivors of an atom bomb attack.
Composed for Judy Imai, carrier of the Hiroshima Peace Flame on the Global Walk for a Livable World -- May 11, 1990


HYPERBOLA


The leaf drinkers, the dew catchers
live in lands different from yours
and mine, where buildings are soft, curved,
painted with colors of earth, gold
sunlight, soft mists and sand, where shafts
of moonlight thread the bamboo
sticks supporting the thatch, where ta-pat-
a-tat-tat taps in the forest,
on the ridge, where there are better
ways to live in the silky dusk
of earth, under the giant sky
and the full moon, where perfection
is as far away as concrete
and the straight line.

But I can catch dew and the sun,
I can dance on the edge of the ridge,
under the moon and the stars,
along the tangent, over the highway
stripe and the rail, I weave
with a straight thread in an angled
world, creating the circular
om, dividing each point ’til it bends,
extending a crystal to circle
the spheres, I count each syl-
lable and remain infinite
inside the dance and the song. I
remain infinite and ponder the long
and the straight line.

The wing of an angel, the wing
of the jet hum with the grace of blue
geese and white swans, the cricket
of luck drinks the dew, like the leaf
drinkers, drinks lawns of green and blue
hue, the grateful world and the styled
earth, curved as a breast and straight
as a glance, a laser, light, the point
and the wave live a lifetime
of compatible glee, with a mask
of pain, a hoax of tragedy,
poignancy of loss and love, the curve
sings, joyous, ecstatic, hidden in clocks
and the straight line.




IN THE ORIENTAL MUSEUM


In Russia they have
a Chinese silk spread
of one hundred birds,
they said, mauve, ecru,

beige and gold, it hangs
on the wall, very,
very old, subtle,
soft, ancient, I’m told.

On its silver sheen
birds preen, reflecting
in wood, glass, fragile
in a sunless hall.

They drink no water,
breathe no air, as fine
as scentless flowers,
very, very fair.

Mute are the birds, mute
are the walls, as sherds,
mauve, beige, ecru, gold,
mute, sensuous, bold.



* * *


INDIA

CROSSROADS, ELURA, WEI, PURPLE IV


CROSSROADS


At a corner, indistinguishable from the landscape, we hopped
off the Jalna bus. At this crossroads, undifferentiated
from the stones and rocks of the earth, we disembarked to catch the bus
to Ajanta. At this intersection, no more noticeable
than random stones pushed aside, no different
than the village out there across rock and dirt, made of rocks and dirt,
under a savage sun, in dust, we waited, not too long, for
the next bus to stop at a stop marked by memory, no doubt, for
there was no sign strangers could see to distinguish this bit of land
from the terrible vengeance with which God made grey rocks, grey earth, harsh
sun. Here ancients crossed on their way from Ajanta -- some to Jalna,
the town of merchants, some brachiating to Elura where, to
escape the jeweled caves, they would carve Kailasa, proving God right
to choose black rock, harsh sun, dust, grit, dirt to create his austere world.

I had yet to see this as I stood with my burden, in the heat,
under the sun, at the junction of one way with another. I
could guess another way only by the moon’s slow rise, where houses
like landscape lay north, but not south, where the sun cast no shadow, for
the stones and walls were too low to impede the light, the road no more
smooth than land people had trod four thousand years and more. Stopped by men
of fuchsia turbans, we hopped off the bus, stood with women with spider-
like children. They, too, from their lives in rock and stone, were bussing to
Ajanta to witness Shiva’s dance painted, carved millennia
before. At the crossroads not distinguishable from the land, not
different from the scape moments after the Bang, the crossing from
one state into another, from Jalna into Ajanta. I
cross into the land where no landscape exists, where mountains are plains
and the plains are sky, where the rocks beneath our feet glitter like stars.

See this crossroads: one way of being angled to another, in
another world, at another time, intricate as the structure
of time: the crossroads of the brain, junction of the spirit, joining
of the imagination, the decussation of worlds where
bonds, invisible as light, light as air, bind us as strong as God’s
thought. The center is the line of division, the joining of worlds.



ELURA


It’s hot, as if the sand itself will burst into
flames. The bushes are incandescent,
gold, and the rock is black.
I haven’t chiseled far,
but farther

than one would think. About a foot, maybe -- there is
the barest hint of shade at noon. Three
days. The rock particles
choke me in the dancing
heat. I breathe

through a cloth some of the time to avoid coughing.
But my breath is okay, better than
some. I worked Badami,
too -- cutting rock ever
since I was

a boy. It’s hard work, you sweat a lot, but it’s worth
it. When the temple starts, they’ve promised
me a place on the roof.
They’ve been chanting designs,
flourishes.

It’s unbelievable what they plan -- right down through
the mountain, a quarter million ton
to move. It’s going to stand
free, with side galleries,
courtyards. Black,

the whole rock is black. Kailasa, they’re calling it,
and it is. Already you can feel
Shiva dancing, like great
gongs, like the sledging heat,
like thunder.

Contributions, donations, pledges pour in. The
coffers brim, so they say, and the head
chanter is in voice. I
hone my chisel each day
on this niche,

this small hermit’s cell. I sit with the monks sometimes,
out there, in the dark beneath the stars.
Many have come over
from Ajanta to chant
our joyous

beginning. Accomplished, they laugh away problems.
The stone sounds and resounds, it’s called “trap
rock,” very porous. On
the full moon we will start
Kailasa.

I envy them their belief, their stylized thought,
their art. But I do the carving, I
have the craft, I sweat in
ebony rivulets
from my face

to my toes. I provide the emergence from stone,
dance with Shiva, revel with Shakti,
my arms are gurus, my
heart rings iron and rock.
I exist.



WEI


Growing older I grow less
fond of light on the river, less
fond of keeping the molecules
intact. I lie listening to
the Harmonic Choir humming
knowing monks of Ellora lay
shrouded in stone, listening to

resoundings, resonances,
vibrating rocks, warbling stones,
watching the wiggle of babies.

Down at Wei where the Krishna River runs
warm through the temples I walked
in the water. No foot stalks
the moon’s path, lunatics
laugh, louts shout, the divine chant
miracles into the glistening
sky. There’s nothing to sing
but God’s name as you need

less light on the river. Take
me to Kashi, burnish my bones
with scarlet flames, scatter my ash
on the light of the river, conceal

my flesh in the wind. Let
no one bid me return, do not mourn
the metamorphosis,
transfiguration of light on
the river, flame in the sky.
Ley lines lead round to Luden,
the choral stones of Ajanta sing,
the unified field theory speaks

of Shiva’s dance, Parvati’s sigh.



PURPLE IV


Will I wear my purple dress again
and walk the dirt of India’s paths,
the silk of her dust, my head hairless? From

Mahabaleshwar I walked past Shangri-la to Pangigani
savoring landscapes of paradise and flowers,
strawberries, cow dung in baskets atop the heads
of graceful girls, ate my spicy take-out on the dust
of dry leaves, turning back the newsprint slowly.
Then laying the paper by a tree, where the goats
could have their fill, and wetting down a scraggle
of seeds, I walked on in the blazing sun
studying the jewel green of the terraces
banked with bright red rock, came to the silver pines --
or were they called silk pines? -- tall, wild
as eucalyptus where, through the arch of a huge bungalow
window that occupied more of my room than I did,
I saw the full moon. On the high plateau

I picked up fossilized double molars,
teeth I’d one day present to my friends,
and walked on down to Wei to wash my purple
dress in the Krishna River, on steps beside a sadhu.

I walked among the temples by the river
and the mad howling men in the moon’s light.
I remember the smoke and the clapping, the cymbals,
the chants, the foaming water, the small cataracts, the mysteries
of temples with deep water floors, the silence of carved pillars, sculptured
gods. Wandering alone I watched the bullocks rise in the water, found
thick sheets of handmade paper drying on the steps of a shuttered holy wall,
lost my way along dusty alleys, long to lose my way again.



* * *


ITALIAN


Gardens in the sunlight are
made mysterious by clarity
rising. As golden as dust,
the phoenix cries,
subtly singing
incandescent crevasses
of worry and grief.

Golden flame, golden phoenix,
cocky bird, more precious
than the peacock. Italians
weep in their cemeteries of
forlornness, eyes haunted,
languishing for love and
for death in a climate

much as ours,
in gardens of sunlight
made mysterious by clarity
and revisions of the mind.



MAUI


Feather trees and a
wasp, an old car I
call Molokai for

the leprous spots
on its shoulders and
head, timothy, bright
pink coo coo birds who
coo soft sweet sound, white-
tailed birds walking -- we’ve

all chosen to live in solitude
and sing our praises into silence.



MAYA


He had a large mouth shaped like a purple rosebud of
scar tissue (or an anus), huge drooping dark eyes, and
a bear’s body tapered to an attenuated

butt from which his breeches hung. He gave the impression
of being half-witted, partly asleep. He was shrewd.
Three drug-addicted daughters in various stages

of rehabilitation, drama and disgrace com-
plemented his fat and doleful wife who painted, not
too badly, and was pleased, always to tell over her

own and her children’s woes. His money derived from guil-
lotines to cut great cables of communication.
He was successful. Stooped, shambling, aging to the tips

of his oversized fingers, which, hanging loosely, looked
as if they’d murdered someone -- a likeable guy -- his
new name was Jésus Maria Americano.




BEYOND MAYA


Inside the scar is a flame of God, flickering
steadily, illumination blue as the tulip, bright
as sunset sea clouds, trying each thing, testing worlds,

working ways through imagination, playfully
ploughing the possible without anxiety or care,
reveling in the love of God. God is the flame

and the flicker, the blue and the tulip, the sun,
the color and the cloud, the wound, the blood and the healing,
the drug addicted and woeful represented

to eyes not trained in seeing God, who fear death as
if it were other than a little bang realigning
the sporting molecules, their neutrinos, hadrons

and quarks.


* * *


NEW MEXICO

AT NEW MEXICO’S CANADIAN RIVER, CLIFF DWELLER, DEVOTION, EAR-DOL-AID, GEORGE COLUZZI,
GRADY WOMAN, SOPAPILLAS


AT NEW MEXICO’S CANADIAN RIVER


Down the hot wash
I walked to the river,
red-brown under the golden sky,
thick with mud and running swift:
blood from the veins of a giant
brontosaurus.
Way up stream where I didn’t walk,
nor did my ancestors,
back in time it swam, from
our mother’s decision
to release her favorite children
of a hundred and seventy-five million years.

Not too much later she opted for us.

Time itself runs scarlet, runs fast,
impatient for Gaia to complete her period,
to be fertile again for the next
species.
How little time cares for us.
“Be happy,” our mother invites:
“breathe, eat, live.
Let the wind and the long grass
play for you, the small clouds sail free.
The river eddies to cool your feet,
hot from the wash and brown
from the kiss of the sun.”



CLIFF DWELLER


I can bear the laughter of the swift crows
as I climb laboriously from my lair,
up: toe, hand, hand, toe,
to till my fields.

I can bear the bark of the browsing deer
in the evening as I descend
to my house made of stone
in a stone shelter.

But I do ascend and descend
as a creature who knows
its limitations and ascendancies
in being able to love the bird and the deer.



D
E
V
O
T
I
O
N


When Fray Francisco Dominguez came to Picuris
in 1776,
Juan Arguello, at ninety-nine, or ninety-eight,
walked nine miles to
ask him for alms to help build his church
at Trampas.

Upon noting this in his report, Fray Dominguez
added,
“And since I have nothing, I gave him that, with many
thanks,
for his devotion.” From the whole realm Arguello gathered
alms,

amounting to nine pesos, six reales, and built -- it took him
twenty years --
his church of San Jose de Gracia, which stands still after more
than two
hundred years. He built it with sweat, he built it with the help of his
Penitente

brothers, and when it was done, it stood, massive, towering. From 1760
to 1780
a peso could purchase one plain
bronze
candleholder. Like Fray Dominguez,
most settlers
of The Traps had nothing.

Inspired by Tony Hillerman’s “Las Trampas”


EAR-DOL-AID
(Irradol-A)


Zen is probably good for you,
like any other palliative,
but you wouldn’t want to live
on Ear-dol-aid the rest of your life,
now would you?
Or would you?

For those of you who are not of a
certain age, Ear-dol-aid
is one of those things like
Cod-liver-oil

or Kali-mine-lotion that
your mother used to give you,
or spread over you like a mustard-plaster,
because they were “good for you.”
And they probably weren’t bad.
You never know,

you might have gotten well
or not had so many colds without
the Cod-liver-oil, but you took it because

it was “good for you,”
on faith, kind-of --
like: anything that bad-tasting
couldn’t be bad for you.
So I suffered through Zen and Meditation,
and discouraging, negative philosophies

telling me that life was no more than I saw it to be.
It was plain, blank and painful.
I mean, who needs Kali-mine-lotion over impetigo to
convince you of that?

And then I moved to New Mexico
where the light raining down from the sky
around five o’clock
and the city of God are synonymous.
Now when I eat, I eat and when I chop
wood, I chop wood.

But who knows, I might have
got there anyhow, without the vitamin B12
I started taking in later life. The preventatives, the palliatives --

who knows if they work or not?
Maybe you can convince me
like the man sprinkling salt against
the elephants on the Jornada del Muerto
who, when challenged: “But there aren’t
any elephants here,”
said, “Effective, isn’t it?”



GEORGE COLUZZI


He was bad, big as a mountain, and he was lonely --
from Boston, they say, old George Coluzzi --
living out there among the stars
in a cave, for many years,
like a Cliff Dweller.

He got rid
of his money.
Seemed to have a lot,
not a little, because he sure gave
a lot away, seemed to want to get rid of it --

living out there, lacking water, not washing. He stank, old
George Coluzzi. He was so filthy he died of a scratch
from his cat. Dirt fell right in off his leg, into
that little nick of a cat’s clawed wound.
He died of infection in just
a week or two.

Now I don’t mean
to lash a small perception
into a continental theory, but he
was an odd man. Does money make you odd?
Or solitude, or pain? He never seemed to be in pain,
always had a friendly word, and food to give, if you wanted

to eat from a kitchen of dirt, from a dirty man, in the depths
of a cave in the earth. Cats and wild boar and birds eat
right from the earth. Nature doesn’t seem to mind.
Now what old George Coluzzi seemed to do
for a living -- not for eating or drinking
mind you -- but to stay and be
alive -- was cut rock.

He was big, you know,
powerful, probably ate bobcats
and rats -- things you probably wouldn’t want
to touch, even if they’d been clean. Nobody ever saw
him at a store. But to stay and be alive, he cut rock. He’d climb
up the side of Mt. Truchas, where the Penitente live, and get one helluva
great big boulder and shoulder it down, or roll it down in a kind of rawhide

harness. Holding it back, he’d make it go slow so as not to create an avalanche
-- didn’t want everything coming his way at once. Taking his chosen boulder
he’d haul it down to the cave. Sisyphus found it hard going up hill,
but George restrained his rock coming down. He’d haul his single
boulder carefully -- sometimes it took days -- down to his cave.
Sometimes his cave wasn’t big enough, so he’d stand
it out on the lip -- and carve. He’d knock
away at that rock, and you’d see

gods of the sun and the rain
and the storm, the day and the night
and peace emerge, sometimes pink, sometimes
white and sometimes a soft rust or copper-tinted green.
He’d cut and polish these colossal things -- What could you call
them but things? -- out of bits of the landscape from above Santa Fe.
He’d carve them out of the Sangre de Cristo, then haul them back to the land
where he found them, and leave them there for the wind and the rain gods, for the storm

gods, under the crimson sky -- in the yearning for peace. Then he’d choose another to go on
making a living in his cave, on his mountain, until he died of filth and a scratch.
He didn’t have any money on him then. Now, every-once-in-awhile
some museum or archaeologist finds a bit of “prehistoric” carving,
lodged upon the mountain out there above the city of Holy
Faith, carved from the Blood of Christ. They sell for
over a million by now, if you happen to
find one for yourself, but I haven’t
seen anyone get one lately
and give the money
away.

Inspired by a story in Winfield Townley Scott’s “A Calendar of Santa Fe”


GRADY WOMAN


Her mother named her Fairene,
and died when Fairene was only ten,
and no one could ever tell the child where that odd name
came from -- that strange and beautiful name.

Her Daddy moved to Grady in ’46,
out to the end of the world she thought.
“Daddy,” she said, “There’s nothing there.”

But over the years she grew to love the wind and love the land,
love the sunsets and the lines of trees the ranchers planted.
She loved the little purple flowers and the green crops --
all that emptiness in the flat land.

She raised six daughters: sewed for them all,
and they all settled down on the land --
for love of the sky, the clean air, and the raw good smell of the earth,
the sun in their hair and the freedom to breathe and to be.

Fairene became postmaster -- as she was fond of telling you --
not a -mistress, she assured you, but as much a master as anyone
else who lived on the land and loved the wind of nothingness.



SOPAPILLAS


Strawberry jam on sopapillas
in a restaurant of blue tile
and old wood…

Shade trees in the garden cast
shadows over the patio
and your face,

dappling adobe walls,
making your light eyes
elusive as the night, open,

glimmering -- tears formed.
Were you weeping for the time when I
would recall

sopapillas and red jam, shadows
beneath the sun -- you?


II

Again sopapillas
and strawberry jam.
Traditionally
they’re served with honey.

But on the blue tiles
beside the dark wood
the seedy, red jam
tempted us. Folding

it into the fried,
succulent dough, we
ate it all, two of us.
That jam and more.

The sun going down
feathered shadow leaves
fled up the adobe,
over the road from
Chimayo.


III

On Death Valley’s eastern edge
in some inn’s turquoisey-green museum lay
dresses of lace, beaded purses, buttoned shoes.

A jerky cat reblazed the washed-out road
in front of us. We drove slowly. Lunching at

the City of Hope. I don’t remember
if you or I paid, but I do recall

calculating bills, walking across brown
lawns fascinated by the bright colored

plastic ventricles of the hearts I’d seen.
Adding up prices of sopapillas, wear

and tear on the car going slow, lunches,
museums, plastic hearts.


IV

Tonight I cut
off my hair, opened
sweet strawberries picked
and frozen only last summer when we

were happy, laughing,
speaking gaily to
each other, anger
seething beneath our

temporary smiles
as succulent as
sopapillas and jam,
translucent sunlight.


V

This time with honey
at the Inn at Loretto,
where the windows don’t
open and my heart won’t close.
Pain blasting through like the wind
through Betatakin.

First went the desire
for fame, then love, then money.
Now I stand naked
in a tree top wondering:
What else do I own?

My soul? Myself?
And when that is gone, will
the birds sing? the
air still? pain
stop? peace
come?


VI

And just plain fried bread
in Kayenta, succulent, hollow,
barely digestible, hot

with the Indians,
among their pickups and their
virtues. God marched temptations

right by me. Up the rocks, over
the dirt, yes, one by one: Life,
Health, Wealth, Creativity, Love, and

Wisdom, Truth, Beauty.
Power and Dominion. I
said: “Yes, I’ll have that one and that,

some of that, too, and that,
oh, and that, yes, yes, yes, yes,
yes, oh yes.” I bit into them.
Then God snatched them

away. I said: “Why
offer them in the first place?
What’s the point?” My heart is heavy with

sorrow, finding I
have been tricked into wanting
what I cannot have. “Enjoy them by
passing through.” God had
forgotten to say. Why? Is
that what life is? Figuring that out?


VII

And then,
none at all.

No more indulgence,
no more stomach aches.

Nothing to do,
no where to go.

Watching the coho salmon
breathe, swim and float endlessly --
brine breather, as amusing
as your neighbor immersed in air.

Laughter is incipient.
It will come, it will come,

soon.


VIII

Not there yet.
Again try sopapillas
and strawberry jam,
or honey,
or plain.



* * *


NEW YORK SKYLINE


I sat in the room
with the balustrade outside,
over Manhattan,
feeling like somebody else,
with marble beneath
my feet and the gilt overhead,
the clashing teacups
making an horrendous din
in the muted room.

I felt all bone and angles,
my hips sticking out,
I felt all velvet perfume,
a sponge you could touch
right through to the rock, but not
forty stories up
with holy spires all around
of the kings of greed.
Beneath the Gods of towers

I was somebody
else whose feet had walked silken
dust, earth of the East,
arrayed in sunset’s colors,
celibacy’s hue.
My legs were sturdy, hairy.
I ate only fruit.
The hair of my pits grew long.
My head had been shaved

once, to find equality.
By the balustrade
now, looking down on the ants,
my insouciant
bones out, my elbows riding
the railing, I was
somebody else. My trained mane
like a zoo’s lion,
I stalked my prey from the hands

of beneficent
keepers. Up here the moon glowed
as a companion
to the chandelier, golden,
possessed, reflected
in the tinkling glass. The shrill
of teacups shattered
into goblets of gin, wine,
whiskey, to remind

all those around that they were
somebody else, up
with the muted Aubusson,
leaded Baccarat,
with stars down below, ordered,
shining in gold rows,
traveling in elusive,
photographable
twin lines beside dark harbors,

twinkling jewels. Once
down there ribald laborers
with muscled arms heaved
loads to the boats and craned them
off. But the great greed
guilds sent the ships away. Now,
on summer mornings,
those who want to work set out
for wild Ithaca,

learn the siren’s song, sing high
and produce their bowl,
only when asked, silently.



PAUSE


My flat forehead,
my round skull, a
hand at either
end, my mortal
shakes nothing more
than blood draining
from my unused womb.

Unmotivated
by doom, unsilvered
by moonlight, the shakes
punctuate my life,
elude my grasp, cast
not my future nor
my past. My belly

protrudes, my liver,
squishing under the
ribs, cleanses my soul.
Isles of Langerhans
ply the sugar trade,
conquering in a
British world, where sweet

opium dreams
substitute for
hunger. From my
flat forehead, round
skull, stigmata
stains the hands that
wash the dishes,
hack weeds from the yard.



THE PEKING CURIO SHOP


Behind the counters
and under the dust
Indian sages sit, stand.
Nataraja dances
the world to existence;

triple-breasted Parvati yearns,
and Kali with her skulls, black-
faced, purifies the land of the dead
and dying. Dust motes,

giddy in golden
light, Shiva, Nataraja, whirls,
manifesting petals
of the wild, scentless lotus. Golden-

bellied Buddha swans
it across the murky pool.
A galaxy of kids cry,
and laughing, climb his body
frozen in dust, a statue.

Earth collects in each
curve and crevice. And here serene
sits Bodhisattva,
once human now concerned with his

kind. Those who remain human
worship Laxmi. At bargain
prices, tit for tat, they build
the law to keep the crippled,
unbeautiful
at bay, keep
Christianity’s capital cult,
uncontaminated by the poor.

Here we can purchase
what gods we care for,
sit, dance,
or stand to bargain,
challenge the world, weep,
or joyous,
bow low and pass.



* * *


PHYSICS

10-33, PERHAPS WE ARE ONLY, DANCING SHIVA, FLYING, METEOROLOGICAL OPTICS; LEPTONS, MESONS,
BARYONS; ACCELERATORS AND FUNERARY FURNISHINGS, BB(OR C) = G + L + Q, 1028, I AM LYING IN BED


10-33*


Empty space contains more energy than any
being, or the aggregate of all beings.

If we should tap, suddenly, the energy of
emptiness, we would fissure into electrons,

photons, billions33
leptons, gluons, hadrons, quarks, with

energy so high it would be unassailable.
What is less exciting about living as an

explosion than a human being? Look at
the nova and the supernova we admire so

much, look at Halley’s comet, like a cousin
turned king, who comes visiting intermittently.

And these, all these, all manifest matter
contains less than the energy calculated for

one cubic centimeter of empty space. You see,
hyping your energy with a cup of coffee for

breakfast, a cigarette for lunch, a drink for
dinner doesn’t really do much. Let the stars

lend you a little of their light, let space
become manifest in your heart. Thrive on

emptiness, solitude and air.


* D. Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p. 190-1


PERHAPS WE ARE ONLY


vessels for chemical change
and there is nothing to do

for the toothache, the pain.
Crucibles to work out

formula X: anguish, the
heartbreak match the reagent,

catalyst. Happiness
was an experiment

tried and abandoned, death
is the reaction completed.



DANCING
SHIVA


There is nothing
but what happens
at the center of things.
Pa-tat
patapatat
patapapat
patatat-tat
pat-a-tat-tat
pata-tat-tat
pat-a-pa-tat
pat-a-pat-tat.
Mud, bronze, feet, fire.
Patapat tat
patatat tat:
Shiva dancing whatever happens
at the center of things.
“…a dagger sub k, alpha
a sub k, alpha
N sub k, alpha…”*

* J. J. Sakurai, Advanced Quantum Mechanics, p. 27


FLYING


Engines of intelligent others
carry me, wondering. I pray
they have bolted the flippers well,

beyond which lies the white spacelessness
of a human heart. My body
shimmers with weeping, sits drinking

tea with peanuts, waiting for the earth’s
afferent face to illumine
semi-infinite reflections,

fleeting recessions as, at night, earth’s
efferent lights transmit on and
on and on and on and on on

on on on on from our lively star
into now ponderable space.



METEOROLOGICAL OPTICS

“Surely the most persistent misconception about the mirage is that it is an illusion.” Alistair B. Fraser

I saw the sun on television
over at the National Bureau
of Standards, and the atomic clock,
a long silver cannon barrel, whose
cesium-133 atom

notes time, oscillating nine billion,
one hundred ninety-one thousand, seven
hundred seventy (plus or minus
twenty) hertz to define each second.

The 20 hertz variation is
disregarded. Accuracy, you
understand, has limits. Nonetheless,
the atomic clock ticks one hundred
thousand times more accurately than
the earth rotates on its axis. Leap

seconds, determined in Paris, keep
earth’s fey time coordinated to
within a fraction of a second
of universal time. Sun spots, too,
were shown. Blotches on the golden ball,

darker, cooler, magnetic fields neigh-
bor, and may goad, solar flares rife with
human doom. One or two days after
flare, slower low-energy protons,
ionized plasma, embedded in

a portion of the sun’s magnetic
field ripped away by the explosion
reaches earth’s atmosphere to set off
the northern lights, soaring in columns
and shafts of crepuscular colors

and causing magnetic storms. Earths field
dances, cluttering radar screens and
making people see what is and is
not there.



LEPTONS, MESONS, BARYONS


The appalling thing in talking with another human,
I’m supposed to ask how he is,
what he is doing, where he has been,
what does he want to do next, care. But I don’t.

I want no more information about humans.
I want to give none about myself.

What I want, what I really want is to get right down
to working out what equation equals him, equals me,
equals the butterfly, the scabrous beast,
equals the forty story, new slanted building,

the ooze of rotten oil at the broken curb,
the kiss of the rose which, last summer
parted my lips, forced in one drop of dew.



ACCELERATORS AND FUNERARY FURNISHINGS


I

A compassionate fellow
with a small English accent
asks: “What do we think we’re
doing, bashing all those atoms about,
the electrons, the neutrons, the quarks?
They are consciousness. Do we never consider
the harm? Building accelerators to speed them
toward the speed of light, bombarding them with
each other. Do we never consider the harm?”

I say:
“My intuition is that we may be doing more than we think.
As skittish as those particles may be, we may
be creating matter. Though they explode
off the bubble chamber photographs,
still, who knows what ultimate
changes we wreak? Creating.
Creating matter.
For they say
that high energy particles do not
come into being until there is an observer,
an experimenter who calls them into being -- us.”


II

We say
bashing atoms about is the only way we
can study them, and particles and quarks.
Since we can’t see them unless we involve
them in drama / violence, we necessarily call
that violence / drama that we see a part of them.
Might it not be the same for humans?
We can’t really see human beings
unless they are engaged in drama -- a skinned knee, a terrible job,
a frightful husband, the throes of passion -- the way they are in literature.
We grow bored with a story or an anecdote unless it is dramatic.
The function of drama in human beings may just be
the means for us to see each other.

We can no more perceive a human being at rest,
in its “natural” state than we can see a muon, or a quark.
Life itself may be blissfully, serenely placid;
it is our bombardment in an effort to see
that creates all the drama,
just as it does with particles.


III

They say, if there is a certain finitude of matter,
the universe is open, forever expanding.
They say, if there is more than a certain mass,
the universe is closed, it will reach its maximum
and contract back into itself. Right now, they
say, there is missing matter in the galaxies
which may be other universes,
worlds we cannot see --
due to our limited ways of seeing

(due to our chosen, self-limiting ways of seeing).
If these universes appear, or we find the neutrino has weight, or
if we create matter by bashing particles, then we have only (perhaps)
1030 more years to be about. (In any case, look for a radical change
from proton and neutron decay at 1032.) Think, as you make
things, dramas, if you are making something which increases
matter. It can close down our universe.


IV

Beware of what you create.


V

I have noticed a compulsion to go against what I really want:
i.e., to eat when I’m not hungry, to remain in love
with Allan when he bored me to death,
to stick with old friends even when
they hurt me,
in short,
a natural compulsion to work
against my own best interest.


VI

Why?



BB (OR C) = G + L + Q


LESSON I

The GUTS --
the Grand Unified Theory
post-Einsteinians are looking for
is so self-evident
it can’t be found.

BB = Big Bang
C = Consciousness
G = Gluons
L = Leptons
Q = Quarks

Stated another way:

BB (or C) = G (or G + EM + WF + SF) + M (or L + Q)

The Big Bang (or Consciousness)
this says, equals Gluons plus Matter.

Gluon is a term for the four forces:
Gravity
The Electromagnetic Force
The Weak Force
The Strong Force --
i.e., the four “glues.”

Matter is made up of Leptons and Quarks.
Leptons are light particles.
What’s not a Lepton is a Hadron:
medium and heavy particles (Mesons
and Baryons) all made of five
(or six) bound Quarks.

That’s what the physicists say:
Six bits of imagination, and six
(or five) bits within bits make up the world.

In the beginning was the Big Bang.
The Big Bang was Consciousness (a super-
luminal, Tachyon world): conceiving,
manifesting, combining, recombining,
dissolving.

Consciousness, the equation says, is
equivalent to all there is: Gluons,
Leptons, Quarks (flavored: up, down,
strange, charmed, truth, beauty and ?).
(“Up, down, strange, charmed, bottom, top,”
says Hawking, “each flavor coming in three colors:
red, green and blue.”)

The physicists, like everyone else, know
that there is nothing until you look for it.
What you see is a function of who looks --
how. Beyond the sixth Quark, the only
thing that needs definition (now) is
the seeing instrument (us): Consciousness,
which they, the physicists, have never dared
approach.

What is not made conscious is not.
What is made conscious is.

Or if they want to continue for awhile
in the direction they’re used to going,
they’ll find a substructure to the Quarks,
and define those and yet another substructure
and another, until Consciousness,
absolutely unavoidably (which obliges
by supplying anything you seek), will finally present
itself as the only necessity to these semi-conscious
probers.

But there’s already plenty of research around.
Buddha can tell them, or the Tibetan
or the Hindu, who’ve scientifically
proved Consciousness for 10,000 years.

Mankind has never been without interest
in his creation of the world. Realizing
it is Consciousness and he is part of
Consciousness is an insight attained
some time ago.

When we stop throwing data from a different science
away with both hands and study what has been done,
physicists will be surprised to see how far along the path
we already are.


LESSON II

The universe is now open.
We carry the potential to close it.
We’d better be careful.

Scientists are looking for the missing mass:
other universes like our own
which we cannot see
because our vision is skewed toward
making human beings, trees, mountains,
railroad trains, cars and one-hundred-two
story buildings out of L+G+Q.
But the C doing it is the same.

The universe is C.
We simply can’t see part of it,
like we can’t see an Electron or a Proton,
or a Quark.

If we found some way to see them,
we could see into other universes,
which is exactly what the Eastern Mystics,
and some of the Western ones, too,
did long ago and even today.

Given pure Consciousness
you can see their equivalent of trees
and mountains and beings and busses
running up and down whatever
they might have thought of for roads.


LESSON III

How are we closing the universe?
By making things.

When the universe reaches a critical
mass, it will begin to contract.

Does the neutrino have weight?
Can we violate the laws of conservation
and actually create matter?

Look at us on the reality level: we have
filled the world with so many things, things

that used to be thoughts, that we are inevitably
preparing for ourselves a holocaust, probably nuclear.

A holocaust to rid us of too many things, too many
material manifestations of Consciousness
which overburdens the universe.

In the same way, playing with high energy physics,
we are slowly creating enough particles:
Leptons, Quarks, Gluons -- to reach a critical mass
where we will begin to contract.

We are Consciousness, the creative matter
in the universe, here to fulfill that task

or not

as we choose.

Will we stop in time?
Will we stop creating so we can go on expanding?
Or will we choose to go on creating and bring about
our own contraction? Some would say doom.

But it need not be so.
Nuclear holocaust is a way of stabilizing the universe.

Consciousness will pull back to the BB.
But then, as the Hindus say, it will expand again.
No loss.
Except you and me in our present form.


LESSON IV

Take everything in the world, put it in a heap,
let each choose what they need, what they want.
Burn the rest.

If you’re wise, you’ll choose only
Consciousness and a little food,
or perhaps just Consciousness.
Even food is too much of a burden.

Let the rest go so that we particles, all of us,
Leptons, Hadrons, Gluons, may go on
dancing the dance of miracles
the dance of Shiva,
wiggling and giggling
throughout the known universe
and elsewhere.

Pure thoughts (Consciousness)
will keep the universe
open forever.


V ENVOI

It is interesting to think through and redo this poem
from 7-18-84 now on 12-2-90 --
(just ten years exactly since I met Baba
and said, “Help me change my life.”
And he said, “You change your life,
you know how to change your life,
you change your life.”)
when I have just got rid of my things,
my thirty-one boxes of burden,
when I am now feeling like a clean porcelain tube,
life beginning to flow through it, me,
like it hasn’t in years.
I guess I had about reached critical mass.



1028*


centimeters: the distance
to the event horizon,
furthest distance from which real
signals can be received,

beyond which God stalks,
and my hope that you will hear me,
see me, speak to me.
It’s a long way, and yet my plants

know when I take wing, miss me
when I venture, and the plants
I eat turn into thoughts, which know
no event horizon but

the limits of humans,
bastions against the cold dark night
and the dew -- praying to
create rules enough to keep their

molecules
intact
forever.

* Ilya Prigogine, From Being to Becoming, Chapter 1, p. 1


I AM LYING IN BED


reading Freeman Dyson on superstrings --
how small they are:
as the earth is smaller than the universe,
as the atom is smaller than the earth,
so the superstring is smaller than the atom.

Now that’s small!

Inconceivable as it seems, I am thinking about
superstrings
in my friend’s light and airy guest room
when I hear one note,
one hollow echoing note that I know
as one part of a two part melody.
But that was only half,

just one hollow, melodious note.
That single note, probably a mistake, or an illusion,
transported me as if I were
an infinitely moving atom
straight to India.
It was half of a song of a bird you hear in India.

There in a room much too large and much too bright
I lay in India. Outside was the flat land, the rising heat,
the pervasive dust, the infinite dreariness of homes
made of mud, of people whose feet are
cracked like the hooves of their beasts
from walking on the earth in the
heat and the dust.

They look at you with the eyes of infinity.
They sing in low tones to the beat of the earth
and the atoms: repetition, repetition, repetition
with variance
like the single note of the imagined bird:
repetition, repetition, repetition
in the heat and the dust
with ten thousand miles to be walked,

in a world
where the size of the universe,
the earth and the atom,
the size of fields and particles,
the size of symmetry-groups,
the size of states in ten-dimensional space-time
lead to the superstring
whose dynamic behavior defines the states.

The melancholy note of a single sitar
sounds early in the morning
across the silent waters
of the sacred Tajasa,
the river of light
where the loon sound of a bird
lingers one note short
and the desolate heat and the passion
of life is tempered by
repetition, repetition, repetition,

and the tenth dimensional state
of heat too hot to bear,
cows too thin to walk,
people too imbued with the infinity of time
to agree to anything more important than

to the note of a single sitar
and the half note cry of a lost and single loon.



* * *


PURPLE II


In the western world kings are robed
with worn and ancient purple, crowned
with gold, set apart, worshipped, graced,
envied, guillotined, defrocked
and disregarded for today.
Tomorrow hasn’t come.



PURPLE III


The maroon purple dusty smoky
vermillion red of the sun going

down in shade and darkness over the
simmering Angels’ City sometimes
reminded you of Vulcan’s smithy,
Lucifer’s digs, and other times there
were bright angel wings of gold across
the sunless western sky that hung there
forever and ever and ever --
silent missiles shot from out of sight
to beyond the ocean’s rim -- giant
konji in the sky.



QUIZ


What is the most frequently lost
article of human clothing? --
at least in old residential,
light industrial areas?

Gloves, workmen’s, and underpants, both
male and female. Once in awhile
an eagle’s feather is found,
a snake’s shed shroud,
but very rarely.



SEPTEMBER SONG


The wound in the flesh of the living
covers over with purple as soft as a moth.
Crying is baffled with the down of a feathered heart.
Nothing cuts too deep.
Nothing cries to be done.

Half way into the heart goes the knife of despair
stopping short of the aorta.
The needle, six inches long, goes straight through the arm;
pull it back for treatment and peace.

No one else has taken the tablets of oblivion.
Dry your tears, stitch your heart, be of good cheer.
The moth spins her own pod,
cuts her own wound,
flies to the light,
and remains.



SUBURBAN HOME


Red wings flash red in the sunlight.
The swallows don’t care who built the concrete culvert,
or why. Three huge tunnels make cool
sites for their nests. They play all day long
down one tube and back up another, amazed at the shade
in an otherwise solid landscape where the small cottonwoods rattle,
but don’t grow big, where the burrs inhibit humans,
and the last few pinions yield their nuts
for bird or insect or beast.

Maybe they won’t have to migrate now,
or maybe they’ll tire of the roar of wheels
brainwashing their young. Who knows,
maybe the culvert will still be there when the cars
and their drivers are gone, and the clouds and their shade admire the wind,
and only the sun, once again, makes love to the moon.



* * *


TEXAS

TEXAS, McDONALD OBSERVATORY, VLIET, THE GREAT GOD LESHIKAR, DIVORCE I, HUMORESQUE,
“TWENTY-FIVE MILES SOUTH OF DALLAS”


TEXAS


Under the humid sun and the redbud,
down by the myrtles of God,
where the bluebonnets nod in the east wind
and the Colorado runs
red with mud,

where blood is mixed with a generous spoon
and the family tree, with
lobbed limbs and sometimes a lost main trunk, may
be quite short, where the peeled skin
is maroon

and sticky as plum juice, the brown as thin
as bark, where harsh moon landscapes
are trod by space walkers, where cicadas
rasp all at once -- a giant
breathing in

the night -- we take to heart a challenge to
God, and the good God’s holy
grace. That’s the pickle’s cucumber, the source
of a reckless glee. Sing, God,
O sing to
me.



McDONALD OBSERVATORY


Up among the miller moths and piles of moth
bodies, up where they do lunar laser
ranging, where Texas drops away like the wings
of tomorrow, where the three nano-second

Korad ruby laser beamed sixteen straight years
at the moon measuring our distance within
centimeters, confirming Einsteinian
relativity, judging earthquakes, the drift

of continents, lunar wobble, the human
heart soars with possibilities of being
out over the buttes and mesquite, the dry oaks
gnarling up through cirrus clouds, stratus, out,

out to where the white-domed telescopes barely
pierce. We’re alone, and lucky that we attained
this form before we grabbed evolution by
the genes and hightailed it into a future

peripheral to nature, but not to us.
“O, meddling humanity, discover
my laws, but respect my vision. One hundred
seven inches will get you to the verge of

the insubstantial universe, but not to
the heart of the matter. Dive deep, deep into
the ease of breathing, into the aorta’s
pumping, feel it in the wild chaos of cells,

urgent, desiring. Ask the synapses who’ll
come next, fluttering as moths on the mountain.”




VLIET


I remember little about you except
a full moon walk through crisp Pennsylvania fields,
over low stone walls, across a shallow stream,
along paths of celestial light, squeaking on
a wooden bridge, sitting, haunted by pious
ghosts, where, in high-backed pews of old white churches,
the monochrome modesty of one stained glass
window opened in the night to gnarled, silver
twigs touching the earth, black as a chasm, silent
as dawn. I remember curling fibers,
fine shreds of the yucca you taught us to twine,
or pound like papyrus: meticulous skills
hardly applicable in America,
1962. I remember your home

in Vermont gaily adance with sun on tall jars
of home-canned corn, translucent tomatoes, Anne
in gingham, your heart in Texas, down among
the bald cypress, live oaks, gathering pecans
with the Indians, knowing nature as well
as any eagle. I remember you now:
gone to drift blue with the southwestern dawn, pink
with the coming night, referenced like the ancients,
pensive in heaven, longing for bluebonnets,
the old flat land that leads straight across the plains,
but halts short of paradise. You walked away,
young with leukemia, you laugh still, no doubt,
at the joke of three left shoes. And while weaving
yucca, I pause, sometimes, to think of you.




THE GREAT GOD LESHIKAR


Well, he was tall
and he was strong
and he had a big mouth
and a great big laugh

and more opinions
than there are florets on bluebonnets
in an April Texas field.

He took care of his Ma until she was near
ninety-eight, and she was a character, too.
You betcha. Didn’t want the house cleaned,
wanted to Talk. “Set down here, honey,
and talk to me.”

And she’d tell tales about
dancing and brawling,
and politicians, and parties
you never heard the likes of.

She saved rags and boxes, plastics
and hose, silk and nylon, and furniture
right up to the ceiling and clothes.
He brought home jewels and artifacts:

precious things from China --
Tang and Sung and Ching-pai --
and from Japan -- Kaikimon,
and an angelfood cake now and then.

He’d brought her back home from the ice-cold,
mildew-damp northwest to die
thirty-five years ago in the hot sun,
under the skies of blue. But she lived
on and on and on. He said to spite

him, but it was to make us all
laugh and love life. Who
wouldn’t want to visit that crazy old
woman full of more glee

than a monkey tree?
Same with old Cleve -- has guts that man
or God -- going here, going there,
telling you what to think,

and how to think it. Finding treasures,
convincing you or me or anyone
else they were treasures.

The Great God Leshikar is good for a laugh or two,
one of those great tall Texas tale tellers.
And now he’s off back to Seattle, and
the gloom and the damp, Mama-free.

The bluebonnets will miss his opinions,
books will miss his capturing,
bits of furniture will miss his
long enduring, great admiration for Texas pine.
And Texas itself will miss him sorely,

even though he didn’t keep the banks open
nor the skyscrapers from going bust in Austin.
Well, Lockhart held his heart,
and he’s often held my hand:

telling me friendship will outlast
love, and he’s right, you know.
My loves dropped dead and my friends

go on and on and on and on,
like those bluebonnet opinions
and that wide, quick smile
and the raucous chuckle,
under his straw hat

telling you the gossip of the Bloomsbury Group,
and asking:
“Do you understand what I mean, honey?”



DIVORCE I


She lives at the Bluffs of Barton,
a complex overlooking Austin,

that complex, old boomtown
of a city, rising high, too high

for the Colorado
River to support it, too widespread

for pure water to reach
it. Austin floats on nature’s aquifers

made deadly by the wastes
of man -- and woman. Effluvia

floats where the redbuds used
to float, where blue mountain laurel blooms

too late, too high smelling
to keep her happy. She’s turned, twisted,

she’s worn bluebonnets, she’s
smiled ’til her eyelids crinkle: cirrus

clouds on a winter day,
a cold front coming down, hurting. O

God, hurting! The pain’s red
hot, the land’s gone dry, there’s drought. She fasts

-- except her wine, her beer,
her chocolate pie -- she fasts, she fasts.

“Divide,” he said. “Have it
all!” she cried. One more noxious body

in the aquifer can’t
hurt anyone, least of all her.

She’ll let you know what complex to name
after the Bluffs of Barton, after her.



HUMORESQUE


Prompted, we started out laughing at a paranoid Jewboy’s poem:
in a post office, he fancied himself as posted “unwanted,”
convicted, ugly, unloved, a clown, bound prisoner to whimpishness.
But mirth soon petered away, each drifting off, perhaps as I did,
into my own thoughts. Next to me, Genevieve tentatively named
it as pain. Skewered, I, too, laughed,

“Unfunny. It hurts.” Then a lass, beautiful and Irish, said: “It
cites feelings unknown to my heart, thoughts not in my head, ideas
foreign to a normal person. Loneliness,” she said, “yes. But to
feel an unwanted criminal, willing to be a criminal
if only to be wanted -- I can’t understand him. He’s writing
about abnormal behavior.”

Slammed back thirty years, I sat in Psych. I. Students were being read
letters by some nut, a perfect example of paranoid thought,
out of proportion, lunatic, personal, the kind of letter
I penned, but didn’t send. “She’s ill -- that letter writer,” all agreed.
“Sick. Abnormal. Odd.” I shut my mouth and held tight to my flying
carpet, knowing I daren’t move.

My eye roamed the circle, roamed round, round the present, silent circle.
One gentle woman quite gently agreed: “Only an aberrant
could feel so unwarrantedly, willfully, utterly queer.” My
heart stopped, my blood surged, my temples pulsed. I stand with the aberrants! --
my soul sang. I stand firmly in my shell with the nuts. Genevieve
is a nut, too. I saw her cracks

when entering, all aflutter, she pictured her mother, with a
pearl-handled revolver, shooting birds, which, like a faithful bird dog,
her daughter retrieved. “Not wantonly,” she piped to allay pious,
piteous shock. “She ate them” “Ate the birds?” “Pigeons.” Now she digressing:
“My six brothers and sisters died in infancy, my mother died,
too. When my father died, I was

shunted from family to family called ox and lummox, big foot, poor
cousin.” A tall, small woman, she said: “I never called myself brave
until I saved my own life by realizing it made me strong,
not wrong.” Her fragile brow crinkled above pain bright eyes. My eye roamed
round, saw eleven faces muse. Like the lass, did they feel forever
wanted? Or were they, like I, so

shy, they would not speak up against an angel? Would anyone have
enough courage to admit they felt, as surely half the world feels: crazed,
hungry, fearful, foolish, wanted, if at all, and that but seldom,
only by God?



“TWENTY-FIVE MILES SOUTH OF DALLAS”


“That’s where the runes indicate on this ancient map from the twenty-first century. It’s 150 feet deep, and a fifty- three mile circle, so we mustn’t think we’ve missed it if we don’t make a strike with our first pit. We may have to probe for years to get a clue where the actual tunnel goes. Here’s hoping.”

“What guess work. Do we start digging here or here? It’s hardly worth it -- fifty-three miles of possible errors. That’s big.”

“It’s worth six billion dollars in their old coin, they say. Was it built of gold? Maybe silver. It’s marked as El Dorado on this old, tattered map from the country of Texas. What do you suppose it’ll be like? What do you suppose they used it for? Colliding atoms -- some esoteric texts say. What are atoms and why would they run around in a tunnel 150 feet underground?”

“Subatomic particles.”

“Ever see one?”

“Have you? Fucking moles.”

“These questions may never be answered, any more than questions about that stone circle over in England. Maybe atoms liked to skip and bump on that as well. Maybe they built the same thing underground so the bandits wouldn’t topple the stones like at Stonehenge, and that other one up the road a ways, near the cone shaped hill called Silbury. Maybe it’s along those same lines as the Pyramids over in the land they called Egypt a few centuries before.”

“Names seem to last the longest.”

“Chih Huang Di buried 6,000 ceramic warriors the oldest texts tell us. I suppose if you were really diligent you could find a treasure underneath for every step you take on top.”

“Or mark a place where someone died when the mushroom lights rose.”



* * *


TIBETAN CHRONICLE

“At the Sakya monastery … a large chhorten close to the main temple contained the entire collection
of Buddist scriptures in Uighur, probably lodged there when no one was left who could read it.”
Tucci, Tibet

When no one is left who reads them,
books from the human world, where will
the copies be kept? Like shiny
spirals of magnetic tape, when
no recorders remain, who will know

they contain wisdom from a race
blown to bits by its mind, flung to
the winds with skilled hands. No chhorten
to contain them -- when the hewn stones
and the bricks of libraries have

drifted fine as powder, silent
as ash to an unconscious earth,
where will the sacred leaves be found?
Where will the fine cedilla’s flick,
the i’s dot, the tail of a q,

the cross of a t, where will the
intricate rules of a Sanskrit
grammar reside when no chhortens
remain, bulbous, upright, tuned to
broadcast beyond indifferent skies?



TREE BONES


Lying about in the tall, gold
grass I counted thirty-seven
branch bits big and small, all of them
pointed, sharp-edged like the shattered
femur I once saw through the flesh
of a torn thigh. But the tree’s bones
were grey and barky, lying in
a field like the bones of a cow,
or the prehistoric beast whose
petrified teeth I found high on
the Deccan plateau.

Uphill another tree, losing
its bones, stood; its branches still dark
with the live oak’s club leaves. Further
yet, just below the platinum
apex of this mound treasured with
relics, where I cupped my hands close
to see just sunless void over
the shimmering tops of the dried
grass, was a whole graveyard beneath
a hollow tree. I laid my hand
upon its vast trunk,

felt the emptiness inside, knew
it would one day open to show
the prana without at one with
the prana within. Down a way
on the path a tree, having lain
on its stem, with one root still tucked
in the earth, survived. Green-headed
it lounged waiting for the sun in
which to bathe. Then down the dried mud
and gold path by the cow’s trough I
saw Sisyphus’ stone

huge, perfectly round, on freshly disturbed earth --
though I know it had
rested still for two thousand years.
Round about where candelabra,
dandelions and purple spike
burrs and the glorious blue sky
all inside my eye.



UNDER THE VOLCANO


My feet hot and burning,
barely safe on the edges
of my sandals from the jagged

lava’s bite (India sandals --
where dirt is soft, like silk) know perilous
movements in this not timeless land, tee-

ter with Hawaii’s history into
the condominium culture of next year.
Who’s to say the gods don’t dote on plastic or come

inside a car. Having made long molecules, chain re-
actions, leptons, hadrons, gluons and quarks, they gave us
the power to rearrange what we choose. Choose wisely,

O temporary man,
the dinosaurs lasted one hundred fifty million
years -- you’ve not yet done two.



OTHER POEMS


INDEX

1028

10-33

ACCELERATORS AND FUNERARY FURNISHINGS

ACE OF CUPS

A CONSCIENCE ACCOUNTING

ARIZONA DESERT

AT NEW MEXICO’S CANADIAN RIVER

A TOWN CALLED BOULEVARD

A TRICK OF THE MIND

AVIARY

BALLAD

BB (OR C) = G + L + Q

BEYOND MAYA

BLUE

BUCK’S COUNTY

CAUTION

CENSER

CHALLENGER

CHANTING

CHOICE

CICADA

CLIFF DWELLER

CO-AUTHOR

CONQUISTADORS

CONSCIENCE ACCOUNTING, A

COURAGE

CROSSROADS

DANCING SHIVA

DEVOTION

DIVORCE I

DIVORCE II

DIVORCE III

DIVORCE V

DORIS SOPHIE PEPPLER SMITH

DREAM OF THE MARBLE BRIDGE

EAR-DOL-AID (Irradol-A)

ELURA

ENCOURAGEMENT

FACTS, THE

FAME

FATHER II

FLYING

FROM MORNING VISIONS

FROM THE COMPUTER’S DANCE

FROM THE JOCASTA POEMS #12 -- DESTINY

GAFFUR’S FORM

GEORGE COLUZZI

GIFTS

GRADUATION EXERCISES FOR SUZANNE

GRADY WOMAN

GREAT GOD LESHIKAR, THE

HAAG & HAAG

HIROSHIMA FLAME, THE

HOMELESS

HUMORESQUE

HYPERBOLA

I AM LYING IN BED

IN BROOKLYN

IN THE ORIENTAL MUSEUM

ITALIAN

LEPTONS, MESONS, BARYONS

LINGERING

MAKING LUNCH

MAUI

MAYA

McDONALD OBSERVATORY

McDONALD OBSERVATORY II

METEOROLOGICAL OPTICS

MY DAUGHTER

NEW YORK SKYLINE

PAUSE

PEKING CURIO SHOP, THE

PERHAPS WE ARE ONLY

PROOFS

PUBESCENCE

PUMPKIN-COLORED WALLS

PURPLE I

PURPLE II

PURPLE III

PURPLE IV

QUIZ

RAYNE IN LOUISIANA

RESEARCH

SEPTEMBER SONG

SEVENTIES, THE

SOPAPILLAS

SUBURBAN HOME

SUFI

SWAN, THE

TECHNETIUM

1028

10-33

TEXAS

THE FACTS

THE GREAT GOD LESHIKAR

THE HIROSHIMA FLAME

THE PEKING CURIO SHOP

THE SEVENTIES

THE SWAN

THIS IS FOR YOU, SEDNA

TIBETAN CHRONICLE

TOWN CALLED BOULEVARD, A

TREASURE

TREE BONES

TRICK OF THE MIND, A

“TWENTY-FIVE MILES SOUTH OF DALLAS”

UNDER THE VOLCANO

URUMQI

VLIET

WAITING FOR RUTH

WEI

ZEN

OTHER POEMS



BY JAN HAAG


ART & POETRY - ACCUMULATIONS


INTRODUCTION + POETRY + MUSIC + ESSAYS + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART

HAAG’S BIO

21st CENTURY ART, C.E. - B.C., A Context$