33 OF THE 2001 POEMS



Struggling to identify what's changed,
I realize that I may have done
what I'm going to do.
The knowledge grows.
Have I written my last?
-- as, beyond Allan,
faith in love was lost,

as, leaving Hollywood, I knew
my desire to make films suffered killing,
so now, with memory's loss,
another giving up
of plans, hopes, dreams, visions
a giving in
to the sway of life:

moving on, no longer paying
attention to intentions. I'd give up my
life sooner than be without
a writer's addiction.
What remains inexpressible, wordless, undescribed
is substanceless, each,
moment a death to me.



Struggling, as each old necessity
disappears delivering me to life, nothing but
life, no goals, no exercise
of talent, emptiness,
peering at beauty's endless void.
God created all,
we're to indulge as spectators

only. Don't try to play
at creation. Just watch it! A prescription
for madness in the human
pantheon. Sit still.
The Hindus have tried it
for multiple eons,
in caves, forests, on mountains.

Yet, someone built the temples,
carved the living rock into hallowed monuments.
The central mystery of Bharat:
to do nothing.
Yet all is done. Does
the workman agree?
Or does he sweat pleasurably?



Struggling with the precious cargo
of reality as if unloading a ship
without cranes, nets or men --
looking into light,
seeing the shimmer of silver
of tarnished gold
unable to say: "Wonderful things."

Flailing with one's arms, minuscule
on the deck of a ten-thousand-ton
vessel or in the hold
with the oil
attempting to count the molecules
without words, numbers,
unable to construct systems, languages.

Yes, the trees are beautiful,
the sunset, alizarin crimson tarnished with copper,
but you have not seen
it, read it
until scanned into language's words,
words hemmed in
the beginning was the word.



Struggling to define the difference
between speech, language, writing, alphabet and orthography.
I could write in Sanskrit
In Sanskrit I
could write in Devanagari or
using Chinese pictographs,
Japanese konji, Cyrillic, English letters.

Struggling to define the difference
between seeing the cloud touched mountain whiteness
of Rainier, Tahoma and writing
a one-hundred
line Qaisida or a sonnet
is to discuss
a kind of permanence unknown

to snow, even to Cheops
or the meandering snake of the Great
Wall -- seen from the moon.
Meditate. Can you
erase the words from your
mind, can you
tell word from image, seeing.



Struggling to tell the precise
difference between writing '98 or '99 or
two-thousand-one, the larger exceeded by
the smaller year,
squeezed into a concept, multiplied
by meanings, enforced
by time and power, anger.

Struggling to remember there are
other ways of counting, reckoning time, division,
even the hours can differ,
the months can
shrink and grow by moons
or with moon
disregarded or sun or stars.

No way to tell difference
except by word systems, expressing the inexpressible.
How do we know tree?
My tree is
different from your tree
or is it?
Who grew that orchard tree?



Struggling to agree that desirelessness
is a desirable goal, not a want
of courage or vision, not
lack of spirit,
not mean-spirtedness or a faint-heartedness,
not a fear
of living or a superstition

as hex against dying unexpectedly
caught out in the greed for wanting
things, happiness, achievement, good fortune,
I am cautious,
I tread lightly, breathing shallowly,
invoking the Buddha,
bowing low, treading softly, pussyfooting.

I am not a phoenix, I
will not rise from the piled ashes
of despair. There'll be no
change of mind
after sixty. My death-bed conversion
happened at sixteen
in knowing This Was It.



Struggling, constantly for exactness, strictness,
the observation of forms, diminishment of chaos,
I have ridden the crest
of crimson waves
washed in blood, trying, hoping,
salvaging each remnant
or perceived order, perceived beatitude.

Struggling to know that all
could be different, that different planes intersect
tangentially through, across my despair,
I wake mornings
in joy, laugh lightly toward
moonlight's faint shadows,
knowing that counting the pulse

brings relief, to the accelerating
heart, that bathing soothes body and mind,
that eating satisfies, looking stimulates.
Sleep has restored
in addition to dreams, terrors,
that promised disappearance,
at least for a day.



Struggling for prescience all through
life, wanting to know what will happen
-- not too interested in what
is happening now.
A fear based world ticks
off the possibilities,
the probabilities, the calamities about

to, most likely to happen.
Then it ticks off those less likely
to happen, and reviews all
predictions, calculating percentages,
rechecking likelihoods, actuary tables, statistical
reports, data analysis.
For attention paid to today's

flow -- meandering, dull as life,
puttering, pottering, slaving, stressing, clawing endlessly upward --
would undermine trust in meaning.
trust, at least,
in the value of striving,
for fulfilled prophecy
always deltas through meandering life.



Struggling, as one wakes from
clouds or layers or eons of sleep,
into the desolate, blank greyness
of Seattle's hailing
in the night, rainy morning,
humdrum seeming day,
one exits bed on knees

stiff with the night's relaxation
and rest under the down surrounding warmth's
sedation and drifting, elegant dreams,
drugged by hyperbole
regarding life's great value, meaning,
peeing half awake,
numbed by half remembered obligations,

stumbling askewly clad into streets
littered by students and wind-created, burnable branches,
taking a great gulp of
sea air, seagull's
screaming, wheeling delight high/low
in the sky
-- birds in the chirping bush.



Struggling with probability, I hope
not to survive the year. Vision remains
steady. The other side beckons.
Through the narrow
opening at the temple's end,
through the darkness
and incense, the scented dampness,

through hall after hall, mirrored
to reflect my fractal mind, the diminishment
and repetition of pattern, spiraling
chaos, confusion partnered
with deciphering the double helix,
fear's asp feasting
at my dry, unnourished breast,

I sense light further on.
The mandala will dissolve. The corners, inhabited,
will eviscerate their plus-minus meanings.
Hearing the call,
I will kneel, bow deeply,
worship other civilizations,
new planes, paths to non-being.



Struggling with the night's accumulation
of snow, back in Lake Effect time,
skirting the Sound's fragmented edge,
the weather changes
putting predictability to sleep under
the snow blanket
where warmth is in stillness.

My heart stands still. I
read novels, write poems, groom orchids, consult
friends by e-mail, walk miles,
buttocks hurting, bones
perceivable under the coursing blood,
flesh, musculature, nerves.
The skin dries, itches, loses

its sense of touch, smells.
The brain flickers like an electrical misconnection.
Computers are surer, work better.
Their toes, which
they do not have, don't
hurt or stub.
They stand foursquare, gray, humming.



Struggling, at curiosity's window again
and again. It has been unobtrusively snowing
all night and continues -- silently.
Cascading past street
lamps, bringing bushes into bloom
with white cotton,
flake lightly upon flake, fluffy,

like the years, months, days,
unobtrusively, silently accumulating toward centuries, geological periods.
What are we here for?
To count rings?
Time's rings? God's laughter? Despair?
We live in
the post-era: postmodern, postcolonial, postclassical,

postwar, postmeridian, postprandial, the postmistress.
As if everything had happened before now
and we linger behind sweeping
up debris. Posts
that once supported porches, balustrades,
foreign stations, mail
now signify nothing new arrives.



Struggling to get over premature
expectations of excellence, perfection of any kind,
I watch the raggedy buds,
spring's wanton development
of weeds and new twigs.
Some grow some
die, some are whipped by

the wind into torn wisps,
some are frozen by snow after growth.
Nature doesn't cry, nor expect.
She goes on
with the sap rising, seedingly
breaking the soil.
Rivulets become streams of passion.

Watch for the meandering pattern,
love the bank's gouge changing the course
of the river, providing dirt
for the delta,
soil for the white narcissus,
the hyacinth's scent.
Demand patience, liberality, premature love.



Struggling to return to my
own life, rhythm, food after a weekend
of house and pet sitting,
temptation which I
did not even try to
resist or confront
giving into rest, reading,

I add this morning's discovery:
furniture burns very well -- hot, well-seasoned,
bright-flamed, well-dried, alley-found, one leg,
blond, polished, detached.
Picasso warmed himself with paintings
one Paris winter,
I have tried manuscripts eons

ago. Now I save everything,
each word, thought, e-mail, as if rescuing
civilization from time's oblivion. In
the larger scheme
of things, will one million
words equal a
skyscraper, a shack -- a tree?



Struggling to keep one's mind
free from the future, free from turning
plums to prunes, the smooth
to sweet, dried
wrinkles, satiating one's self with
now, what's next
may elude even the vigilant.

One can eat too fast,
too much, diurnally, meal by meal, stuffing
all one's future into one
medium-sized, succulent bite
and choking, red-faced, vomiting, pleading
to rewind film.
One thought was real, important.

Time expands in all nine
directions. Temptations record their hopes in flesh,
fear prefers words, but can
scream, if necessary.
Sightless in the presence of daffodils
burn your paintings,
scour rust from your eyes.



Struggling, living in the outlying
district of the city, keeping my mind
from the future, suffocating hope,
subsisting through eons
on the crumbs of criminals,
watching geological upheavals,
I doubt mankind's crowning-glorihood claims.

Only a sadistic God could
invent a human template and its problems,
Only an Alzheimer's afflicted God
could create nature's
laws, nature's beauty and set
a crazed humanity
to husband it to destruction.

Only a God with no
authority whatsoever could allow man's wild dance
of pride, greed, hate, blind
torment of his
fellow creatures. Naturally, this crazed,
purlieu-destroying creature invented
an insane, amused, amusing God.



Struggling to remain insightful, upright
on my path through the entangling forest,
to choose this and not
that -- or hatred,
I walk with soft shoes
balanced on toes
bleeding with effort and despair.

Shooed out of the womb
without instruction, nursed by parents as ignorant
as I, too, have remained,
I walk along
the shores breathing cold wind,
feeding swooping seagulls,
listening to my heart beat.

I don't hear the heartbeat
of the seagulls, I forget my plans,
my hopes, I forget to
feed myself. Food
has turned to money. Gold
has no succulence.
Even seagulls won't eat it.



Struggling against adopting futilities from
the past, struggling against tracing the past
over the future's dim glow
struggling to breathe --
where is the path beside
the daffodil stream?
Does the hyacinth still bloom?

Breathe pure gasoline, hydrocarbons, sniff
radon, monitor your arrhythmia, read your electroencephalogram.
Form habits for the new
world. Rip apart
the magnolia blossom to study
its sexual parts.
Count the dancing molecules on

the pin's head where, now,
even angel's fear to tread. Quantify, analyze,
forget the dagger sticking through
your heart, note
its alloy, count its metals,
count it friend.
Enjoy its pure, unmixed lethality.



Struggling, I tiptoe the earth,
invested with full authority and diplomatic powers
to transact my singular life,
to breathe, eat
sleep, stew -- endlessly begging God
to take some
responsibility. But its like asking

your painting to speak, like
kissing the lips of your carving -- hoping
she'll smile -- like fingering your
poem, hoping word
combinations, rhymes might stir enlightenment
into your anxiety-ridden
body or mind. And you?

You straddle an abstract margin,
neither flesh nor spirit, neither synapses, pulse
beat, nor prana, dithering, never
a commitment -- a
worthless viceroy, a wretched provincial
governor, observing raging
colonies, obsequious, disunited, deaf -- mute.



Struggling to prepay -- as it
says on the voucher -- the ticket to heaven,
nirvana, paradise, eternal bliss, knowing
at your age
bliss is not the answer,
never was. It
will never be enough to

compensate for the war implanted
in the human heart, by man's God,
himself. Oblivion might do, might
make up for
the heat and the cold,
the satiety and
the hunger, the hatred and

what passes for love. Beliefs
created by the gasping, grasping, slime-warm heart,
pulsing, unoccupied, susceptible to flashing
eyes, helplessness, winsomely
curved lips, outstretched hands, tears.
Bland they seem
on the page, prepaid, overdue.



Struggling with lightness, I ponder.
I was wrong, the word is weighty
even though it conjures yew
gardens in trimmed,
touristed English castles. On loan
from France and
Latin -- whatever country that might

be -- it shied right -- or
left -- into nounhood, took on weighty matters,
thence reflected the reflective pond
between trimmed borders
low plants, primroses and crocuses.
Originally ponderous, it
became, pleasant, light, summertime thought,

a witticism, a poeticism standing
beside the cool lake of doing nothing,
rejecting puritanically a spirited heritage
but I, willing,
to give it grace, love
consider it meditation.
Let others weigh the world.



Struggling with pre-lecture, wandering, inattention
last night, I held a human brain
in my hand, a cerebellum,
a spinal cord.
The cord was limp, ugly,
an old squashed
snake. Parts of the cerebellum

were like Middle-Eastern filo dough,
slightly fanned, browned, spoiled. Whole brain, separate
cerebellum were as if made
of wet play-dough,
clay-colored, heavy. "Surely the brain
is mostly hollow
passages," I said to the woman.

"Yes, this is preserved." Even
through the used, translucent, gelid, plastic glove,
as the putrid-looking former-tissue touched
my hand, a
life-flash was! -- a receding star --
instantly was gone.
The lecture -- about Addiction -- began.



Struggling with body and soul,
I want what Vikram says not only
to be beautiful, but true:
ascension at Borobodur,
from stories to solid stone
nothingness -- Angkor's towers
in the sunset, root-grasped, crumbling

monumental, awesome; Ajanta's caves excavated
to house a low humming, meditative nothingness;
activity, bronzed kings, golden gods,
celestial maidens created
to enhance this world-illusion, somethingness.
Breathe, be gone.
Wisdom is emptier than air.

Constructed elaborations fill the time
between being and not being with "...involuntary
muscular movements of hollow organs..."*
propelled onward through
elaborate iconography, intricate codings, Sufic
whirlings, a single
pillar pierces the sky. Ascend.

*Collier's New Century Dictionary, 1933, p. 1285



Struggling with polypragmatic brains, polyphyletic
bodies, polyphonous souls, visionary grids, patterns intoxicated
with meaning, escaping from sleep,
soup and shit,
humans fly high above Amazon
forests, the Himalayas'
grinding rage, the warming ocean.

Soon not a single thing
will have escaped their probing, meddlesome attention.
Mysteries evaporate and relate us
to the worm.
Nothing erases nostalgia, poignancy, longing
for cartographic certainty,
the officiousness, effrontery, arrogance, presumption,

the impudent boldness to invent
more unused words to explain the world.
A poet's singular goal might
be to use
up neglected words, tuck them
into the crevasses
created by Kampuchea's land-mined past.



Struggling -- which I could probably
sacrifice if I believed in a polygenious
past. If I could believe,
I were not
one thing, but many, not
of one descent
but a heterogeneous, non-matching, chaos

of interbreeding, conflicted animals. Perhaps,
too, if I were polygenic, with purring
from cats, barking from dogs,
blood-lust from lions,
speed-lust from the long-legged cheetahs,
gentleness from dolphins,
I'd have more sympathy, kill

less, share Gaia, share sky
and moon, land and vegetables, manage love
for my fellow humans, compassionately
feed them as
well as whales, owls, tortoises
-- all endangered species --
who, like humans, lack morals.



Struggling to contain the world,
the whole world... Early on we were
taught about the pyramids, Egypt,
certain things, not
others. The Western World, not
the Hindu, Islamic,
Tibetan, Chinese worlds, not Buddha.

We were taught we Caucasians
were the human world, cultured, civilized, others
were savages, even builders of
colossal American mounds
were savages. We detonated their
worlds to prove
it. Only awesome remains survive:

pyramids of Hindu, Khmer, Aztec,
Inca, Assyrian. India kept no contemporary note
of sword-swinging Alexander's claimed conquest --
a mere gnat
to brush aside, ubiquitously occupied,
as they were,
with their own omniscient destiny.



Struggling with images that float
like smoke from pyres along the Ganges,
from crumbling silt-covered rock ghats,
from darkness, ash,
wetness, filth, fragrance, excremental odors
that fill the
night and the sun-rising dawn,

I long to be reunited
with the soul I mislaid across the
river, ocean, west, in India.
Worship the sun,
suryanamaskara,* stand on Kashi's steps,
bathe in light,
pluck Siva's hair from my

tongue. These I ask for
in one lifetime. I have no other,
no time. Impatience runs deep.
Belief trickles, as
sand through an hourglass, runs
out, runs away,
fails to incinerate empty glass.

*Adoration of [bowing to] the sun, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Monier-Williams, p. 1243



Struggling with pity, prithee, struggle
with me. Inform the wind, for no
one hears my spiraling song.
The bird sings
a single note, silence, note,
a bus passes,
silence, prithee pity me, for

I am part of earth
packed down, packed in, parceled, purchased, poisoned,
bargained into marketable, profit-sharing shape.
Prithee, pity me
cried the worm, the bird,
bearing eon's habits.
Go where? Do what? Space

is dark, cold, uninhabitable. Only
on earth is green, grass and seed.
I pray thee, pity me.
We dreamed awhile
and then awoke to space
dark, cold, lifeless
acceleration through a black hole.



Struggling to visualize Pondichery on
India's east coast, my imagination fails blankly.
Having seen a little of
this earth, I
cannot envision a lot. Having
glimpsed something, I
sometimes can feel dust from

ages, eons and other parts
of earth puff up between my toes.
When my feet hurt, I
tell them they
have been many places. Peace
be with them.
Pain is not so bad

a lot. Let them pleasure
themselves ploughing the dew of wet grass,
let them tingle with pinkness
in ponds reflecting
cherry blossoms: white, pink, fallen
near dragonflies skimming
the reflective waters of oblivion.



Struggling to pillage my brain,
strip it, rape it, plunder it of
booty gained under false pretenses,
faking interest, faking
love, faking a vivid belief
in progress, parlance
on parquetry's ancient, scuffed flooring.

A mosaic, a pillory fastening
head and hands, stocks for the feet,
but how do you fetter
the slithering mind?
There are vistas of endlessness
across the bones
of the dry desert mountains.

But there is no weather
inside the head, no temperature, the mind
disdains climate, credibility, plays cacophony
against its own
longing for an ice cave
a single thought,
stasis, the stillness of death.



Struggling with the Hindu image
of pottery: the water inside the cup
and outside the cup, identical.
My whimpering roar
merging with the ocean's roar.
What to do
with the body, earth's excrescence?

Clay, earth, ashes having lept
from the fire of incarnation, how do
you cool it down? Slosh
it with water,
soak it in sea brine
pyre it, jar
it. Imagine stuffing Mama into

a pottery jar! Building mounds,
tombs, pyramids, leaving drugged kids to freeze
in the Andes. We've tried
it all. Raise
your cup, drink your coffee.
chew a betel
for thou and thee. Merge.



Struggling with the mind to
make it remember that the raga's identifying
phrase is the pakar: repeated
notes. Notes repeated,
caught, pulsing through the raga's
minutes, hours, days.
I must remember this, I

must know it, use it
as metaphor, icon, pattern, bird-cry, song, peculiarity;
embroider it in red, embroider
it in blue;
map it, trace it, sustain
it, call it
up from soundlessness, silence, nothingness;

let it wander through my
heart, my ears, my throat, kiss my
finger tips, that I, too,
may strum Nada
, the language of God,
in my plain
life, my unremarkable homelessness, pain.



Struggling with the conceptual fifth,
panchama, based on the cuckoo's spring cry,
PA, soon to come, defining
one's last spring.
Already the buds burst through
cold ground, purple,
yellow and gold. Panchama often

dominates the drone. It is
always shuddh, pure, never sharped, tivra, never
flatted, komal, fifth in ascension.
fourth in descent.
In India the cuckoo is
the koil, death,
sex, the central axis: too

rich in meaning to remember,
too omnipotent to forget. Divide the thirty-three
million gods by five -- still
too many to
remember, count, fear. This particular
33 is about
P. Don't struggle with five.

More of The 2001 Poems

Copyright © 2002 through 2015 Jan Haag
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21st CENTURY ART, C.E. - B.C., A Context