Unless you're willing to make
too much out of things,
it is unlikely you'll be
able to write.

There was the wild romanticism
of my youth, the damping
down with age to survive,
adopting reasonableness to

live, adopting anger, blindness, harsh
demands of what is -- to
add up, to confirm, justify,
deride mystery's wilderness.

I know it is this
way and no other. How
could emotion's blue-winged flights sustain
true flight's course?

There is no truth to
be discovered in life, there
is only the sustaining of
the scribe -- writing.



A jam slatherer, once I
was: spoonfuls upon my bread,
heaps of raspberry, cherry, plum,
succulent, glistening, sweet.

Gluttony, abundant, cloying rotunded my
tum. One day, more than
a drop became too much.
They say a

leopard can't change its spots.
My eyes remain wilderness-green, but
my teased taste-buds changed -- not
by neglecting jam,

but the terse bread beneath.
Suddenly less and less, less
red jam became my goal.
Black on white,

the written word, like Siva,
it reveals, preserves, destroys. Dance,
whirl the damaru, explore, austerely,
the flickering arch.



Signature comes from English sign,
Latin signum, dashing my hopes,
that when I saw it
divided sig-nature, it

was wrong. Immediately, I began
speculating about sign-ature, thinking we'd
moved the accent. Thinking it
related to ligature,

nature, mature, fracture, adventure, I
began a conjuration of -ture,
and -ature, before I, O
enlightenment! realized I

didn't recognize a Latin ending
when it bit me. For,
study though I may, write
out my heart

with age, without omniscient education,
with time's constant running,
only facets of knowledge are
knowable. And silence.



My head at sixty-seven: a
bad filing cabinet gone wrong,
never did operate a sensible

system. Now, God knows, its
not filed in Sanskrit or
Chinese, or some other grand,
desirable, esoteric language.

A jumbled jungle of fruits,
orchids, jeweled toads, the feast
left over from the leopard's
maul: bloody, quivering,

crimson-as-sunset, cooling, coagulating, maggot-gnawed,
it's hard to believe this
no-longer-palpitating flesh, muscle, nerve, bone
was thought, was

what wrote poems, ran, wept,
ate gazelle. Who am I?
Eater or eaten? File under
C for conclusiveness.



Having bussed to a Sephardic
lecture last night -- and music --
I wondered why the ballads
(I'd hoped for

Jewish chant) were so troubadourish,
courtly-love-obsessed, unreal in Town Hall
where earthquake had stripped plaster
bits from brick?

Hesperion XXI sang, but failed
to reveal the coded meaning
within modern, mild, romance-addicted translations.
Why so secret?

Though those Thirteenth Century fugitives
were chased from Castile, Aragon,
Portugal, they stopped in North
Africa, the Balkans

Ottoman Empire, Eastern Mediterranean. Sephardic
Jews, mixing with Turk, Italian,
Greek, Bulgarian, Rumanian, French,
adopted foreign forms.

Professor Armistead -- whose mother dresses
him funny -- boyishly, with patched
eye, glasses hanging on his
nose, curly-haired, grey,

sagging body, speaks quietly, though
the mike is soundless and
the crowd humungous about the
multi-cultural, still often

Hispanic-speaking, Sephardics, ancient and modern.
His sweet, informal speech, like
a rose unfolding, has so
many petals he

does not know where to
begin giving translations different from
the written notes: more class-conscious,
war-related, church-challenging, tragic.

Later, the soaring, heart-stabbing wail
of the music cries for
singing by fire-light, from mountains,
courtyards, against the

wind, passions. The drummer breathes
on his fingertips and -- from
the edge of its skin
top -- whooshes across

the huge, laced, green drum.
Mellow, wild, deep, an unearthly
sound making the evening worthwhile
worth writing about.



The brain's a damped-down, grey,
mindless, wandering fog wonders: "Why
write one more word today
or poem tomorrow?"

From where does the writing
impulse come? What good does
it serve? Usurped in its
early days -- as

is the Internet -- by commerce,
only peripherally does it serve
writer, poet, linguist -- little, and
usually after death.

The works of dead poets
usurp wages that might sustain
the living. "Eat how ye
may," sneer critics,

God -- who cares little for
poetry, less for poets living
or dead. Only a few
pay lip service

to script, writing's invention, to
words written as record of
humans having passed this way
and said so.



Do you know the real
name for ear-wax? Even a
bright, new, modern, efficient dictionary
won't tell you.

But a hearing specialist will
-- and tell you not to
touch it, even though she
and I both

grew up with mothers obeying
schedules to use cotton-tipped sticks
and hairpins. Even though humanity
for millennium, round-the-world

has been digging at, de-waxing
its ears, we now learn
nature does it for us:
no fuss, no

muss, no need. Every seven
days cerumen is ritually flushed
by the body, while you,
surprised, learn one

more thing mothers aren't needed
for and rejoice, saving three
more minutes against a lifetime's
coping -- for poetry.



lectures all day long and
stopped by the greenhouse -- but
there was no work to
do. So, the

lectures: at 10:30 in
the Physiology/Biophysics department re
mapping the brain's visual areas:
A scanned brain

can be simplified to a
bird's head, beak-like figure, an
oval, a sphere, tinted red
and green or

yellow and blue, one can
talk about its valleys, its
ridges, its tubes, its traceries
in magenta, occasionally

see the texture of a
tissue, and the flash of
visual experience slipping like a
spot-lit eel mercurially

over mountain and dale, shimmering
swiftly, oozing, congealing back into
ellipsoids, sliding into oblivion. Where
within this does

beauty reside, poetry, color choice
in silk, anxiety, pain, bliss?
Somehow within this intricate maze
of tissue and

texture, the slightest of movement --
one sees! My favorite word
of the morning was "saccade."
Afterward, I stopped

by the greenhouse but there
was no work to be
done. The next lecture, at
1:30, a poet

from my past, translating from
an ancient Vietnamese poet, Ho
Xuan Huong, who concentrated on
duyen (fated love).

She triumphed in innuendoes fully
worthy of today's salacious media
-- which, said the poet, caused
her work to

survive. Master of forms, quick-witted,
bawdy, a writing-woman was unusual
back then. I thought about
readily available, well-endowed,

dedicated small studies of dead,
obscure, sexually-exploitative, so-so poets exhumed
and exhaustively studied by academia's
dollars while living

poets beg for funds, appreciation,
recognition, love. There's always money
to fund a dead poet.
O living poet

put your poems some safe
place. Once dead, they'll get
to you, too. Let your
heart break at

not being read alive, let
it cause your death! Among
the bits of interactive-coping e-mail
a selling, fella-writer,

who has contacted publishers for
me, says: "It must drive
you insane not to be
published." It does.

It fills the mind with
unpoetic gnashings. But so unwilling
am I to face the
rat-race I once

ran -- futile, time-consuming forays into
entrepreneurial, notice-me strategies -- which I
still occasionally make into the
real world -- that

I revolt at being a marketeer,
an entrepreneur. I'm just a
word spinner, a designer of
intricate needlepoints,

a weaver of the Amazon-knowledge
that flows continuously through the
warp and woof of a
human mind. Few

are interested. No one offers
me even the price of
dinner. I eagerly give my
gifts away on

the NET. At 3:00 I
hear a visual-communications-candidate do his
slide and spiel dance for
a job in

the art school. His art
shows a consuming need to
be artful, jarring, his twarting-designs
are totally skewed

toward recognition, reward. Are any
of them memorable? My foggy
brain remembers a book with
margins hacked and

slashed with odd iconic borders --
and envy. He's worked for
everyone, I've worked for no
one. But one

of his clients was Internet
Archive, I write that down,
I looked it up, find,
a foreword-thinking organization

deep into saving websites -- Today!
Instantly, I ask Alexa to
crawl my website. My heart
is relieve that

five years work may not,
just by not being published
in the networking rat-race, disappear
forever. I have

worked long and hard at
my art, but being out
of step with the times,
I think more

about the viscous, grey, naked-caterpillar-like
brain manufacturing a thousand images
then I do about marketeering
lunches with agents.

What are we here for?
To bloom as briefly as
a flower and disappear. If
my hundred boxes

survive to be opened, therein
lies perhaps the most detailed
history yet written of a
vulnerable human life

of the 20th Century's last
two-thirds and some of the 21st.
At 6:30, I attend
an affordable-artist-housing meeting,

where an energetic young woman
strives to build interest in
a unique facility, ecosystem for
artists to live,

work, perform, and teach in.
Then on the bus and
home to bed, wondering how
far I've walked.

At times, I see myself,
a sixty-seven-year-old-wandering-searcher of the late-night
streets probing for recognition, producing
more poetry than

the equally unrecognized-when-alive Emily -- who
died to be revered, printed.
I remember the silent greenhouse
with no work

needed today. All day long,
there was screaming anxiety about
the money I make -- or
don't make, the

taxes that gouge my pittance,
the resounding fall of the stockmarket.
Let it fall and fall.
Humans were human

in the depression. And being
depressed, I remember my last
attempt to exhibit my paintings,
little, commercial cat-paintings,

Finding six months later the
gallery-owner had fled before his
own debts, abandoning everyone's work,
mine among the

works lost. I cast a
momentary prayer that the Cattipoints
found good homes, and remember
publishing a book

where the gallery owner, too,
ran off with the money.
Shall I walk into the
water with rocks

in my pockets this week
or next? Who but a
fool continues to speak to
a race so

indifferent. But then, of course,
one sings for one's own
pleasure, and God, bastard though
He may be.



Dulled right back down to
a glimmering point in the
anxiety centers of my brain --
flumes built of

cascading electrical impulses, deep, wide,
one million by one million,
descending into fine-honed, only to-be-imaged
silent, panic-states of

despair -- morning begins. One more
grey, moisture-heavy day of desperation,
imaginative-cartography, fixation, hungers -- will it
never stop? Of

course, I've never got half
way home with attempts at
self-possession, control, harmony, never developed
an embryo of

certainty that the fleeting flow
of circumstance, beauty, moment-by-moment experience,
would ever congeal into a
language-perfect death thereof.



When did I take on
the superstitious belief that I
-- demoted daily to the mundane --
was not special?

The world carries on, post-modern,
as if being a regular
guy were notable, award-worthy in
art's absolute sense.

I have spent a large
part of my life encouraging
lesser talents and watched them
succeed. While I

flail on without recognition until,
lately, even desire to write
begins to pale against isolation's
despair. Locked in

with my dreams, my world
has become the inches of
my Macintosh's small, colored screen.
Intimate. Patient. Shiva.



Wiring the Brain of Zebra
-- that was yesterday's lecture.
I almost didn't go. Zebrafish?
They were chosen

for their transparency. One can
see through, into, around in
them, blood pulsing, red platelets
digitally cascading, spinal

cord alive, computer-transmitted cells, axons,
dendrites growing, behaving, reacting to
sound, touch, light, huge on the screen,
gracefully tree-like, like

a branching dash of sumi
ink: a micron or bigger
or less, a tsunami of
minuteness. Even after

thinking all night, my brain
cannot imagine such sizelessness, nor
can it feel the pulsing,
the instant creation,

the billions of decisions, the
fishing for words, all registering
zero on in/visibility's scale from
nothingness to somethingness.



Giving up the notion I
have special talent, giving up
the notion I have anything
to say to

or about my fellow humans...
Nature is the ultimate craftswoman.
If you study one thing
closely, steadily, relentlessly:

brain wave, flower, sunset, scent,
landscape, field, any theory of
the GUTS, any glimpse of
crystal or foraminifera,

you will discover that its
intricate complexity takes more time
to unravel than you have
time to study.

Is it our jealousy of
God's creation that causes us
to, world-without-end, continue creating, creating
creating? Or is

it part of the plan?
Man, the perpetual motion machine,
runs amok writing, inventing, investigating,
and perpetuating destruction.

Then he culls from shards
new and endless fields to
study, move, invent, deconstruct, detonate,
disseminate, dehydrate, redo.

It's not necessary to give
up in despair. Nanotechnology is
almost here. Humanly programable molecules
are being born,

constructed, toned, hydrated, built layer
upon layer, replicating our limited
knowledge, changing the rose's smell.
Why give up?



I'm taking a little vacation
from poetry. I'm starting to
wonder why I'm writing at
all -- and I'm

moving. I'm packing up this
week and unpacking next. Maybe
I'll be a new person
by then. God

knows I've been yowling toward
that long enough. A lifetime
of pain, anguish. Actually since
my last life

which ended... O its hard
to tell when they end!
I've lived more lives than
a cat this

time around. Apparently that's me.
That's my style. Passions so
intense they burn me out
in three years

or four. Then on to
the next. The goal? Never
had one. But I sometimes
think that for

my continual lack of this
world "success," and the limitless
aspect of my interests, I'm
in training to

become the Renaissance Human of
the future -- man or woman.
I study everything -- and nothing
for long. Let

the residue of just being
present mellow along the axons,
the dendrites. Let it still
be there when

I return -- or go on --
to the life I've been
in (often frustrating) preparation for
for a lifetime.



Tate Mason House, not far
from town, terrace, gardens, trees,
and a wee elegant view
filled with light --

silent. But already my neighbor
finds my morning's noisy. I
wake at five, read, move,
about, quietly, I

thought, but had no idea
I shared a wall with
her. So that's where TV
and a cough

were coming from last night
as I tried to read,
tried to sleep. So I'll
shut that room

in the mornings. I'll stay
in the other, writing poetry
silently, speculating on death quietly.
Needing encouragement for

life, I hope to find
it here. I'll help with
the garden, be friendly with
the natives, survive.



I feel antsy, pussy-footing -- the woman
next door wanting quiet mornings.
I'm so quiet that unless
she can hear

my eyeballs move across pages
reading, she cannot be disturbed.
The hot water doesn't work.
I don't turn

on the heat. I, timeless,
because of classes and greenhouse,
friends over coffee, hallway conversations
lose my writing.

Why am I here? To
find Leonardo agrees with me
about "unfortunate music" which dies
being born, while

"painting demanded universal knowledge?" Poetry
in my philosophy. The poet
has to know everything. Hence
classes, lectures, timelessness.

Wanting to be not careful,
pussy-footing, antsy, to settle into
my bones, to let thoughts
reconstruct this clean-well-lighted-place.



What is the point? -- writing
rhymes and rhythms each morning,
preserving the world of thought,
trying precisely, pointedly

when kitsch has become art.
Art has crowned itself academic
to include all untalented scholars
who now "deconstruct."

Unable to create, they foist
onto the world their intellectualized
doodlings, lengthy explanations of minimalist-philosophy,
sophomoric, personalized, meanderings

through souls so under-developed they
canonize ugly, exalt political cartoons,
become museum-politicized, propagandized, incorporated entrepreneurs,
sadistic, gut-spilling icons,

as if revulsion were artistic
virtue, as if power to
raise nausea constituted talent, as
if "saying it"

made it so. If ever
there was a savage-superstitious, emperor's-new-clothes,
race needing colonizing, civilizing -- Yea,
by the Brits!

themselves. They, having destroyed so
many great civilizations, join in
commanding humans to admire
tinker-toy intellects inhabiting

monsters-of-tastelessness, greed, occupying self-decorated thrones.
There may be a pile
wrong with elitism, but save
us from academic

kitsch, the scholars, the critical-theorists
the deconstructed, structuralist, post-modern, post-colonialism,
jargon-ridden, non-thinkers misusing language, justifying
reverently-preserved, immortal trash.



Inspiration seems not to have
moved in with me in
my new, clean, well-lighted place,
but seagulls screamed

this morning, winging round my
yellow building, the flower-full gardens
of old First Hill. Hungry?
Scared? fleeing from

a storm at sea? They
know not the raging tempests,
written lightning, that would never
hurt a seagull.



In the crisp, clean, bright, icy,
blue-against-gold morning I loiter, linger,
stroll, wait for Vikram, dark-suited
and his dog.

The cleanness of the air
startles my nostrils, roseies my
cheeks, freshens my brain. Early
morning walking before

writing, I haven't done that --
since when? But here with
flowering trees, flowering shrubs, flowering
beds of tulips,

daffodils, pansies, hyacinths -- in boxes
nose-high, smellable, kind gardener who
knows old noses have trouble
getting to the

ground... Toward Madison I
wander, and when I turn:
a triple miracle, Vikram, Leah,
and the dog

all wrapped in dawn's glistening
light. We laugh and greet,
they welcome me as "Neighbor!
But I must

fly." laughs Leah, her architect's
portfolio tucked beneath her arm.
They're off in the Flex-car
to take Leah

to the seaplane to fly
to Friday Harbor. I resume
my icy-golden walk wondering if
she's helping to

plan the Oceanography installation there,
across the Sound or -- in the
ocean -- Neptune's hundreds of kilometers
of cables which

soon will "take the pulse
of the Earth and Ocean."
I recall diatoms of feathery
beauty, think of

the Flex-car parked equi-distant between
our homes. "You can use
it, too," tempted Vikram with
the key, smiling.



Heading in unexpected directions, it
is all right to declare
a writing moratorium for -- what?
A week? Month?

Three years? Get to filing,
weed out the dreck, edit
the old stuff. Find out
where you stand.

Don't sit so much. Let
passion reconstitute itself or flicker
to embers, die. You are
already prepared for

the next life: all the
knowledge, information, passions, studies, talent
anyone could need are, so
to speak, under

your belt. You've left a
body of work, possibly larger
than Darger's to be discovered --
already done, already

ignored by fashions that make
the searching artist shrink from
the entrepreneurial marketplace, from becoming
commodity, recognizing that

poisons, kills, deactivates the creative
faculty. You are already archived,
secured, so that if God
wants you famous

post-death, like Emily, it's all
there. It has freed you,
at last, for life, for
cleaning-up the awesome

mess, the voluminous uncertainty, doubt,
questioning of taste, values. Only
the longing to find your own
certainty, worth, recognition

remains. How many you wonder,
must be like you, like
Darger, driven underground, hidden souls,
record keepers of

human living brushed aside by
the king-makers of the museums,
fashion-mongers of human history turning
cultures into black-markets

turning artists into marketeers for
greed, for the greater glory
of critical-theory, for members of
the clique ignoring

the individual, the artist -- especially
now that any academic can
(and does) declares himself an
artist, types up

psuedo-intellectual justifications of his kitsch,
has it hung as art
by their fellow curatorial-academics who
run "ART" today.

But down in the mole
holes you'll still find artists,
under the floor boards. May
cyberspace preserve them

all! -- until the human race
is capable of looking itself
in the eye without academic
critical-theory, jargon justification.

Though the cultural anthropologists may
not believe in reincarnation, maybe
God does. After all, even
scientist hold the

third Law of Thermodynamics to CK
be true: nothing is created
nothing destroyed. Even science recognizes
awesome spaces between

electrons, knows the penetrability of
matter. May every artist preserve
herself in cyberspace until history
expands to reality.



Hurry, dear Jan, hurry to
record your last thoughts about
writing, tense up, stress out,
think double-quick, allow

no peace of mind, no
thought. If you think, you
might not write. You might
disappear into experience's

nothingness. Gone. A goner. Unaccounted
for. Fear of the unrecorded.
What a pleasure to do
nothing at all.

But pleasure's not your bag,
blossoms not your goal. Happiness
a tertiary consideration. What is
it you want?



Small tease in the morning.
whimpers at night, a caffeine
high, flying out of the
sky -- blue, cerulean --

sad grey tears, too old
to believe in the ensorceling
of other people -- or my
own -- I hear

the birds cry, wheeling gulls
from the Sound. Grey-green, a
T-crossing prevents driving straight ahead
to the bay

of light that would shimmer
the soul toward enlightenment. Tiny
nerves tingle and twitch in
the writing body.

Daily shovelfuls of knowledge -- gritty
as the ash from crematoriums,
greasy as a stiff, soaped
corpse -- haunt, stalk.

What will you do with
it all? Can you pack
that much baggage into the
next life and

beyond? Abracadabra, the triangle comes
full circle, the gull squawks
wheeling once again, shoots down
with folded wings.



Laib has hi-jacked the booty
of millions of pathologically-industrious bees,
(pre-honey pollen and post-honey wax)
escalated aroma therapy

to an awesome new high.
Empty out the museum! Leave
the walls, lights, pollen, wax,
the heavy scent

of the honey, the surrounding,
overwhelming aroma, smell, stink, olfactory
delight of the overpowering fragrance,
perfume, odor, stench

of the melted down honey-comb,
opaque-wax, human-fat-slightly-browned look of slabs
made of the booty of
the tireless bees.

The blond young man scrunched
in the fields shaking the dandelion's
pollen. At such an aesthete
one wants to

barf. Leave the bees alone!
one wants to cry! Yet
I'll return to the tunnel
of wax to

smell the smell of spring,
summer, the essence of harvested-honey
to faint with ecstasy to
write my poem.

More of The 2001 Poems

Copyright © 2002 through 2015 Jan Haag
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail:






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