I knew a man
who had a mother
who had a father
who came home one day
without a leg
to his young wife
who then bore
I don't know how many

by the time the man's mother
was eighty-eight
she had three children
and eight grandchildren
of whom three were dead
more or less

one committed suicide
at twenty three
one was killed before
highschool graduation
on a motorcycle
one was born brain damaged --
because his mother
when pregnant
her mother said
sat hunched sewing --
he lived in a home for
forty years
never said a word

the man's mother
vigorous for her eighties
said little about it
except to note
she had three dead grandsons and
kept their pictures
above her desk which
she didn't use

her husband
at ninety
drove a car
bawled at his wife
messed his pants
and had both legs

the man
father of the son who hanged himself
born the year his mother's mother died

his sister
mother of the silent boy
and one other
was angry
and celibate
he said

his daughter was gay
and had incestuous thoughts
he said

his ex-wife
had had an affair with his best friend
her brother-in-law
her mother, father
and retarded brother
were dead
her sister had committed suicide
she was psychopathic
he said

he had wanted to abort their third child
his second son who
at seventeen he treated
witht the timid tenderness of a lover
while saying she, his ex-wife, treated him
the boy, seductively
had invited him into her bed at eleven

he said she had said
"I'm going to destroy you
and everything you have
holding white wine in his mouth
he liked to dwell on
years after she had divorced him

this man I knew
was strong at fifty-two
well formed
but one leg was slightly smaller than the other
from an accident
(he had spent one of his childhood
years in a cast)




Aldona brings me narcissus, Paper Whites,
sharp-smelling, upright and angular -- as she
is -- sweet, witty, with her white-teeth
flashing. Too early for spring, even
before winter, the hubristic narcissus thrust
high in their white-papered pot. Later,

we walk the fog, in four
p.m. darkness drifting among trees,
across Red Square's luminosity speaking of
Russia, under the cherry trees' black
umbrellas and into the night. Pensive
Aldona brightens my life like haloed

light in the mist. The 21st
Century is a dark affair. If
I had Bertolucci's options, I'd put
Aldona -- intriguing, chiaruscuro, intense, shy -- in
a Bertolucci movie. Distinctive, complex, at
cross-purposes in the day by day

world where quotidian concerns dominate, intrude
against her goddess-evoking presence. Mysteriously controlled,
graced and nuanced, in the hands
of the master puppeteer. Hesitant, dainty,
sparkling with laughter's filigreed pleasure -- smell
the narcotic pungency of the Paper-White's

scent as they accelerate into bloom
in the fog-shrouded, high, white room.
Tall, feathering, they whisper Aldona's paleness,
vulnerability, sorrow. The leaves, like green
sentinels, guard her, stay her from
returning to Poland -- or Lithuanian, where,

she assures me, her animal-like ancestors,
unsophisticated, dwelt wild in the woods
howling. She says with sly, smiling
insinuation, she traces "Aldona" to them.




Surrounded by wild white hair
as crazy as a Russian Czar's,
a face stares back at me
from the mirror of time.

Where does this image of madness
and czarness come from?
The movies of course.
One must never forget

that only half of one's memory
is one's own. Early invaded
by images, the brain's stew
gets blended over time.

Which bit belongs to which
source? How much is projected
through the cat's enormous
blue eyes. Where has he

been before joining me?
Why does he stare at me so?
-- as if he saw other creatures
within my czarinian wrinkles,

as if he knew I was only half
there anymore, disappeared
as I am, strolling about in
the winter palace of my mind.




As if he were an Iraqi,
I'm training him for freedom.
In return, he brings me
gifts in the night.

Two ruby-red shards of glass,
formerly, I would guess,
sunglasses or wine. His cork,
gifted from James' wine,

and his piebald fur play ball.
I find these at the edge of my bed,
delivered in the night without
my knowledge. Apparently

my reward for trusting him,
in the hall and the five-story
stairwell, in access and egress
through Uncle Roger's propped-

open door. Yesterday day I
made plans with Mark to
open the outside world to
his jungle ways:

a propped-open window
four and a half flights down,
branches and freedom beyond
in the gardenŐs jungle.

He will adjust easily enough,
but the question is: Will I?
How frightening it is to gift

Shiva with his ancient heritage.




Walking through the vast garden,
keys clinking against my chest,
the sunshine unbearably bright,
the raspberries almost gone,

I pick the elaborate, sticky, Japanese
version, more elaborate than
our own. I water Aldona's plant
She didn't know the name of the little

tree, nor do I. In the hot and airless
night, I think of the nights she will
spend in New York where the air
in July can be like sheet metal,

unbearable, thick, suicidally heavy.
The cat rubs his silk coat against my
legs. The city shines and shines,
twinklingly, like a billion stars

beneath my window, and I wonder:
Why? Even as I begin my last
rounds, the cool air drifts
against my naked shoulders

as if it held an answer, as if
its gentle touch could lift the despair
in this world where change
and change again is the pain

and the reward. Time passes,
the little tree will grow. Already
it sends forth new shoots that curl,
like Aldona's sweet laughter,

her beautiful teeth, her awkward
shoulders. I wish I had asked for
one of her thread hung glass squares
to hang on my wall, the utter

simplicity of being -- nothing more
than it is. No more than the obscured
stars in the sky, no more than the heat
and the cold, and gentleness setting

out for its destiny, sadly, alone.
Fred has disappeared into time
somewhere in the world, for some
reason -- unknown. The sun will

shine tomorrow -- again.




I have two images in
my mind this morning:
the fragile Aldona
graciously making nice
with her family's friends
in the inhuman heat
of a New York summer

and me and my mind
in a phantom body
walking the deserts of
Asia, desiccated, beyond
sweat, in the joy of
privation and thirst.
Why did so many

saints and sadhus
flourish in the desert
-- do they still? --
the heat, no doubt,
is good for illusion and
illumination, little food
is needed, the heat

takes care of sanitation
and disease. Few come
to disturb the wandering
saint, the sitting sadhu.
Through the wavering heat
one has the illusion one can
walk forever. No thought

is needed, no destination.
One foot before the other.
If the oasis is not there,
one can dry right out
to the bone, turn white
with salt, weep tearless
tears in an agony of thirst.

Perhaps that's why
the saint and the sadhu
are also found in
the mountains, where
one can lie down gently
in the snow and sleep
forever. But Aldona

and the Abbess live in
cities, immolated in
hydrocarbons, cacophony,
bewilderment, sadness
unable to see to the distant
mountains, unable to see
the bones and marrow

of the land, unable to
choose between heat
and death, unable to
toss their consciousness
into the sky. I have never
spent enough time
in the desert.

What would be enough?
death in the desert?
What is enough in the
city? Alienation even
from blue sky,
nonexistence of silence,
the unbeatheable air.

Aldona is kindness itself,
I am despair. I get what I
want, she is still wandering.
learning daily, incrementally,
to want what one gets.
I wear the thinnest soles.
Through my sandals I feel

the heat, the sand does
not keep me from despair.
Study will not shroud
Aldona's mind, nor
honesty keep her from
anguish, baseless change
of mood more unstable

than the seasons. When
the leaves turn red
Aldona smiles, when
the leaves turn blue
Aldona smiles, when
the bare twigs flourish
she picks bits for art,

wires bits of glass for
the wall, parts with them.
They decorate my heart
beneath the purple
scarf. I stuff my mouth
with paper towels --
not to cry and try to

live always in the sun
walking the dusty path
straight to a distant hill,
which I shall climb,
shade my eyes, and look
to the east. Will she

be looking to the west?


08-03-03 (check)


Am I a Missionary Priest
in the land of economic
barbarism? -- where they
study lead-poisoned children

rather than canceling the study
and, with the money, saving the children.
Odd, isn't it, since there is no doubt in their
-- or anyone's -- mind that lead-poisoning leads
to irreversible brain, motor, metabolic injury. Will
the time ever come when, scientifically, it will be more
worthwhile to save the children, then to pay the salaries,
maintain the economic lives, fast forward the careers
of the scientific studiers?

Why would they listen to me in the land of the golden heifer?
Compassion is a dying religion, children are an abundant commodity.
I practice my own religion alone in a garret high above the necessity to do

because it is too complicated to demand eating the calf instead of incanting.

Copyright © 2003 through 2015 Jan Haag
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail:



History, 1983?

Aldona, 12-01/02-02

Czar, 07-22-03

Freedom Fighter, 07-23-03

Abbess, 07-23/28-03

Aldona/Abbess, 08-03-03

Missonary Priest, 08-03-03







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