BY JAN HAAG
A MORE PERFECT WORLD
THE 88 WORD POEMS 2 -- 11
BECOMING AWARE ITS TIME TO IMAGINE A WORLD ID LIKE TO LIVE IN -- 2
And I have no idea
how to begin.
My critical faculty, like,
I would guess, most
peoples critical faculty,
or maybe not most,
but the intellectual
crowd I belong to,
has an over-developed
sense of whats
or is that a human
Go fix it.
Start a petition,
start a moral war.
How did we get so
trained for war,
Why didnt we (I) notice
the birds singing,
the flowers blooming?
Why does one more
beautiful day slip
from the mind
BECOMING AWARE IM NOT READY TO IMAGINE A BETTER WORLD -- 3
-- where Id fit in,
not be alien.
THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN
last week, my single thought
how released British souls -- if not their severely
must have felt with all that space,
to sport about in,
to sail out from that claustrophobic,
completely gardened isle,
to stride freely
across a great land, trample a history
multiple times as old,
exponentially more complex
than that of the blue woaded* Anglo-Saxons.
No wonder India was
THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN,
indeed, the very crown itself.
* Isatis tinctoria
BECOMING AWARE IM BEGINNING TO IMAGINE A BETTER WORLD -- 4
Things calming down, the flames less hot,
a quiet, serene, ocean stretches out
before me -- cool, refreshing.
Feel better. Dont know why. Depression passing?
I have remembered, during this particularly awful
session with the blues, that I do seem periodically
to cycle through depression -- just depression.
It may be something purely physical and, if I
wait long enough, I come out the other side
-- once again able to think and do, feel
good and reason --
and well see
birth itself before this life is over.
BECOMING AWARE I BEGIN TO SEE MYSELF AS -- 5
frighteningly thin -- in the mirror. I find my shoulders,
my arms, even my thighs look frighteningly thin.
Yet I know I probably still weigh in the 170s
or more. Odd -- what the eye doesnt see
in the mirror -- that the avoirdupois
doesnt register as excessive
Do you suppose that just admitting --
after listening to Charlie Roses
-- twice! --
that I am depressed
might act as a cure-all?
Everything lighter today,
the serene ocean vision persists,
the unfocusing of attentive attention
BECOMING AWARE OF A GIFT -- 6
A poet needs to know everything. JH
HS brought from Susie
the 5-3-12 Skagit Valley Heralds 360s
article about Edward R. Murrow
and his two brothers, Lacey and Dewey --
from Blanchard -- schooled
with my father at Edison High.
Edward, as head of USIA,
mentored his successor,
George Stevens Jr.,
who later left USIA to found
The American Film Institute,
employed Toni, my mentor,
who helped me
circulate for awhile
in the big world,
vocabulary, knowledge, savvy
as Plein Jan,
about the 10,000 things.
BECOMING AWARE OF A GIFT II -- 7
Everyday I drive myself right to the edge of sickness.
Excess! always excess!
eat too much, sleep too much, write too much.
I cant quit
until I feel queasy, overspent, dopey.
Ive never discovered
a point at which to quit.
Thats why these 88 words, exactly!
are important to me!
Unless I have a preset, arbitrary limit,
I cant stop.
I love the idea of a nunnery -- living by the bell.
But, though I have managed to do so
doesnt happen for me.
BECOMING AWARE OF A GIFT III -- 8
The sunshine splashes through the glass,
hits my newly seeded big pot. I lean down
close to hear the seeds pop, the sprouts thrust
up. I need more sunshine. As soon as the sun
does shine, I want more -- and more.
Why be satisfied with enough? It is so
far away, so hot in itself -- and cooling.
A few degrees more for me, for my
time left on earth, would surely make
little difference to the sun. The lacy
over walls, into my heart.
BECOMING AWARE OF INCAPACITY -- 9
Listening to TED through the day
reminding me how narrowly I have constricted my
universe. Why? A whole new way of thinking
evolved since I stopped paying attention.
Intriguing? No doubt. But I can barely tease
out the sense. Why does anything have to
make sense? Play with the human genome -- who knows
who may emerge?
Sneak stealthily into silence. Watch A and B submerge.
Even though their capacities have less in common
than I have in common with Shiva-purna.
At least he knows how to obtain food.
BECOMING AWARE OF LISTENING -- 10
Its thrilling just to know you,
just because you are half Turkish,
exotic, from another world
running through your veins,
dark eyes, angular body,
a wild sense of rhythm and fun,
a breath of mustache above your
elegant, feminine lip,
dark brows, a frown
learning about the world
first and second hand.
The other half is Mexican --
maybe thats where the rhythm
comes from, the impulse to
go and do, to laugh,
discarding the North American,
dour, too sober to sit in the sun, Nordic heritage.
BECOMING AWARE OF A QUESTION -- 11
What does to write mean?
As in conversation, one
never quite knows what
one is going to say, until its
When young I thought:
Someday great ideas will
come, a complete vision,
a timeless awareness,
Ill know what to say
when I get there. Then Ill sit,
write. But thats not what
My best writing, indeed,
much the way I now write
is by catching the tail,
ear, eye of a thought that
feels worth writing down --
at least for the moment.
THE 87 WORD POEMS 1 -- 11
BECOMING CURIOUS -- WHO ARE THEY? -- 1
I know little about my friends,
dont remember histories at all.
What happens to them or me
always seems forgettable.
Important is the hunger or
anguish I feel they feel, day
by day as life slips through
fleeing from now into the past.
Today is today and it hurts,
or it doesnt. Today I am,
she is, ecstatically happy.
Each vision of disaster
or heart stopping delight
expands the soul and leaves
Sing soul, sing!
Enjoy the sunshine,
shed salt tears.
BECOMING AWARE OF WHAT WRITING IS -- 2
I cant go back to India,
the India I found in 1983,
wandering, going wherever
a word, or my feet
I cant go back,
because I am
India is different,
my ignorance is different,
and I am not free of expectation.
Pay attention to the world you travel,
youll not see it again, never
know its pristine newness
Time passing is
Pay attention. Be here.
Write about it.
the butterfly net
BECOMING AWARE OF UNCHOSEN CHOICE -- 3
I forget what Im doing
five times an hour.
The hair cutting razor is out.
The bath mat is down,
The poetry page is closed.
Shiva-p gets frozen cat food;
I get black bean hummus
with zucchini, black bean/white corn/quinoa chips.
Circle back in order?
Out of order?
Go off on a tangent.
Return on a ruler.
The alphabet makes
the mind (a chaos of vision)
an orderly progression
it wasnt meant to be.
Choose an unmindful concept.
BECOMING AWARE OF UNCHOSEN CHOICE II -- 4
Im losing my fine motor skills, i.e.
the skill to pick a sheet of paper
from the floor -- or a puzzle
piece from table --
The fingernails no longer slip
easily under the object,
write this down?
Partly because no one else
will. The big things in life seldom
me into making
language. But the little
things of everyday drive me mad!
Now, theres an observation worth a piece
-- or today --
a few bytes
on a super-colossally-light
BECOMING AWARE OF QUIET, OVERCAST -- 5
Becoming aware of the quiet, overcast,
hum of the highway -- grey. Gray mood,
grey light tinging all, including my heart.
Thinking of S, her cancer. Will she
maintain a no speak about it attitude?
Or welcome time to talk? We all have
destiny dates; its all but un-American
not to cower at cancer, even
knowing it as another extortion tool,
handy, nearby, a Damocles' Sword
hung by a spiders thread swaying
above everyones head.
When the doctor threatened
me with it, I didnt go back.
BECOMING AWARE OF SUMMER -- 6
Suns out, warm back, seeds sprouting like mad
in the new earth filled, dirt filled pot.
I dont know what -- melons?
and two other things -- planted on June 14th?
Here they come. Theres enough
earth/dirt in there to grow
quite a crop. But the sun doesnt come in
enough to grow food -- lots of
leaves but no food and,
as the summer arrives (tomorrow),
the sun moves to leave
me in shade,
lots of light and complete shade.
The poetll have some
BECOMING AWARE OF THE SOUNDS -- 7
The sounds that I am alone, and will be alone
throughout the day, click and bumble and hiss.
The Good Shepherd Center makes more noise
than the no birds, one distant airplane world.
An unsourceable dripping; my heaters fans,
whether spinning heat or cold, intermittently
join the cats miew, the measured click, click,
click, clicking of his claws along the golden
linoleum. He knows his sounds: the dish
being set on the floor, the tub running --
soon hell be drinking soda water
And Ill be amused.
BECOMING AWARE OF MOUNT RAINIER WITH CLOUDS -- 8
Yesterday, Solstice, at dusk
fluffy clouds -- unlike the usual horizontals that
sever peak from base -- overwhelmed Mount Rainier.
Today, two images haunt me:
1) This morning Amy Goodman reported
on a Senate Hearing: re 81,000+ men, in solitary
confinement -- some of whom are driven crazy.
One, mentioned by Anthony Graves,*
pulled his eye out and swallowed it.
2) The other: long ago, on an AFI student filmmakers
zoo shoot, a young mother, warned not to visit,
watched a lion behind bars, grab
her child and eat him.
*Exonerated and released after 18 years in solitary confinement
BECOMING AWARE OF CONSTANT ANXIETY IN THE PIT OF MY STOMACH -- 9
Becoming aware of constant anxiety in the pit
of my stomach and getting very tired of it.
I shriek at the heavens: Im not a God
I steal only toilet paper, while others rob
nations and peoples, continents,
families, histories, livelihoods,
So how did you come to feel so guilty?
Its the Christian ethic: make
the other guy, or in
this case woman,
enough and they will disable
themselves, so the
wholly on stealing
SPECULATIONS ON THE WEIGHT OF BEAUTY -- 10
She was so beautiful that
the young man wanted
to sculpt a statue of her.
He did. Life-size.
It was beautiful.
She had been a dancer.
Its marble was heavy,
it weighed her down.
When moving to England,
she and four sons
hoisted it, the marble Ann,
into the trucks bed,
drove to a cliff
-- they abound in --
the Puget Sound
and shoved it into space.
It crashed on the shore below.
The one became many.
of the inert weight
of a rocks beauty,
BECOMING A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN OLD WOMAN* -- 11
Unexpectedly an image of the tower Joyce lived in flashes in my mind --
tall, but not unlike that squat tower in Chandigarh --
stone, cold in the Irish world, cool in hot India.
Have I seen a picture of its vivid image?
My tower is an Italianate, five story building with a multi-peaked
roof -- not at all a tower, really, but a multi-planed
attic, full of light and, from time to time,
a touch of
cohabiting with the nuns shades,
puzzling peacefully through
*Derived from James Joyces A PORTRAIT OF THE THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
THE 86 WORD POEMS 1 -- 10
BECOMING STIRRED UP AND BREATHLESS -- 1
Its partly coffee, of course, partly too much visiting,
chatting, too many people.
Need to be alone, watch the mountain dissolve --
snowflake by snowflake.
I love the slow decretion of these diminishing
word poems. I was shocked
yesterday to find a catastrophic disorganization.
Unconscious I had skipped
all but one of the 98 Word Poems, I threw in
a few hundreds-of-words
epics. Now I must sort it, as the British
say, edit them into
postable poems. The posting after the two?
three? year hiatus,
goes splendidly. Watch it accrete!
BECOMING AWARE OF EXTINCTION -- 2
O God Almighty! The Itch the itch the
itch, not unlike other ultimates you
prescribe for your supposedly
favored creation. 1/3 doctors
say, of earth dwellers are
Is it fair? You invent us, then afflict us.
It may, of course, be our own doing.
Weve completely poisoned our
air, our food with our better than
nature, idiotic inventions,
Its all Your fault for
inventing initial perfection.
Where else could we have gone
but down hill, fast,
BECOMING AWARE OF THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NECESSITY -- 3
of that sinking feeling in the pit
of my stomach:
I almost welcome it,
fear I wont get anything done
unless dogged by sinking anxiety.
Because Ill curl up into
a kittenish ball, go back to sleep.
Is that true?
Often. I long for oblivion,
so I go back to sleep.
Do you cultivate that need?
For the next poem?
We both know I begin to
poetize after a big swig of coffee.
Is creativity chemical? -- not feeling-related?
BECOMING AWARE OF THOUGHTS -- 4
Theyre like piano wire twisted around the walking
wire Wallenda traverses to cross Niagara Falls.
Why would one want to do that? Its my job.
Born into the Wallenda family: thats what they do:
walk wires, other insane contraptions, conceptions
to make spectacles of themselves for jaw droppers,
for the entertainment of those who want to gape,
marvel. Let them. May I have a menu? It does
less harm to the Western World than one imagines,
than the insane Negativity Vow sweeping across
GOPs windless plain.
BECOMING AWARE OF SURGICAL PRECISION -- 5
Clip, prune, snip a plant,
it always changes directions, slightly
or greatly. The older you get the more
likely you are able to guess, judge, conjure
the direction it will take. Pruning makes the
plant grow bushier, more full of fruit, flowers.
With apologies to the plant, clip precisely,
mend carefully, and the plant will be
more beautiful than it has ever
been -- such, too, is how we
study the stars in the
Big Bang, and
a sparkling asteroid
called Suzanne Hawley.
BECOMING AWARE OF THE NIGHT AND NIGHT THOUGHTS -- 6
Theres no way words can convey
the smeary, sparkly grace of the lights
across -- and crossing -- the lake, across
Portage Bay, reflections in the water,
the misty rain coming down,
dots and dashes,
coming down slowly:
illuminating string-like patterns
under the lamplights of the parking lot.
Nothing exists in blank mind
but dots and dashes.
I want to scream and scream and scream and scream.
The mind hops about like a mosquito:
sucking blood here, there
and here again.
A crimson drop feast.
To what end?
BECOMING AWARE OF NIGHT SOIL, DISINTEGRATION -- 7
As one can see, I have in no way suggested
A MORE PERFECT WORLD.
I cant even describe
think about it -- or another.
After 78 years of grasping, taking it all in,
I have arrived at nothing
but futility. But, then again, thats
Remember your watch word
for poetic inspiration is:
Accept. Be grateful.
You could have been as dull-witted
as the other guy
here she lies
UPON COUNTING THE PLEIN JAN
A MORE PERFECT WORLD POEMS -- 8
48 are written.
There are three spaces left
for the full deck --
52 weeks in the year.
(Turns out I was mistaken in the count.)
This year we
second, a Leap Second,
the 26th to be added to UTC since 1972*
-- one second
ticking nine billion
Dont let it stop!
My God, dont let it stop!
Whod know which one
nine billionth of
I visited the Atomic Clock in Boulder --
know I was there,
dont remember it!
BECOMING AWARE OF BEING FARM RAISED -- 9
Many people, you know which ones,
were never near a farm, dont know
the best fruits fall ripe
from the trees. Bruised maybe,
perhaps a little rotten
in spots, but, skin peeled back,
or not and bit into right there,
in the heat and the dust,
the hot sun having
kissed it, it now, in kissing me,
excites the salivary glands,
the taste buds,
tickles the throat.
down to the heart.
Even the dry lungs respond.
The zephyrs, the asuras steal.
CONSIDERING THE HAWAIIAN PINEAPPLE -- 10
The Hawaiian pineapple,
or, in particular, the golden, spiny, young,
pineapple I picked from the dust
in an Hawaiian field, peeled its slightly leathery husk
with my teeth
and ate -- there in the heat and the dust,
juice running down my
my body sweaty, turning sticky sweet in the heat.
Everyone should be
at least partially reared
on a farm to know
the sweetness of sweat-dropping life --
drop drop drop
onto the earth
-- indulging the succulent pleasure of
eating its fruits
* * * * *
* * * * *
BY JAN HAAG