BY JAN HAAG
THE PLEIN JAN POEMS
#128 - #159
THE 100 WORD POEMS 1 -- 10
With #128, ON THE EMPORE OF THE LARGE KUHN, at 100 words per poem,
I began a diminishing form of word count poems. After each 10 poems,
I dropped a word. However, by 75 words, I was needing too many variations,
so the discipline petered out. With other poems in other years, I have
done similar descents, down, even to, as I recall, a single word. Its
a fascinating discipline.
ON THE EMPORE OF THE LARGE KUHN
Markus Wuersch plays Alessandro
Scarlattis ROMPE SPREZZA on the trumpet;
the beautiful singer, Regula Muehlemann
echoes each note -- glorious to hear.
Best of all: Amy alive, doing okay.
Caughey, her sister, gives me the word.
I call. Intermittently, making up things
to say. I end recommending: Schamas
POWER OF ART.
Its odd, at this late date, what makes life
worth living: the cherry blossoms,
the wild, cool, stinging air on a stormy,
sunshine day, a few hours with Veatchs,
C and T, at the GURU GITA,
chai -- my first excursion back into spices,
milk, sugar -- Alls well that ends well.
ON READING REEDS 100TH ANNIVERSARY
REED -- I went there. Though proud of it,
I never thought about it influencing me.
But reading this (apparently) magazine?
periodical? (for the first time), I am struck
by how radically changed I was by that
not quite one year:
my vocabulary, thought processes, deportment
-- the very pride in affirming I was smart.
These influences keep working down in my soul.
I was aloof. I was used. I got out of there.
Young people are clay in the hands of what
they choose to do, where, all unknowing, they
choose to go, the mold is cast long before
ON BEING BENEATH THE JUNGLE
Slept well. Refreshed. Even the vibrating head
seems to be doing some good: my few varicose
veins disappearing, the aches, though now often
in both knees, seem to be going. I must weigh
again today. Am I any skinnier?
Do I even believe in recovering my health? I
had quite been won over to the idea I would
never feel really good again,
never feel thirty-six again: vigorous, full of
ambition and (although forced) bravado; a
snob, a player, a contender for the big prizes.
Now I grasp this treasure: the quiet, the calming
down in solitude -- my jungle growing.
ON BEING BREAKFASTED
Baby arugula and scored steak,
and a quieting down of the craving
for coffee. I feel so much better
without it, and the poetry seems
to flow enough, so why crave it
or drink it?
Why are my dietary cravings
always so separated from actually
Much less now, since the no gluten,
but, nonetheless, still a factor in
my over-eating, wanting to eat too
often. Settle down, Jan, and get
on with it!
Ive narrowed down these
lines to the trivia of day to day.
Where should I search for more?
Truly, is there more?
ON BEING NONPLUSSED
Tears running this morning listening to the young
Martin Luther King speak -- too young to do what he did,
know what he knew,
possessing Jovian courage
-- or did he just go ahead and
do what he had to do?
America -- with
its hatreds, racism, eternal money grubbing,
power grabbing, braggadocio -- claiming to be for the people --
is a nasty hypocritical country, too often
defaulting against its vaunted values.
Yet it is still the best, I was about to say.
But is it?
Have we long ago passed the test for grabbing the inhumanity prize?
Will we keep striving for it?
ON BEING MYSTERY ABSORBED
When viewing mysteries on DVDs -- I never
try to weave the story together to come out with
the culprit -- before the hero(ine) deduces it all.
Im just charmed by watching these clever
people going through their paces, thinking it
all out, mostly while moseying through the
lovely English countryside.
They are doing their best,
and their best is usually good
enough. Its a method of relaxation --
simple enough to follow, wherein
the good get their rewards and the bad go
to jail. Who, in a world such as ours, populated
by silly, evil clowns, could ask for anything more?
ON BEING ALARMED BY MY RIGHT LEG
Up this morning and limping about. I thought last night
that the stiffness, ache, pull and tug, push and pull
in my right leg would be better, but as soon as I get up
try to get up I limp like a veteran -- and the nose also
itches, a little more than I can bear. What to do? What
on earth to do?
Youve got this old woman to live with and shes always
got complaints -- first one thing and then another: today
its itchy nose and game right leg aching, from the knee
up and the knee down.
ON BEING FILTHY RICH
Millionaires, Billionaires, Gadzillionaires -- why do you need
so much? Even though in passing you create frugal
jobs, flamboyant industries, employ jewelers and arms merchants,
why do you find it so necessary to step on the necks of the poor,
the usual, the ordinary, the fragile life of the planet, the purity
of sky blue air? No one begrudges you as much as you
can use in a lifetime, but to gather everything into your
possessive arms, forbidding its use to humanity, animals, plants
and the forests -- Why? Does it give you some nasty pleasure
to be the source of suffering?
ON BEING A MISJUDGER OF DISTANCES
Hell in a hand basket! Crashing into walls and cupboard doors,
getting things halfway to the mouth (the foot partially taken from
that mouth), dropping things short of the counter, the table, the sill,
tripping over ones own vocabulary, hell bent on easing up on torment-
ing ones self, what more can one ask of the universe? -- it growing older,
I growing older with it. It counts in millions, I count in months -- not much
left for either of us. O the journey is long and the rewards few but, not know-
ing anything else, I march on for the nonce.
ON BEING AWARE WOMEN WERE MEANT TO RULE
Women are stepping out from their shadows,
their eyes still half hidden. Modest or spoiled,
under black lace or beneath huge crinolines,
women have been sequestered, smothered
and made to wear ridiculous clothes, made
to be grossly
intimidated by that slimy stick or soft fleshy
pudding, when they, as sole bearers of the human
race, are born to be free, to rule with gaiety, to
be honored, to mother a race of delightful people,
not killers of men and rapers of women. Step out
naked, robed, proud, do better than your sons, fathers
-- whose acts have all but destroyed
THE 99 WORD POEMS 1 -- 10
Plants grow; die;
come again in a
year as miniature
spring -- buds so small it breaks
the heart to see them emerge solitary
into the indifferent world.
They have a whole bush to be with! Maybe not.
Spindly twigs, some wind-broken, dance with delight,
A late frost. Others die. Were the buds early? Consider
the alternatives. Plastic twigs, permanent buds, nothing
fragile, all rigid, all bright -- undying flowers, never-dying
leaves. Needing to be dusted. Some vegetables
come clean from the earth; babies come
bloody from the womb. All sit in my
undisturbed lap. Ah Women!
ON IMAGING EVERY HOUSE IN SEATTLE PAINTED YELLOW
Yellow, Brilliant Yellow, Mellow Yellow, Orange Yellow,
Lemon Yellow, Zinc Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Amber,
Orange Amber, Mustard Yellow, Umber, Urine,
Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Aureolin, Barytes Yellow,
Brilliant Yellow Light, Indian Yellow, Italian Earth, Nickel Yellow,
Nickel Titanium Yellow, Mars Yellow, Hansa Yellow, Olive Oxide,
Turmeric, Gold, Chrome Yellow, Aryl Amide Yellow Light, Pale Gold,
Saffron, Damascus Yellow, Cyprus Orange, Zinc Buff Yellowish, Gold,
Cobalt Yellow Lake, Trinacria Orange, Vesuvius Yellow, Gamboge,
Unbleached Titanium Pale, Raw Sienna Light, Santorini Yellow,
Scheveningern Yellow, Bismuth Yellow, Renaissance Gold,
Windsor Lemon, Alizarine Yellow --
thus Seattlell look like sunshine on gray days.
ON BEING AFRAID TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD
Way up high, the cherry blossoms have turned a dirty pink, almost
brown, bountiful still, and beautiful, fading into the gray
light in my grey mood. I slept last night, on and on,
into darkness and into light.
I feel mild now, drink coffee, milk --
tempting gods of hunger craving.
Purity again! Let go.
Shirk the world
There are other things in life to
lift up, to crave, to whine
in the night for,
Very different than very little.
ON BEING THOUGHT FULL
Transiting the landscape between my kitchen and my
computer, I pass the reach of the cats claws -- just a
scratch without any blood. Just a tender reminder, a
gentle Hello. Dont forget I am here -- near. And
on with the poem, this mornings poem about the
somewhat treacherous landscape between the
sink and the sinkhole of knowledge that
issues forth words, endless words.
Where do they all
What does it mean?
I was once told. I knew.
How smart I would be if all the
words that entered my ears got to
ON BEING THOUGHT FULL II
Transiting another morning of blank brain.
Again my thought that Buddha -- though he may
not have known what he was really after when he
pursued enlightenment -- was going to be gifted with it
automatically when he got old. Old age is a state -- not
yet continuous -- of blank brain. Do good, because you
cant think of anything else to do.
I love the vivid green mashes of my non-gluten diet, so
vivid, so healthy looking, as if it will infuse inside and
aerate the whole shebang. Odd how old words,
old slang in particular, surface, now quite
ON BEING THOUGHT FULL III
Transiting from fear and hatred of women,
Friday the 13th, Paraskevidekatriaphobia, too, will disappear.
Consider all the male-generated superstitions against women, divide
by 13 and toss each dung-bit into the East River -- or the nearest creek.
Float it to sea. Why are men (to this day) so intent on inventing stigma
against women? Because they cant have babies? Do men feel so
retributive for not being blessed (or cursed) with wombs?
Ever met a woman who actually wanted a funny,
worm-like, hairy-topped thing to hang
between her legs? Of course not.
Keep humanitys seed pod
safe, inside, warm, sacred.
ON BEING POWER FULL IV
Transiting into the Idea, the presently vociferous Idea,
of a War on Women: Its been going on a long time, maybe
since the 5th Century B.C. or very likely, very much longer. Back
in Matriarchal Days it was known, unquestionably, women were the source
and the power of the human race. Then the sprinters came from behind to declare
that They, because they were bigger, stronger, more brutish, could dominate the human
race and began to do so. They could do it by lies, innuendo, strong-arm tactics, slaugh-
ter of others -- until mass musculature let them declare themselves gods.
ON BEING ANGRY AT THE MOLECULES
How come your predictable counts and mine doesnt?
Does the human brain foreswear predictability?
To gain what?
Or is it just not very bright? Cant see the future for
the misconceptions. What did we receive thinking for?
To go to Mars? Because God couldnt get there without
Makes me angry.
And the angrier I get the more I distrust that we got here by
anything but fluke. But what a complicated fluke. In its worst
aspects, a disaster, in its best, unbelievably glorious.
Didnt it always seem inevitable that wed ask: Why?
ON UNDERSTANDING THE BUILT IN NEGATIVE
Im beginning to understand that the human psyche is built on
insatiable desire(s). Is that what Buddha was talking about?
The molecular structure? The DNA? The brain ganglia?
The ipsilateral silent period?
The brain is built of such that it cannot be different. No thing can
satisfy it. But desire ever grows. To rid oneself of it is supposed
to be the triumph of Buddhism.
Its triumph is my desire to sleep.
Being human is desire, being awake, doing!
Humans must do to be alive.
Breathe, move, think, die -- but above all, do! -- when
tired of doing: kill.
ON BEING TUCKERED OUT BY TOO MANY POSSIBILITIES
Yesterday or the day before that
there was the possibility of suicide
following the stepping-on-to of my
glasses. Each thing whirls by in its
own vortex. Hundreds of tornados
pummeled the mid-west: yesterday,
the day before, and the day before that.
Seattleites had one of the most beautiful
Sundays on record: sunny, not quite warm,
but not cold, no ice cold wind. Extreme heat
elsewhere. We, at the precinct caucus, having
walked through the noon spring, were joyful
to be -- where there was nothing much to do.
So we, M and I, walked home -- I to bed.
THE 98 WORD POEM 1
ON MEETING WITH THE DERMATOLOGIST
Sadness hangs a concrete barrier
round my neck. My skin, once praised,
is now fraught with eczema:
itch, bloody pimples, rash patches.
Having entered your system, the inflammation never leaves.
It might clear, but will return.
A third of earths people suffer it.
Yet avaricious MDs spend little effort on finding a cure.
Not lucrative, nor glamorous enough, like a heart or liver
transplant. Its assumed youd rather scratch yourself
to death than die of failures in bits of anatomy youve never seen,
never will, would be frightened of if you held them pulsing in your quivering hands.
THE 97 WORD POEMS 1 -- 10
ON BEING A RECOGNIZABLE NEWS-A-HOLIC
Listening to the horrors of the news,
created by men, one cant turn away unscathed: in body
(somewhat) in mind (a fortress robbed, raped,
left for dead) -- being forcefed on plutonium. The nuclear
blast via tsunami or tornado, via the
males disregard of nurturance, males vaunting of greed.
or there will be charred cinders where there used
to be children. I dislike the screaming, strident voices of kids
just as much as you do, but I do not prefer the ground shaking,
earthquake inciting, the thunder of war, especially on those we
dont even know.
ON COMING OUT OF VIKRAMADITYAS CLASS
Coming from Vikramadityas class yesterday --
an incandescent insight! The whole world
alight with spring, millions of minute yellow-green buds
bursting into leaf! I had been musing over what he
gives in class, probably unnoted by most of his students
now -- maybe forever. No matter where you stand,
he offers insight into
the other half of the world and, in the process,
unifies the earth;
how all completes one another, balances one another, affects
How, all being here,
if we could stop killing one another,
we could learn to enjoy one anothers dazzling company,
ON BEING AWARE THAT THE CHIP HAS FALLEN FROM MY SHOULDER
Im nicer now. It is as if that chip weighed a thousand pounds.
Now, that its gone, I can stand straighter, friendlier, and stop
wondering who is the enemy. No enemies -- except on Amy Good-
man this morning one learns the whole of America and probably
most of the world is being surveilled, listened-in on -- whether or
not one is a likely suspect -- just as a matter of course. They
have the equipment, the power, and why shouldnt they do
just that? So they do. Poetry is probably classified as
a subversive activity. So why not me?
ON BEING AWARE I CAN STAND UP FOR MYSELF
Without dying -- Im still thinking of Witt -- smiling within at the lesson
Ive taught him -- proud of myself, proud of speaking up. I may have
saved him from doing that again to another.
Surfacing along with this revelation -- acting deliberately to teach
someone a lesson -- is the genuine dislike I feel for handsome,
self-satisfied boys who feel theyre so attractive they can
waste others time with impunity.
This sounds suspiciously like a sour-grapes
because I never had children, never took on the responsibility of
educating even one young human into manners, grace, kindness, thoughtfulness.
ON BEING AWARE OF WASTING THE DAY
No umph to do anything. Sitting quietly. Chatting on the phone.
Whats the point? Of doing nothing or doing something.
Beautiful day. Im tired. Too sleepy to resist going back to sleep.
Cant clear my head enough to even think about posting some poems.
Although I now think I know how. Frightened to try again. Everything
seems more of a problem than Im prepared to deal with.
Beautiful day. Not enough umph to go outside
and breathe in the air.
Readings no longer an option.
I must learn to do something else.
Giant sneezes all day long.
ON BEING AWARE OF MISCALCULATIONS OF ALL SORTS
My aim is different, so is my strength.
My eyes are misting with cataracts,
perhaps a little astigmatism.
The whole world is changing.
At 78 its not easy to take.
Its someone cheating at cards.
Sometimes you notice, sometimes you dont.
But all is off, out of sync, one miscalculation after another.
Youd like to scream.
At times you do.
What you used to do easily, you still do with aplomb,
but it (what ever it is) flies off to the ceiling,
shoots across the room,
illuminates the stars of anger;
fires of madness.
ON BEING AWARE OF WHAT I SAID/THOUGHT
My life has been reduced to this. That was the phrase in my
head this morning, as I stood high on the ladder to the loft surveying
my studio⁄home⁄apartment⁄cell⁄eyrie⁄prison⁄escape⁄ivory tower,
which is about as romantic a hideaway as can be imagined in the early
years of the 21st Century. Abundant with books, with a huge pyramidal
jungle of plants, all my patterned and extraordinary needlepoints, and
the patterned rugs, pillows, cushions, spreads making it look as colorful
as any Persians tent out standing in the aridity of the Rajasthan desert.
ON BEING AWARE
I found a pristine copy of the card Muktananda
used to give away and which I have
carried in my cardpack until it
has almost disintegrated.
I found again the list of lysine to arginine
in foods and am reminded
it might be an excess of arginine in my system
causing the hives, eczema, dry skin, itch.
Several days ago I began taking L-lysine capsules.
Forget the salve, the treatments
mis-prescribed by the last AMA Doctor Hurst,
Dermatologist (and all others) I shall never see again.
I only count myself lucky they havent
killed me before now.
ON BEING AWARE OF HAVING BEEN MADE PIECEMEAL
I do not know if it was through contagion or contact or conflagration
that I took on the colors, the concerns, the contemptible coercions of
this society, my society -- or how I managed to remain
separated from the legos that construct our world. Theres little about
it that I admire or want to emulate. Later on in life, I find I only
have a bad taste in my mouth when I think about its treasures, prizes
What is it that I want?
Who would I be if I had not been diverted early in life?
ON BECOMING AWARE THAT MY BRAIN HAS STOPPED
I am becoming aware that my brain has stopped reading my body.
I no longer can tell if I am holding my umbrella -- unless, looking down,
I see it beneath my fingertips.
Once I perceive it, feel its handles pressure against the web
between thumb and forefinger --
It is there!
Otherwise theres no sensation of heft or weight
even in a coffee cup.
I cant smell.
I think I can still hear,
but our obsessive
dwelling on civic shames and political skullduggery,
screeching, raucous music
make all sounds instantly forgettable,
A 170 WORD POEM
THE LAST POEM FROM THE PLEIN JAN POEMS:
(or maybe the First).
ON BECOMING AWARE OF MY PARTICULAR FORM I
To my surprise, I find I am still on the same pursuit. This
discovery is not about having forgot my path, but simply not analyzing
Each day I grab a simple word -- phrase, idea, theorem, statement, proof
-- out of the air or from the idylling hum of my mind and run with it,
sticking as close as I can to a Plain Jane
vocabulary, everyday idiom, ordinary thought pattern -- a non-thinking-plod
of step by step,
until, in the last line or lines, at the last gasp, the concluding of each excursion,
I usually -- up to today -- let my hands spring from the tabla, laugh,
smile, giggle, rejoice and conclude with a flourish.
I.e., as I found in Rumi an age or two ago:
He is the worlds most satisfying poet
in bringing the mundane and the sublime, hand in hand,
into a side-by-side conjunction,
into the same universe
to show me -- I who doubted -- that they are
(however many sides)
of the same coin.
* * * * *
* * * * *
BY JAN HAAG