The Desolation Poems

Poetic Forms Used in English



Ah, brilliant sky, so red and so gently blue,
clouds, careful pilots, wandering up and by
bird flight, small rain and light and falling
dew, let the fog seep from earth to clear view.

Ah, bright bits, birds fly and wait high, turning to
fogs, clouds not feathered, and yet let their shy wit
still wander sky high, then dip deep down
finding solace while others espy flames.



"'March: an Ode' [by Swinburne], is the only instance in the language
of a poem written in octameters." OED, "O" page 53

Do not worry over much
or over tea.
Listen to me.
Listen to the sea.
Carry your arms at rest
and let God's nestlings be.



Did Bill Clinton,
earth's biggest one,
arrive at the top
only to flop?

Kenneth Starr is very far from the truth,
malicious and somewhat uncouth,
for indulging in sex, even for REX,
is about as criminal as shuffling card decks

Independent Council Starr listening to all that are
willing to sing and sting misrepresents the bar.
For indulging in sex, even for a presidented,
is less criminal than laws being re-invented.

Lewinsky was out to get him.
She wanted sex on whatever limb,
Weaned on TV no doubt,
she badly misjudges what life is about.

Even Peter Jennings must bow
to TV's lurid need to wow,
to do in the world's personages
with teapot tempests puffed to outrageous.

President Clinton must keep his pecker in
even though his right to privacy is no sin.
Imagine Hilary's chagrin when they win
to find in her bed all those wimin!

Dr. Lewinsky, give your daughter the key,
advise her to back off from her spree.
Have her come home, away from the "beast,"
or ship her to Nome or to Rome at the least.

Chelsea Clinton, her visage plain,
must feel enormous pain
as she goes to bed each Stanford night
thinking of her father's public and private plight.



Pure grief, pure pain, pure greed, pure loss, saved from a life lust,
never afraid, for the fear, horror can't get any worse,

"Out, out!" you cry, wail: "Why!" Screech, plead, waiting to die. "Trust
me," saith God, and dim terror makes you laugh. "What a curse!"

Not perfect, not surfeit, not friendly, not out of gratitude, you flee.
"O, dearest God, it is quite clear you're as helpless as me."



Yesterday, the small cloud sailed the unplacid little lake and sea
fetching rain as it had every right to do, absorbing up dew.
Letting fall minute tears, fearing the hot desert as much as full
sun, it floated far past tropical limits and sub tropical
seas. It met with the thunder and lightning over the arctic ice.
Freezing, flailing, it snowed down on the pole showing its little flakes.



Divine beauty, a little sorrow -- how
proportions change as years go by. Laughter
becomes companion, friend, and salts the fur
of pain, hobbles memory, lights the Tao.
Nature's rapid spring, fall do not allow
among its rich colors the curse or burr
of ice nor desert. Great planes of peace stir,
gently enfolding beauty's divine now.



A Genethliacum, be it noted, is an ode,
an Occasional Poem honoring a birth.
It can be nonce, strict, or any stanza
form you please. It can be spelled Genethli-
acon. Cum or con, a nativity is what
you please. Possibility quite marks the event;
and chance directs life toward expected death.

Arrive and be. Today we see your mode
and hope it will emerge no pain, much mirth.
May health and wealth be yours from now, alpha
right through omega. Blessings always be
with you today and evermore. Don't shut
the doors of trust. Remember love is meant
with every bud, each new awakened breath.

Between the arch and learned, strict, fair code
come what may, be there to bear with the earth.
Honor form and freedom. Influenza
has its uses in learning to help you see
what time is. And what a devastating mutt
both time and stasis can become as they rent
the air and pitch the battle back to Death.



The drive is long, the drive
across the desert's five
hundred dry miles blown by wind
and sand whose giant hive
crackles with heat more live
then buzzing bees, anciently dinned

like echos through the rocks
mocking the silent locks
where the detritus drifts filling
mauve canyon trails, sans vox
populi, sans
the mocks
of birds dipping, falling, chilling

the midnight frigid air.
All is true, don't despair:
the heat, the light, all growth and death,
the bone thin, roaming mare
skeletal against care.
And yet! there's hot determined breath.



I have a friend who likes to slip
in in the dark to leave rare gifts --
last night a glass cup with a lip.
Large, capacious, it gives off whiffs
of my cardamom morning tea
while I muse, thinking of the sea.
My friend was a nun, and doubtless
had fun in indulging selfless
virtues and pure thoughts toward others.
Her charm showed a sly wit to bless
and treat all mankind as sisters.

I, myself, have a stranger trip
in not understanding quick rifts
that my passions too often flip
over to obsessions which shifts
puzzle to adventurous spree.
I walk the Tao to find the key
to knowledge and deeper access.
While plucking time's stream of the cress
of nourishment, I skip sharp burrs
which allows me to know, redress,
and treat all mankind as sisters.

The oceans rock though we may quip.
The sea runs deep though we climb cliffs.
The question is how can we rip
from the grip of time and its drifts
enough to see, enough to be
willing to relinquish all free-
dom with gaiety. One must stress
gifts at night with proper address
while beneath its fur the cat purrs
and sleeps, refusing to oppress,
and treat all mankind as sisters.

My good tea is sweet as I sip.
I abstain from coloring ifs,
use cold water in which to dip
and cool anger before it lifts
up a stinging wasp or mad bee.
Quite before you can justly see
a noble reason for success
with inclination to repress,
I'll be there in all my warm furs
heeling my old curs, motherless,
and treat all mankind as sisters.

So we live and learn at a clip
with our great loves and lowly miffs,
striving silently with each nip,
hoping they won't turn into tiffs.
I'm so pleased by the gift from thee
I want to laugh, jump and cry "Gee!"
But afraid to create a mess,
I most carefully reassess,
my motivation. My mind whirrs:
now might I shout a great "Yes"?
and treat all mankind as sisters.

Divide thoughts into fifths, confess
to be hip to any newness
that she might propose who brothers
good will and grace. Create much less
and treat all mankind as sisters.



Under ice-cold, frosted spring dew
close upon the ground, and quite white,
the lawns appear like crystal glue --
a unity of snow. The rite
which has metamorphosed the night,
turned dark to light, cold, like the moon
silvering, shimmering, a covered boon
making buds withdraw while vines decline,
will not, luckily, last past noon.
The trees will grow, the sun will shine.

The blossoms will have endured the blue
melting of the sky from ink to light
where, now with colors bright in hue,
they will not hesitate to write
of warmth, of joy, renewal, cite
with heady scents and sheer clear tune
the birds return, the lake's new loon.
All spring, as one, serves up its wine.
Even deep in the forest, soon
the trees will grow, the sun will shine.

And yet, in its heart, waits nature's cue,
patient, safe, curled, hid out of sight,
the hardened frost, the cold that's due
when weather fails the tight strung kite
and high winds blows across the site.
Creatures, lizards, snakes on the dune
make pattern's not unlike the rune.
If cautiously, slowly read line by line
in a mournful invocational croon:
the trees will grow, the sun will shine.

Shiva views the heart in a swoon.
Digambara, nude as a 'coon
he'll walkabout as sky clad Jain
preening, loving, so that in June
the trees will grow, the sun will shine.



The rain, the black night, the siren
are not claimed by morning's garden,
nor is the pen on its trips --
gliding so smoothly within each
phrase, sour-powered and inky
-- into pale parse-hidden pips.



Gently tamp earth with your toe.
Cultivate it with a hoe.
When the sunlight starts to go
finish the long, straight, green row.
Bake an Irish Potato.
Eat it with butter and slow.
Eat heartily in the night
with no light but the fire's glow.



Sic transit gloria mundi -- so passes
the glory of the world -- one says to the pope
and others, whether the tow is burnt or no.
Woven of hemp or woven of jute from scutched
and hackled fiber -- consider the sutra's
warning, consider the Vedic creed. Burn with
fire, worship the wind, and ponder Indra's pearl.
Fly to the moon with laughter, slide down the sun's
beam. Capture the gold, silver, majestic world
prior to sic transit gloria mundi.



The envoy of a broken heart
may have skin as black as a pearl
and the snowy teeth of a tart,
ringlets that infinitely curl,
ennui soliciting farewell.

Dreams disturbed by quite random charms
may thread rhinestones on daisy
chains that plan to commit no harms.
Retreat, regret, love's quite crazy,
Who'll not agree sweetly: it's hell.



Between the trees the moon glows bright.
It's spring and early morning comes
lighter, sacrificing the night.
The shock, blood of memories, hums.

As a child listening to the drums
in my heart, imaging the world
of moons and nights and trees all burled,
I'd curl deep in my bed to warm
shivering fear against the storm
and not wake until dawn's light pearled.

Now in poetry I succor
my heart in cool, restrictive form.



Down in the desert the tamarack blows,
the rock is bare and the sand will cut
and bruise the new wounds of creatures,
sharp toothed, hungry, cruel.
Let a wandering, lustful, stupid fool
stand still in the rain when it comes.

And it will come to kiss, nay bless
the eye, the cloud, the mud, red
as leather tanned in oozing fresh blood.
It'll hug belief behind the throat,
ruin the hot, blue sky,
and bite the frogs and curse the dogs.

O God, mount the slag heap,
swing your toughening, wavering curves
to surprise the important, the vain the heedless.
Boast of palo verde, gentle,
green-stemmed, blossomed yellow.
The skirted desert remains quite mellow.



Moon! moon caught in lace, in the spider webs of trees
Black! black, black, flaunting charred debris against the sky
Halo casting, glowing, glimmering, soothingly
Silent -- O moon at four a.m. search my yawning
Heart. Memorize my face behind the sharp angles
Of branches dead through winter, waking in late spring.



The woman's lips blue-black, swollen and overfed,
her body lumpish with undigested bread
and desserts, retaining will enough to breathe
in, sigh, and out, her drooping eyes closing
down, the child with mucus running from its
nose -- both ugly enough to be chosen for death
in ancient India among people
where only beauty was allowed to live --

She thwarts the child, the child screams, thrashes. She
snatches a milk bottle from her over-
flowing bag, sticks the nipple in its mouth
determined food, force fed, her sole comfort
will assuage the awful terror, the fire,
the burning spite. It throws the bottle in-
to -- slim, silent, regal, reading -- a man's
lap. Milk beads on his trousers. He faintly

smiles, delicately thrusts the bottle back
at the frantic, no doubt, accidental
former womb, and, politely, restrains himself,
as I restrain myself from a shrill cry:
"The child doesn't want the milk!" It's body
writhes like a mutilated snake, tosses,
slithers, gyrates, climbs from the soft, tired arms.
Nipple again, again the toss. Caught. It screams,

it whines, it sobs. "Put the milk in the God-
damned sack!" I'd shout, but the bus turns into
a different lane. "Aloha," I spy
the exotic Hawaiian name on a Catholic street
in the Northwest rain. The street, under repair
has altered its barricade. The bus can stop
closer to home. I rise. "Can I get off here?"
Forgo the judge's role? "For an extra

charge." We both laugh. "Thank you," I step from the bus.
"Have a nice day." At last! Silence! Its spring!
The fresh, silent air of the traffic's roar --
I start down hill. The stars of the forsythia
stab high -- two, four feet above the Cascades.
The jumping yellow jacks pull the bees and
the quiet out of the innocent sky that lies
nearby and beyond satiety's mountain.



Sleek, dark, always a snob, Liliana was
beautiful, Italian with a Teutonic
half, from Trento in the Dolomites, Fascist
and Allies along the parental divide,
secretive, witty, seductive and quite rich.

She reasoned like a cloud of Italian bees.
Prowling the streets of San Francisco, daring
the rules of good sense, taste. She felt safest in
the Castro, safer yet in dark Mission bars
with pimps, prostitutes, Siliqua in drag than

in the unutterable quiet whiteness
of home: the Heights commanding that paradise
the Gate, the gold, the Bay, the sky and islands.
"Men in drag, acting out their fantasies," she
said, "and Spanish lovers, will not murder me."

With her buzzing, rich, visionary brain, she
she developed salons of art, museums,
she gave and gave her heart's blood. Then suddenly
leaving paradise for Europe with a seed
of greed, she returned a Colonialist.

Empires to build! Money was not to her taste,
she bicycled, wore sweats, ate always at home,
but unobstructed institutes, foundations
conflagrated her dreams. Born precocious, world-
wise, she had escaped to adventure the earth

as a girl, ended playing bridge, exercise
machines, dominating waiters, surfeited
with late blooming desires to be the richest
of all, quite convinced, after a youth of art
and architecture, banquets, Nazi banknotes

in the attic trunks, that money was the root
of all power to do. Odd progress for her:
loving, enchanting, gifted, married to a
thumb-sized mate who, until late in life, she kept
camped in dolomite valleys outside her heart.

#86 ROUNDEL (Sketch)


Blueblack Nubian boy, piece of diamond dirt,
unsuitable, and you can't leave him alone.
Child in your care, love is unsuitable, child
in your care, they would have you forebear to bear.
Child in your care, did you rape him?as they say,
or release him from melancholy, sleepless
desire, eons of despair. Love! they prate,
miscegenation they fear, death they insure.

How old was Romeo? What age Juliet?
Make up stories, live them down, forbid them love.



Blueblack Nubian boy, piece of diamond dirt,
child in her care, and she can't leave him to toy.
Child in her care, they insist she forbear hurt,
Blueblack Nubian boy.

Youth in her care, love is unsuitable. Coy
child who cares, dares love. Raped him, they say, the flirt,
released from melancholy, his desire, joy.

Shackle his despair! Girt up her love! They're curt,
Make up stories, live them down, hide death's envoy:
magnet and iron, blue bones and white gyrate,
Blueblack Nubian boy.



O, food is my passion,
food my aim,
food is the immortal name of the great game.

Immaterial, insubstantial, subsisting on comfort
subsisting on gain,
what will I do with all the running time that remains
in this very long life with immense
sorrow and pain,
and a hoot and a laugh and a flash in the face.

I've wandered all over the earth,
explored the depths of the soul and despair,
lived in beauty, lived in fame.
Isn't it incredibly strange how restless I still am?

Does God



I miss the walk to the sea, the grassland,
the small dam. I miss three or four lilies,
white and vulnerable, marsh bred, like trees.
I miss the picnic on peas, yellow, bland,
with olive oil, onion, dill, mixed by hand.
I miss the road's curve, the sky's soaring breeze,
straining for the sound of the surf, the lees'
smell, the surprise of the sun on the sand.

I miss all this, but I don't miss thee,
not the small hurts nor the great betrayals,
the spiraling shroud of your proud disdain,
nor the supreme vision you gave to me.
The vast pleasure of morning's peace assails
spring's world with the breaking blossom's wild reign.


3-18 & 19-98


I miss the walk to the sea, the grassland,
the small dam. I miss three or four lilies,
white and vulnerable, marsh bred, like trees.
I miss the picnic on peas, yellow, bland,
with olive oil, onion, dill, mixed by hand.
I miss the road's curve, the sky's soaring breeze,
straining for the sound of the surf, the lees'
smell, the surprise of the sun on the sand.

I miss all this, but I don't miss thee,
not the small hurts nor the great betrayals,
the spiralling shroud of your proud disdain,
nor the supreme vision you gave to me.
The vast pleasure of morning's peace assails
spring's world with the breaking blossom's wild reign.


Spring's world with the breaking blossom's wild reign
in pink cherries' undulating foam, wakes
me now from utter bondage to thee, shakes,
breaks free in the violent wind, in the violent rain,
in your bound heart, bound like mine, as the rein
slips, and I find I know too well what brakes,
what restraint of impulse hinders and rakes
the claws sunk deep into our hearts of Cain.

I watch the rhythm of your heart, clearly
see the meter of your despair. What could
I share with thee when we want each single
soul's offering of dreams and consciously
constructed, fine hewn, handmade, well wrought good
to stand alone, to be supremely full.


To stand alone, to be supremely full
like the wild cherry and the tame blue plum,
each mathematically knows its sum,
stands sky bound in wind like the crying gull,
swoops, announces its joy, fears to mingle
and flies away. Everything pain-dulled, dumb
emptied and humbled becomes shy and numb.
All gifts, glories, times eventually dull.

except the sun, the wind, the rain. I miss
the remembrance of pain but not the pain.
The sun will shine again, the fall leaf fall.
I miss fields of forget-me-nots, the bliss
of blue beneath the trees, the dew-wet lane,
the strain of trying to hear my heart's call.


The strain of trying to hear my heart's call
when human drumming of superlative
power dams my ear -- am I to forgive
each ominous, thundering, awesome pall
back in the world behind the silent wall
of the quiet, gentle, anxious-to-live,
tiny things that pass through a silent sieve
lingering as after an awful squall.

I miss the live oaks and the dead gold grass.
I miss the mountains and the early mist.
I miss the ocean and the sparkling bay.
I miss the jungle sun's eternal brass
I miss dreams in which I long to exist
alone, to stray away each day I stay.


Alone, to stray away each day I stay
my heart longs to vie with locked, deep secrets,
remembrance, chaste melodies, hidden debts.
Remorse I might have paid, you will not pay.
Human to human we met that last day.
The hut scented with mint, with no regrets.
But lightning, the storm, the water in jets
slashed my patience, dislodged the sodden hay.

Accept my gifts, accept only mine, I
begged of God, drowning Abel's easy voice.
The clean, sharp, green smell, your quiet sober
assurance: "It will stop." Your somber eye,
your smile ill conceal a similar choice.
God's teasing question ceased to be nobler.


God's teasing question ceased to be nobler,
I long to choose my destiny, not yours.
As the pale mushroom lays its unseen spores,
as over the ocean the flying mer
cries, "I have a destiny, don't abjure
yours." I want to live free, forgo the chores,
rise with the stiff, rose-colored quince on shores
past incarnation's fallacies, bolder

stronger, shouldering every serpent's hiss,
every wild-honey-bound trip of the bee.
When pressed, I will live free, I will live long,
not fearing the silent power of bliss,
nor the flight of birds, nor the sounding sea.
I will live enough to create my song.


I will live enough to create my song
out of the drumming, the music, the path
from the sound to the sea, precise as math,
as a groan ringing the forest's great gong.
Gaze as the forsythia may, while wrong,
steal for its jacks the light of the sun's bath
exuberant, pushing the spring's mild wrath
against the harsh winter lasting and strong.

I remember the lake, the blue herons
tall and frighteningly bold and demure,
the maidenhair fern delicate and fanned
on deep crumbling cliffs, near shaded barrens.
My heart turned crystal, the motive was pure.
I miss the walk to the sea, the grass land.



My hands stop breakfast as I see the light.
Undulating bright squares, incandescent,
stain the curtain from the high, small window's site.
Transfixed, my eye can not move nor repent.
I fear even a hesitant loss might
deprive me forever of the sun sent
gift, challenge forever my remaining sight.



I hold up my heart like a shield,
its favors sheer and well steeled.
My mind is a wall against grief.
I live the beginning of night,
saved by anticipating flight.
Mercifully, my time is yet brief.

The fountains of cherry blossoms
cascade in the Arboretum's
alleys of silver and gold sun
light, reflecting the moon's pale froth
with her clouds and her veils like moth
wings wide on my bare escutcheon.



Edda early exclaimed this form
frothily forged and freely wrought
a Sibyl's Vision, sibilant words
charted Celtic clews post Gododdin



As virtuous Vedas unveiled India,
Homer's heroics homogenized Greece,
as Tao divinations diverted China,
so Eddic edicts extolled the Norse.



Singing songs mild, sighing old tunes,
tones in the untempered scale
Eddic edifice, eons heroic,
browsed in my Book of Oddi.




"No longer burn the hands that seized
Small wreaths from branches scarcely green
Wearily sleeps the hardy, lean
Hunger that would not be appeased.
The eyes that opened to white day
Watch cloud that men may look upon:
Leda forgets the wings of the swan;
Danae has swept the gold away."


He answered: Man, to Sphinx's clue,
claimed Queen Jocasta's marriage bed.
With old Danaid fear he bled
hubris and fault, storing up rue.
Jocasta sang of possibil-
ity, of precocious proto Tiy.
Oedipus limped from home to flee
perforated eyes watering his kill.



I was meek and demure and mild,
with a heart quite joyous and wild,
willing to forgo in life man's
love which he declares, lauds and fans,
vowing forever, asking trust,
and leaving, of course, when he must.

But when he returned with a quest
and I, in all innocence, jest
not -- insisted on being joyous,
exultant, wild, myself -- the us
dissolved in his panic, for he
sought meek, mild, motherly, not me.



I saw perfection once in life;
next time I couldn't see at all.
Gradually the iron knife
penetrated my fragile shawl
of admiration, search to be,
as an equal, betrothed to thee.

Perfection thrived, perfection soared,
Foolish, I began to live,
became quite skillful, often gored,
bled with grace, lost face to give
unrequited love. Grew in strength,
fought pain, joy when I was spurned at length.



When will high stamina desert
Me totally -- to deal with the hell
Man has made?

I caw with the birds in lyrical flight.
Swift through the mottled, illumined twilight,
And weep.

Knowing communality would destroy
Me utterly, I remain as myself,

Not yet embraced, drowned, in comfortable
Ocean. Ah, to cease the torture of my
Own mind,

Seek dissolution, a singular death,
Ah, to dissolve in the seas. Ah, the ease,
The ease.



The leaden largesse of fear abides
deep in my gut and skillfully hides

its origins in the mudane world.
Overfed, overbred and fooled

by gloomy psychic storms, proxy
norms: Madonna on the foxy

screen, day-glo, hybrid, un-natured
tulips bend in trained curtsies to brawl

for space and fame in flowered beds.
Ah, hide their heads! They'll not hear the treads

of bulb-snatchers under moonlight.
Their voiceless throats screaming their plight

staunch hope and lift pride as they'll be
auctioned for a staggering fee.

Next year the market will triple.
Each man bets his gold and nipple.

How can we justify such Ides
in March? "Et tu?" -- hear horrid cries?


Copyright © 2002 Jan Haag

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: or








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