INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO
The British admired the fine crafts of India
and its architecture, but commandeered its land
to build an empire, displacing Lord Shiva
who, dancing, damaru tapping, reigned, Shakti's hand
upon his unforgiving heart. Fiercely
poised, the Lord of Death, the creator was banned.
For centuries he outwaited triumphantly
plumed merchants piling up Greek and old Roman
bastions here and there. Conquerors! But feebly
unable to perceive the cause of dome, qibla, sun,
they sweated in a land which did not wish
to explain the gopura or vajroli which stun
in their sensuality. The British
blushing, disciplined, stayed in their tower.
Wounded by need, characterized as "cold fish,"
they found the entanglements of life too sour.
Scoffing at grace and its exuberant creators,
stiffen by greed, they refused to flower.
They strove for mastery in the corridors
of power, this race of blind carnivores.
Kalakalah, the ferry in the sound,
now lets great boats lie. Beneath
bold, broad, stone forts in which stiff Brits fix pride, lie little boats aground. Wet,
wild, welcome, warm they hint at bitter storms. Bold, bitten barricades fall.
Whose to say "fly," if nits pick petty fights and the work wanders widely?
red fusing horizon, smoke,
earth, the palms, endless pale sand --
walk on the earth and weep. There
I rinsed my feet, walked without
shoes. Silk was the earth, satin
my heart, welcomed at last. Chant
through full moon nights. Consider
Krishna's river running through
temples, through froth white current,
misty vision, wet gown, see! --
Mahabharata at Wai.
Central to the idea of peace in the
are icons of worship. Among mud huts, a
hodge podge of pillars, antiquity supports
straw pallets as marketeers, disregarding
earwig and weevil, squat, lounge and sleep.
Or, serving sweet tea, tempt you with know-
ledge. 500 years ago, strawberries grew in
those green patches between banana stalk
and the sugar cane. Excavated yesterday:
a pipeline for the bath of the Empress who
waded with her ladies in jewel lined tanks,
bedecked with balconies. Across a desert
mile and centuries, elephants trumpeted
pleasure in their domes, bowed happily for
food, lifted advadhuts in sacred celebration,
engaged their tusks for war. Beyond the
balance for the Emperor's weight in gold,
sandals skimming a single rock, one came
upon temples where palm against stone brings
tone like the glass blower's art. Boulders,
black as holes swallowing the light, shoulder
the Tungabhadra, lead flowing, breathing the
sun. School children bathe from the mandapa.
Spindle-legged Indians pace in the dust.
Silence hisses, clouds of ghosts lift their
bundles, walk away from the last two trees,
deserting the Empire, ruins of Hampi, so
children of the West can lay down their sacks
for sleeping in, ponder the central idea of peace
in the world, the icons of worship, the dust.
Ah, you are gone. Ah you are
leaving this deep void in my heart ringing.
Your happiness shines through dark, dispelling
the gloom, the quiet tomb of past dwelling.
I hide in its corners, worship, quelling
my sorrow, my loneliness, everything
in habits of mandatory sighing.
I cry for wind, I cry for the winging
night owl, pray for new wisdom from brooding,
pray I will wake in the dawn deserting
this hurt, despair, this ill favored longing.
In the sun, with the pale stars descending,
I'll search the lawn and the trees, the hanging
moss, the wild wind forever believing
there must be evidence of your loving
beyond measure. As I lay worshipping
in tender delight all the amazing
union of our destinies like blazing
coherent light, I saw lasers scanning
the moon, powerful telescopes peering
beyond galaxies through disappearing
space into certainty's heart, there clinging.
I know you'll return with kindness, bringing
fire to the hearth of my heart, restoring
my faith and my love, my trust, my warming.
The bond of your strong body inviting
my undiluted trust and my twining.
Love, can I live without your embracing,
Can I wander the world without facing
the solitude, the lack of cherishing?
In dreams each night, I'm lost to caressing
insubstantial wisps of remembering:
your lips, your eyes, your dear breath whispering
the eternity of love attesting.
I'll stay here where you were used to being,
breathe the air hoping to find glimmering
priceless antiquities and, devoting
my time cautiously with everlasting
patience, will restore without shattering
infinitesimal pieces which ring
to the sound of your gay, bouyant laughing
in the bliss of happiness enduring.
O, can I bear the loss without screaming,
without crying, without dying, beating
the ground where you were lately seen roaming?
Earth, how unfair to create by stealing
the panic of creatures you gave feeling.
Kind cats kill their mice. Spare me to dying.
For this day I would go without crying,
without trepidation -- not the fearing,
without the dread of beyond, not trembling
if I could be promised total blinding
to the knowledge of love, ever having
had what could be dissolved into losing.
The illusion of ever increasing
riches of spirit, of lushly growing
devotion, of tropical flourishing
exotic blooms, erotic nuturing
has tricked me, fooled my forlorn hope to cling
for the sake of another to piping
and singing and vaunted sacred welding
of separateness in one consuming
whole. You are gone. I am but half hearing
the lecture of my heart. Truths of living
proved false and slowly degrading. Fasting,
I shall turn to the East and go seeking.
The sun on the vast plains
high and reeking
escorts me moment by moment pleading
its heat and its wrath, movement exceeding
the sense of a donkey at noon plodding,
nodding when all with good sense are sleeping.
"Desist, resist," cries gold light glittering.
Yet, without will, my feet are proceeding
while my mind, mute, prays for shelter, shielding.
My heart prays for the death of my thinking.
God's and my body's will are both shrinking
before the monsterous lust unseeing
of drives that are embedded, fluttering
in the red blood cells within flesh pulsing,
pounding and quivering. I am shambling
as I walk on and on through the scorching
desert, the infinite length of scouring
years, perpetually weary, scorning.
Not yet fully prepared to be viewing
what the bleak future holds for reviewing,
yet ardently, passionately praying
to never return to jeopardizing
the world's wonder by need iterating
its mindless necessity, by warping
pleasant excursion into harsh warring,
whimpering, insistent, blind, strangling.
I flee the louring sky. Yet mastering
my magic carpet of complex gridding,
I glide over the whirling world flying
the intricate, high wind world's harrowing
upsweep, down draft, rocking and blunt reeling.
On the rug's pattern, conning its keying,
I steer in a bound round the earth keeping
my stillness, curiosity mapping
the plains of the desert. The canopying
forest's iridescent green acceding
to the sun's bright probe flashes, displaying
the endlessness of one color's healing
powers over human hearts emptying,
hoping to revive the naturalizing
of pure loving, blessing, careful listening.
I fly through the universe demanding
a difference from God's interrogating
gift of the great human mind yammering,
yodeling, yapping, yawning, non-yielding.
Out-of-sync, the useless, flawed-reasoning,
clay-built creature keeps interviewing
for possibilities, still pondering
alternatives, other coursing
for eternity's river while I sing.
Singing for the jubilee, rejoicing,
steering my time woven, red, ground-looming
shuttle mount through, beyond the transpiring,
remotest reaches of manifesting
light, seeking new questions, understanding
the tumbling, trampling, tossing and treading.
I will find rest, renewal. A stinging
quotidian needed awakening.
I will find thee, I will find revealing
assurance that the looked for unveiling
is written on sands of time, on blowing
ingots of feathers and down, on sinking
soft beds of future and past, succeeding
the day by day unpledged rich offering
of surpise, replenishment uniting
what would have been, what will be. Numbering
the journey's final stop, utilizing
destination's code, we are arriving
to muse keening, at the planned harvesting.
the land, the spring and the lightning,
the lushness of bloom, the carob's calling
with its odor of musk and decaying
richness, of heavy unguents enfolding.
Praise for the yearning and validating,
for the rain and sun endlessly quarrelling,
the gamelan sound of leaves xylophoning,
to the late tears and the wind responding.
Praise the cyclone, the hurricane raging,
the tsunami wild and high and snatching
at mountains, man's frail effortful housing,
upheavals that end destiny's tossing.
Send encomia, daunt God's nattering.
Humans crawl upward in spite of oozing
subhuman diseases, suppurating
psyches, still hoping for madness' cleansing.
They shout from rooftops, vituperating
volcanoes of freer violence spewing
uncontainable pain, terrorizing
their small bodies of bone and of bleeding.
Pray for them, Shiva. Pray for them killing
their own and their neighbor, blind fear stoking,
their rage and their tears. Pray for their sobbing,
sweet Buddha. Pray their inhumane training
by humans will rinse out before wringing
the last vestiges of compassioning
grace that hides somewhere in the recessing
soul. Praise Man! Who will praise man? Redeeming
only their own soul, for the scales tipping
may never be righted again. Jesting!
God jests with the creatures He wrought, ceding
to their mad power and perverse planning.
Omnipotently, He could by lording
have sent them grandly and kindly sailing
down rivers of a different course. Harping,
listening: neither are God's strong points. Hewing
to visions that don't work is describing
God made in man's image and man conning
God's original script. Pristine, hedging,
why should He change His plans when jaywalking
is no option in diurnal zoning?
"Rules are rules!" -- whoever, petitioning,
might see a different scenario ping
with the rightness of a snapped glass zinging.
Ignore the great wind's gentle zephyring
agreement to protect. Go yodelling
across blue-white, zincated roofs glaring,
clutching axioms too precious, urging
a standstill to change. Everything changing
everywhere newness, except obstructing
laws proven unworkable. God, ridding
the world of man is a thought promising
benefit to nature. Creatures zesting
for their life and respite from man's trampling
will appreciate Your listening, swanning
at last the irrefutable damning
evidence gathered against Your wailing,
rampaging, blind, deaf, befriended sibling.
Listen! Hear this encomium ending.
You and Your creation of clay kindling
symbiotic, nepotistic, mincing
dances to tunes meant for the expanding
"All" that can be loved, consider something
beyond Your own loneliness. Fragmenting --
consider it, chance changing, revealing
what we know is the heart of Your singing.
My experience in the
has been that only recently do we
speak of Judeo-Christians, and never speak
We speak of Buddhist and Hindus
But only someone as strange as I would speak of
Hindu-Buddhus. Most others don't
know that Buddha was a Hindu.
Nor have I ever heard a Muslim claim lineage
with a Christian. Undoubtedly
it is the truth, but a truth not
uttered. For remember, until after World War II,
Christians just barely acknowledged
Jesus was a Jew. Suffering
Buddhists are embraced more easily than Muslims.
Hinduism's Gods are dismissed
as mythology even as
Kali Yuga manifests, yields chaos, closure.
Seattle's Public Library
as Religion; other faiths as Literature.
Prakash changes the West's perceptions of the world
by simply mentioning some facts,
by simply assuming, in our
scientific world, that most know
history, indeed, care about veracity.
O Devayani, it's hard to remember the pain. You can remember the heat, the dryness, the glorious, riotous blue sky, you can remember that a single rain drop fell all the time you sat on the roof, the dusty roof of the ashram,
stitching, stitching, stitching in the parching heat, stitching, stitching, stitching the hems of the lungis and cholis stitching, stitching, stitching the orange, the silk, the cotton, the wool, in the amazing heat, to the chanting, to instruments you may have never heard before --
crying through the heat of an Indian December when, by Indian standards, it wasn't even very hot. The heat evaporating the tears, the salt drying on your cheeks, crying, crying, crying, and stitching, stitching, stitching, mending up your life, sewing your heart, broken by men -- a man -- broken by the effort you had made, the conscientious effort you had made to be part of humanity.
The Vedic chanting, monotonous mono-tone-ous over the loud speaker, continuous, announcing lunch in the vast, unadorned stone hall where grain sacks were piled at one end, where birds flew through the stone lattice, the glassless windows. They hovered near the coffered ceiling, plummeted to pick up grains, chirped on the sacks and waited to join you on the thin runner of red carpet that cushioned the stone floor, friendly, accepting the rice or chappati scraps you spilled from your leaf plate.
The Vedic chanting continuing, continuing, continuing, continuing, stitching, stitching, stitching.
O Devayani, on the roof you sat on a step leaning back against a wall, pushing hard to absorb the minimal shade, as you sweated and burned in the sun of India.
You came to India from despair, out of curiosity, intrigued, charmed by the exotic, with a love for chanting in your heart.
The Guru was dead, "Long live the Guru."
You came, you sat, you stitched, stitched, stitched. It was your seva, your work for the ashram, your self-less work for the Guru, who had died in October -- the night you dreamed of walking the white peacock through the forest.
You had, at that time, recently walked a white peacock five miles through a forest. And that night, as the guru died -- Guru Om Guru Om -- you dreamed of a white peacock, of flying, flying right over the turnstile without paying into the subway that night, the night the Guru died.
Today, you sit in bed stitching, in another world, listening to the Vedic chants on an old tape, a very old tape. Thirteen years ago you heard those chants on the loudspeaker as you sat on the roof stitching in the heat, crying enough to dehydrate your soul, crying until you could -- in a bucketful of your tears -- rinse out the world and your thoughts, hang them, along with your purple dress, to dry in the heat, where they crackled in the ferocity of the ninety-nine point nine degree temperature.
Crying until you could begin -- new rinsed, new washed, bathed in your own tears, cleansed with your own despair -- could begin again in the sun, in the heat. The music came up from the courtyard engulfing your heart: Om Shanti Shanti Shanti-i.
O Devayani it's hard to describe the pain, the pain of trying to remember that burning time, that desert time, that arid time in your life, in the ashram, hoping against hope you could change cultures, hoping, if you cried enough, that things would be different, longing, longing to live "bodiless."
"Bodiless compassion" -- even then, thirteen years ago, though you could not name it, you sought "bodiless compassion,"
not because you minded sweating in the heat or eating strange food that made your stomach feel odd, if not sick. You loved the heat, the stones, the desert the asham where they assigned you to stitch, and let you sit on a low roof in the sun listening to the music, the dryness, the dust,
listening to the dust motes twist in the air, listening to the noise and the music from the almost daily parades, celebrations that took place in the dust of the streets, which you could see only by twisting your body, only by moving to look, really look, from a distant corner of the roof.
Look! Really look, O Devayani, stand, hear the music, look!
But, O Devayani, you weren't interested in parades. You didn't look. You heard the horns and the drums, the chanting, the gaiety that shared the colossal dryness with the Vedic chants, coming, monotonous, over the loud speaker.
You kept sitting and stitching and crying in the enervating heat, in the dust. In the dining hall you sat with the birds, with the devotees, cross-legged, along the sides of the red runners not talking, piously eating the food, which was delicious.
O Devayani, remember your favorite time in the morning, remember the darkness at 3:00 in the morning when the wrapped figures began to move across the dark, in the warmth, before the heat,
when the women with colored powders created the filigree designs on the stones at the ashram's entrance.
At times, you could have been first to step on the beauty of the design, first to slide your sandal across the intricate design wrought with intemperate concentration, with devotion, with talent, with love.
But invariably you stepped aside -- shocked! -- at the thought of treading on beauty, on pattern, on design, on the exquisite work of the women, the love, the devotion.
You stepped aside, unable to honor custom in a land where they know that beauty dies,
that beauty is born to die, that music, the language of God, is played each day, and never heard twice.
The veiled figures moved through the dark to begin their meditation, their chanting, at three o'clock, the sacred time of the morning.
And the chai! Ah, the chai, the sweet chai in the dark dining hall, with early morning birds flying close to the ceiling, disturbed by the humans, though everyone was silent, withdrawn into robes, shrouded in shawls, facing the golden shrine, drinking hot tea from metal glasses, warming their hands as they drank the hot, sweet chai, drinking silently, drinking long, returning to the line for more.
More, always more. O Devayani, you drank as much as you could -- turning the sickly sweetness of the spiced chai to salt tears. That was your occupation, Devayani: to turn sweet chai to salt tears.
You had been given a human body to turn sweet chai to salt tears, to stitch on the roof in the sun, to smell the hot tar as the Adavasi women climbed in their beautiful saris, with flowers in their hair -- sweet jasmine and lilies in their hair, earrings dancing at their throats -- as they climbed the stone stairs, (four flights) with basins of grit on their heads. They climbed in their tiny bodies of infinite grace, smiling from time to time, to the roof with the grit on their heads to mix with the tar on the roof. From an inferno in a barrel below, dripping cans of tar were hoisted, halting, creaking gyrating in space, pulleyed high, high to the high roofs, far higher than the roof on which you sat. O Devayani, the smell! the hot smell of the tar in the hot sun, in the dust, in the heat -- watching the women work not minding that they couldn't speak your language nor you theirs, for there was nothing to say but the work and the mending, the beauty, the grace, the music, the heat -- while your heart mended. O Devayani, could you smell your heart mending? O Devayani, today, in another world, as you sit stitching, stiching, stitching to the music, stitching the patterns of the music, making the music visible in color, pattern, rhythms, concretizing the evanescent patterns of the drum, stitching, stitching, stitching, you listen to the Vedic chants and you remember. You remember the Tejase river, the "River of Light," the river of emerald grass, white herons, parched banks, black stones in the dust where the river vanishes. You remember the banyan trees, their roots hanging like curtains. You remember Shiva in the banyan tree, in his ornaments, with his smile, come to speak with you, more beautifully filigreed than the design before the door, than the design before the door of your heart. "Do nothing," he said. You remember so much, so much you recall as the pain in your heart dissolved into India. A land that is not your own, and yet, surely, as you study the drums, the tabla, as you study the music today, Nada Brahma, and stitch, you perceive clearly that you were once from India. Long ago, in another form you came from the heat and the dust. You came -- dust and ashes -- you came with Shiva's stripes on your brow. O Devayani, even today you do not know how to live in two cultures. You have studied the world, you have stitched designs in Sanskrit and Chinese, in knots from Peru, in symbols of the Navajo, Egyptians, Tibetans, Japanese, from Europe, Asia, the Americas. You have created a world in your head of oneness, of Indra's pearls, each pearl, precious, unique, reflecting the whole. And yet you are homeless in a world that you do not understand in which you do not take part. You live on streets paved with concrete, made ugly with gas stations where you buy gas, drip oil. You travel thousands of miles, miles, miles, miles, day after day though the desolation of hideous buildings built for money to make more money to buy beauty that must be guarded by watch dogs and fences, hoarded, defended. You move through the world at jet speed, answering phones, driving here, running there, being on your toes and being on tap, getting this repair done and that form filled, re-arranging appointments, getting to meetings -- and your heart breaks, O Devayani, for you know that Shiva put you here in this life this life, this life, to know, to remember, to understand, to work out your karma, to learn unmistakably where the notes of music dwell. Only for a moment did you live in paradise on the roof, in the heat, in the dust, in India, crying, turning sweet chai to salt tears, to sweat, that evaporated from your skin leaving a scourge for your wounds, leaving salt to rub into your wounds in the heat. And the chanting goes on and on and on and on and on minor-key, monotonous mono-tone-ous O Devayani, you cannot remember the pain, but you remember paradise. O Devayani, the image is instant, the poem is long. Life is instant, and living takes so very very long. Today, the rangoli at the ashram door in America -- the filigree design made to be walked on in India -- is guarded with ugly orange highway cones. Don't step. Don't touch. The utilitarian ugliness of our civilization guards the beauty invented for evanescence, honored for its temporariness, the beauty to be remembered whole only in a heart that rose before the heat before the dawn in India at 3:00 A.M. It is impossible to remember the pain. Only the beauty remains, the music, the stitching.
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO