The Desolation Poems




There is nothing
but what happens
at the center of things.
Mud, bronze, feet, fire.
Patapat tat
patatat tat:
Shiva dancing whatever happens
at the center of things.
"...a dagger sub k, alpha
a sub k, alpha
N sub k, alpha..."*

*The last three lines are the physicist's way of saying Brahman, Vishnu, Siva -- J. J. Sakurai, Advanced Quantum Mechanics, p.27



Jaipur glows as India's pink town
built upon the desert like a gown,

glittering red and orange, rose, white,
gold walls painted for the Brits with light

mocking, gentle laughter -- magic
lantern of colonial, tragic

misconceptions. Here stood Machivell,
Ram Singh, outwitting British hell.


At a crossroads,
indistinguishable from the landscape,
we hopped off the Jalna bus.

Undifferentiated though it was from the stones
and rocks of the earth,
at this crossroads

we disembarked to catch the bus to Ajanta.
At his intersection
no more noticeable than dust, random stones pushed aside,

no different than villages out there,
across rock and dirt,
made of rock and dirt,

under a savage sun,
in sand,
we waited

-- not too long --
for the next bus to stop
at a spot marked

by memory,
no doubt,
for there was no visible mark a stranger could see

to distinguish this bit of land
from the terrible vengeance with which God made grey rocks,
grey earth,

harsh sun.
We stood with our burdens,
as did the Indians,

under the sun
at the junction of one way with another,
where houses, like landscape, lay north,

but not south,
where the sun cast no shadow,
for the stones and walls were too low to impede the light.

The road was as smooth as land
trod by people for a thousand years and more.
I would guess at another way

only with the moon's slow rise.
Beside men of fuchsia turbans
we hopped off the bus,

stood with women
holding spider-fine children.
They, too, from lives of rock and stone,

were bussing to Ajanta.
At the crossroads --
not distinguishable from the land,

but crossing from one state into another,
from Jalna to Ajanta, where mountains are plains,
plains are sky --

the rocks beneath our feet glittered like stars.
The crossroads: one way angled to another,
intricate as the structure of time,

as a junction of the spirit,
crossroads of the imagination,
the decussation of worlds

where bonds,
invisible as light,
light as air

bind us as surely as God's thought.
The center is a line of division,
the joining of worlds,

the dust of union.



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.



It's the common man you're interested in,
the one in the street,
living under a blanket,
a sheet of paper,

almost naked,
in his laundered white
wrapped between his legs,
clean, even in the stench of India.

It's the common man,
jostled and jostling in the streets,
smoking on the steps,
enervated by the heat.
O Devayani,
it's the common human being
that interests you.

What have they got to say for life,
for God, for the love of being alive?
Even the children's eyes have
that deep black look
of millennia of pain,
the knowledge of eons,
the patience of the earth
and the rains.

Eating, sleeping --
where do they sleep?
Note, O Devayani, they sleep
where they are.
Fortunate people,
turned back
to the mother bosom.
Even on concrete put down
by the English, they sleep on
their mother's breast,

familiar with smells and bugs,
and rats, perhaps, like hot
winds across their face
in the night,
next to the earth,
next to what the cow has eaten
and returned to the earth,
next to the cow,

the goat, perhaps on the ridge
between the rice fields
if lucky enough to be in the country
-- home -- where their land is.
They squat, and live.
They moan, too, you can hear them
sometimes in the night,
absorbing the death, the tragedy,
the pain,

eager for the sun to rise,
to go on being,
Finding something to eat,
someplace to sleep,

And grinning! high laughter,
eager curiosity,
intent on the study of their fellow
creatures, scratching.

O Devayani, did anyone ever get rich
and move closer to his fellow man?
You envy their aplomb
with the earth, and the earth's gifts
of food and filth,
hot and cold,
sun and the monsoon rains coming down,
pounding on the naked shoulder
turned to the sky in the night,
covered with one large leaf.

The leaves grow very large in India,
you can eat from them
or sleep under them.
Let's look at the old films of India again.

Let's Look At The Old Films of India,
not for the maharajas with their jewels
and their elephants.
(It's an odd intention to enrich one's self enough to be rocked about,
dangerously, in a howdah, on the back
of the largest beast on earth.)
How little interest you have in their turbans, their silks,
their wrapped legs, and the be-diamonded
lips of their wives. They are elegant,
and far from the earth.

They use a stairway, Devayani, to climb
an elephant, to go higher and higher
winding around emptiness
to the palace roof.
Do the common people mind --
the roofs and the ladders so far beyond their means?
Do they mind the unlikeliness of climbing even a foot from
the bald, littered earth?
(How odd that some should want so much

and others have so little.) But India,
for 5,000 years, didn't seem to mind.
The yields of the earth were often meager,
the squandering of millions by their rulers
in golden food and jewel-paved tombs
often seemed food enough
to the common man.
Let's look at the old films of India again.

Will a refrigerator, a car answer
the millennial knowledge in the dark eyes
of the women who have suffered too much?
Will a pair of jeans
sit more comfortably at home
on their mother's sandy, rocky, corpse-strewn lap?
Life may be more about corpses
and manure

than a Westerner, O Devayani, looking at
the old films of India
ever imagine.



Dus la phab, "to fall into time" -- Tibetian

Hover outside of time with dreams, with hopes free
to be or not be, careful with spring urges
once willed beyond harmony seeking to see
no choice tenders the shining light of sun, moon
stars. Wind, rain move across the wild world to chime
webs of spiders entangled threads which pontoon
febrile choice and the choiceless leach of seized time.

Down the clear straight passage of might-be surges
the density of is. Timelessness free falls
into time. The known event now emerges
as action, "will" that waited as "was" will cease
yet ever be -- seen, unseen. Holography,
real as vision, dissolves when the last piece
disappears from the pool of eternity.




"the gustatory implication is etymologically correct."

"Gandhi is fasting again," said
the radio -- that little bent
man with the cane and the white wrapped
around him. That little man was

in prison and wasn't eating,
said the headlines, the Movietone
News. His bald head and toothless mouth
touched my pre-teen heart. But I could

not quite understand why any
one cared if he ate or not. When
I wasn't hungry and didn't
eat, it caused mild celebration.

Yet, the diet of this funny
little man who walked almost nude
with tailed, top hatted diplomats
into #10 Downing Street,

was heralded, whispered. Even
my family, sweet, hardworking,
remote from the world, mentioned it.
"Fasting," radio and movies

called it. Somehow, he was awfully
important. And later in life,
after he was shot, and millions
of Indian's slaughtered during

partition of that exotic
land into pieces -- more murdered
even than the six million Jews
by the Germans in World War II --

television, ubiquitous
in my world where, by accident,
I became a celebrant of
of India, Gandhi, and at last

understood ahimsa, the Salt
March, satyagraha, spinning and
taxes, weaving and walking. with
bare feet upon the earth -- did not...

televison did not... not one
station in my town, mentioned one
word about India's fifty
years of Independence. Indeed,

'til she and her sibling set off
big bombs, my world construed the world,
including India, only
as markets for trade, like the East

India Company setting
out, unknowingly, to conquer
India, and the whole world, in
1772. Yet,

I remember, day after day,
reports on whether the little
man clothed in the white dhoti ate
or didn't eat. Or would he eat

tomorrow? Would the foreigners
ever get out of his land? Then,
finally (but this knowledge came
later) -- the British absconded

as fast as they could to avoid
responsibility for the
millions they knew would be slaughter
in violence fostered by their

presence during three-hundred years
of hubris and exploitation,
inhumanity toward fellow
humans -- until Gandhi, the bent

man with the staff, didn't eat -- said
the radio -- and the world cared.



The friend's departure fills me with a dread
of many things we might have left unsaid
both what we voiced, what we left in silence
on which the wild imagination fed.

In civilized, courteous compliance
each forgives the other's odd dalliance,
and fiddles with wood and dangerous fire,
incensed, longing for incense's fragrance.

For love is deep and love is strong as wire
binding each to each through the immense mire
of shattered, irreconcilable dreams
burning lifetimes of karma on the pyre.

Departure, even in love, often seems
as final as the unheard crash of beams
in ancient houses left on the homestead.
Yet, unseamed, cherishing each will write reams.



A kitchen vast, is life's great claim,
the cooking of food upon the flame,
the succulent, sensuous game.
A kitchen vast

with flowered tile of whites and blues,
creating, concentrically, hues
with indigo shadowed views.
A kitchen vast,

filled with scents of garlic, legumes
rich with spice, sauce and fragrant fumes,
its high arches framing endless rooms.
A kitchen vast,

of huge pantries, small paradises,
adorable crisis, splendid vices,
sacred to humans and mices --
A kitchen vast!



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?

Sanskirt Glossary:

Kala = Arts and Crafts
Kalakalah = disturbance, noise
Kalah = time, right time, occasion

Also, Kalakala, meaning "flying bird" (from the sound they make in flight) is the American Indian, Chinook language, name of a Puget Sound ferry recently rescued from oblivion by sculptor, Peter Bevis.

#209 VAKH


Opulence, grandeur, sunset
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 world
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.



Bullock carts mountained with sugar
cane crept along the road's golden
grass, drivers asleep in the heat.

They slept and I walked through the dirt.
They lived in conical cane huts
too fragile to withstand monsoon

rains. Though the British demanded
India build vast palaces,
cane huts, dirt roads, and carts remain.



When did chastity begin? Why? Where?
When man first dominated woman.
He needed to know his property
was his property, his progeny

his progeny. It mattered to him.
His greed mattered to him more than his
passion. How could he love all people,
help support all beings, include love

among his pleasures? Fighting was more
fun, hatred easier, and power
intoxicating. He must stamp earth's
nature down with the imprint of his

claim that he was better than any.
Throughout millenniums he has proved
only that he is worse than most -- trees,
flowers, animals, even the stones.



You search and search, Devayani
hoping to find deep in a book,
no doubt, or a map, or ancient
treatise, the explication of Khajuraho's

erotic figures. Thinking, O
Devayani, surely some time
there was a time, a place when the
joining of woman and man was joyous, honored,

revered, a mystical rite, blessed
by Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma.
When the continuity of
Shiva's dance, held in esteem, held sacred, divine,

was pleasure for humans deemed
worthy of the creator's art,
most honored of activities,
that the Khajuraho sculptures represented

gifts from an enlightened people.
But each book, each reference pursued,
with scholarly sobriety
or scorn, explains them away, claiming ignorance

of why maithuna, amorous
couples were mandatory for
the temple walls. Scholars flutter
like Victorian fathers, eager to deny

the root of pleasure, the dirty
little secret that generates
children. Surely, Devayani,
some where, some time, people had the courage to praise

the gift of Lord Kama -- knowing,
the ecstasy of loving acts.
The scholars tout all the people
the monarchs killed, kingdoms they overran, treasures

they amassed, but for love only
horror, a turning away. They
assure their readers the statues
could not have represented people enjoying

love, people deeming the act a
priority, as if sacred,
a worthy occupation to
enjoy the bliss of their bodies, to procreate.

You wonder, O Devayani,
how did it ever come to this.
Men trying to control women?
Men, savage in their tastes, must have slaves to sate their lust,

make dinner, produce progeny
certifiably parented?
How did it happen that women
must pay for man's inability to master

the very basis of being?
O Devayani, search in vain!
Scholarly tomes gloss what the eyes
of their authors devour in solo visits

to Khajuraho, what their loins
long for in their tender moments
to be lost to the world in bliss,
to be caressed into divine enlightenment.

Perhaps, Devayani, you will
write your own Khajuraho history
where the beautiful citizens
spend their days in dalliance, in love, forgetting

about war, lust, where transcendent
eroticism built temples
of beauty to the play of love
and of peace, enlightened sensuality, sex.




Well, Devayani, do you believe it? You
found the answer in your own book, read once and
forgotten. "Tantric" it says, "Tantric yoga."

So self evident the meaning escaped you:
Maithuna in extraordinary embrace
express the ida, pingala, sushumna,

the semen -- concentrated life energy --
flowing to the head, vajroli, the supreme
enlightenment the gentle Chandella's knew.



Light mauve surrounds the evening sky,
a grand dame marking her time to die.
With wisps of silver clouds enclosed,
horizons momentarily posed,
she illuminates horizons high
above the westward turning eye.

Beyond the mountains she'll defy
the guards of approaching inky dye,
Indigo forests, obsidian cliffs.
In the harrowing, dull obsequious shifts,
she'll lose, of course, and bargain, buy
a purple morning with her lie.




"...the shoe will be so covered in scallops and holes
as only an elegant shoe can be." You can
sink your teeth into Loos. He has got opinions --

wild, rabid, definitive opinions, climbing
undreamt heights of prophecy and altruism.
defining his fellow man's progress aloft from

the purple slime. He eats cooked cow, smooth gingerbread,
blissfully unaware that twentieth century
man will find that his needs must not be satisfied.

He must spend, spend, consume, consume in wide, wider
circles to satisfy greed on a scale so vast --
behind blank-faced walls -- that even the opulence-

obsessed Calcutta British could not envision.
Would that Loos were Vienna bound from skyscraper
lined, utilitarian U.S.A. today,

having shopped in ornament-free K-Mart, picked up
some bargains of factory-made simplicity, quite
affordable, known to be loved by the natives.

According to Loos' egregious lights we've attained
perfection. The craftsman has become a joyless
worker, and crime has fully replaced ornament.

A comment on Adolf Loos', "Ornament and Crime," 1908


5-9 to 30-98


The Loss

Ah, you are gone. Ah you are gone singing,
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 Journey

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 Panegyric

Praise to 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.

#215 USNIK



My experience in the West
has been that only recently do we
speak of Judeo-Christians, and never speak

of Judeo-Christian-Muslims.
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
classifies Christianity
as Religion; other faiths as Literature.

Subtlely, intentionally,
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.



Published in 1834,
Ram Raz's Essays on Hindu architecture
was read by some, but ignored

by moralizing esthetes.
He gave rules, analysed ornaments, pre-empted
the ruler's game, still Ruskin's

mellifluous babble flowed
barbed with blind judgements, rising in '57
to rant -- unaware it would seem

that it might have been "cruel,"
"sinful," aye, "bestial," to deprive of their freedom
one's "gentle," "unoffending" hosts.



Across the brilliant red, vermillion, bright red sea
hued with blood, scorched with blazing fire.
Conflagration of the nations

resting on beauty, the evangelical sword,
righteousness. Forward it strode to
the outer limits of the earth

hacking, handicapping those it professed to love.
"I come in the name of the truth!
I will kill you for your own good

so committed am I to the exalted tenets
of morality, beauty, good --
genuine civilization."



It's hot, as if the sand itself will burst into
flames. The bushes are incandescent,
gold, and the rock is black.
I haven't chiseled far,
but farther

than one would think. About a foot, maybe -- there is
the barest hint of shade at noon. Three
days. The rock particles
choke me in the dancing
heat. I breathe

through a cloth some of the time to avoid coughing.
But my breath is okay, better than
some. I worked Badami,
too -- cutting rock ever
since I was

a boy. It's hard work, you sweat a lot, but it's worth
it. When the temple starts, they've promised
me a place on the roof.
They've been chanting designs,

It's unbelievable what they plan -- right down through
the mountain, a quarter million ton
to move. It's going to stand
free, with side galleries,
courtyards. Black,

the whole rock is black. Kailasa, they're calling it,
and it is. Already you can feel
Shiva dancing, like great
gongs, like the sledging heat,
like thunder.

Contributions, donations, pledges pour in. The
coffers brim, so they say, and the head
chanter is in voice. I
hone my chisel each day
on this niche,

this small hermit's cell. I sit with the monks sometimes,
out there, in the dark beneath the stars.
Many have come over
from Ajanta to chant
our joyous

beginning. Accomplished, they laugh away problems.
The stone sounds and resounds, it's called "trap
rock," very porous. On
the full moon we will start

I envy them their belief, their stylized thought,
their art. But I do the carving, I
have the craft, I sweat in
ebony rivulets
from my face

to my toes. I provide the emergence from stone,
dance with Shiva, revel with Shakti,
my arms are gurus, my
heart rings iron and rock.
I exist.




When I was a lad, one
hundred years ago, I
came with my father to
Ellora -- just mountains

then, high hills, no carving.
The rock was black. Father
said it was very hard,
but in it he could see

beautiful Kailasa,
a temple for Shiva.
He said, under the moon
at the very top if one

sat very still, looked in
the stone, one would see his
home; that, with the others,
he would carve until I

could see it, too. Under
the moonlight, when he slept
I took a tiny spike,
with which one carves the lips

and eyelids of the gods.
Nearby I found a rock,
and I climbed and climbed in
the clear sky, the light, like

day. The moon was huge, full.
The rock was smooth and black.
For long distances I
crawled on my stomach, hands

wet, clinging to the rock.
As the moon touched the trees
I was on top. I stood
listening, still as stone.

I could hear the Ganges
through Shiva's hair. I prayed
as I sat on the rock.
I put my chisel to

its pure heart, exposed there
beneath the stars, and I
touched it with the small stone.
I made an opening

so small only Shiva
could see through. I started
Kailasa when I was
a boy. The next morning

all the carvers gathered
with their tools and walked a
path, around the mountain
to the top and began.

To reveal the temple,
they carved for years. At last,
I, too, grew old enough
to work. Shiva's drum. There!



If man is the connecting link to God, then -- slim,
and like an ant, in the middle --
does the life-line get choked like the throats of hungry

ghosts? Starving, unable to eat, moaning with love
of chappatis and green mangoes,
where then is the love of Shiva, Kali, Durga?

How long do you sit beneath the banyan tree, play
with its root ropes and shade? Ganesh
trumpets, calls his father, his mother, sees the tree,

asks to be remembered while you build the great world.
Unheeded, forts of empire
crumble -- rolled away by the ant and the beetle.



The British, falling in love with India, could
not restrain -- though they criticized
to maintain face -- their love of sun,
desert, far vistas, adventure

exuberance, flourishes, rococo, heat, dust,
ornaments. They were tired of their
mist and rain, their little island,
the beggary, efficiency

with which they industrialized their few acres.
They were tired of piling up cold
stone and mullioned windows. They fell
in love with the land where they could

build with jalousies and zenanas in pink, white and
rose, dream the dreams of zamindars,
hold durbars, spend as if
they were maharajas, all with

their host's great wealth and atithi devo bhava*
generosity. Ah, a great
dream for a little people from
a little island, unable

to comprehend the sensuality of form,
Shiva's preference for the charnal
ground, the modesty of human
life, maya, Kali's bone-white grin.

*Atithi Devo Bhava which means "the guest is god" is taught to all Indians from time immemorial.



Every pore of my body creams
all over with bliss as I see
slender Shakti rippling like a river along
the endless corridor of light,

shimmers, wearing high platform shoes,
dark skirt, each side slit to the knees,
each stride causing the fluid material to wave
in movements like water's current

lapping her legs against the thrust
of her thigh; ankle deep swirling
instability supporting a slim column,
shoulders behind cut sleeves, head

jeweled, her neck arched beneath
hair piled high, like Nefertiti's
crown, snakes wrought of silver around her upper arms,
so young she must be no more than

a sophomore walking from Allen
to Suzzallo's Gothic exit.
Goddess, it seems, on an unhurried mission. Just
for a moment I dare not turn.

What if she's not there to be seen?
Ecstatic, almost blind, I find
enlightenment in the brilliant fluid of the
unexpected vision, passing.



Comment on "COLONIAL DESIRE" by Robert J. C. Young

How dare you make sex so boring?
When all you want to point out is
Europe's attraction to the beautiful, often
willing, native women (and men),

that must be hypocritizedso
that the whites (mainly) could go on
"teaching," raping and pillaging, gleaning the wealth
of others lands, killing fathers

and mothers of their chosen mates,
disowning their hybrid children,
like our own Tom Jefferson having his black kids
serve his white kids. All that high toned

talk to camouflage the love they
had of the sensuality,
sexuality that they had bred out of their
moralizing bones, out of their

(they hoped) women's moralized bones.
Of course they wanted to make love
to the exquisite apsarases of India,
China, Burma, Indonesia,

also bred to compliance, but
compliance of a different sort.
Women of the East were taught to worship their men
as Gods. And if Europeans

weren't Gods, who were? If the natives
weren't racially inferior
how justify stealing their land and mandating
opium addiction, killing

millions? Say it, R. Young. Don't
mask yourself behind bastardized,
linguistically-hybridizing utterances,
anticipating a defense

lest a colleague might accuse you
of interest in the sexual
charms of nautchgirls, whispers from your body's desire,
wishes for time's disappearance.



In Kuala Lampur, God knows
why, they've built the tallest buildings, on earth, reaching
almost beyond the stars, higher,
often, than the moon's light streaming

across rivers in their narrow
country like a column. Perhaps they wanted it,
their country of beauty and good
food, to be as tall as it is

long, reaching out to celestial
heights along the axis of God(s).
Mayalsian and Chinese, they mine,
says my encylopedia,

tin and grow rubber, transport goods
for our competitive commercialized spinnning
globe and, no doubt, they needed a
beacon. They certainly stopped cold

in its tracks, the American
urge toward colossalization. Now the World Trade
Towers nod, from their shrimp-like height
toward their betters of the East in

humble recognition, jostling
the sky, scraping sattelites, adjusting their cloaks,
wondering why they sit so high
beyond the golden calf's cry.

#225 NYANKUSARINI (with one Bhurik stanza)


Reading the alphabet's history:
Akkadian, Egyptian, Semitic, Phoenician,
Greek, Latin, English -- its lineage
sings across the history of time.

How could it ever have not been?
How could it ever not be? Words on clay, words in ink,
the transmission of mummies' thoughts, mummies,
people wrapped in their own writing,

an Etruscan corpse preserving
contact with a vanished language,
bits of business and clay contracts,
monumental stone inscriptions,

papyrus abecedaries,
tri-linguals of Rosetta, of Behistun cliff
carved over the high edge for God
to study, Xerxes' pride to judge.

Six thousand years ago, maybe
a bit more, stones were silent, even quipus lay
unknotted. Then one day a marked
token: history's record began.



In the tradition of Islam
writing is the tradition of
God. Scripts of exquisite beauty
illuminate the temple walls, arches and vaults.

Illumined patterns of color
simulating the face of God
cover the floors and the ceilings.
Fountains stand in the middle of gardens to refresh

the heart. Water flows from the pure
heart of grace, flowers from wisdom,
trees for contemplation's cool shade.
The Persians enhanced the land of their hosts with domes.

I have stood in the Bijapur
dome. I have heard my voice echoed
round, whispering in my ear of
love provoked by God's love of the river-washed land,

of the deserts the jungles, hills,
the Deccan plateau and the high
Himalayas where sound is heard,
water flows, and all can be absorbed by the land.



Ah the dream, yes, the dream where I lay dying --
in the bed in the hall with white pillars shadowing

the insistent music like thunder's echoing roll,
assailing scent of the sea's frothed waves roaring,

dispelling the incense -- you sit drumming silence.
The time for speaking and the time for singing

is past. O Devayani, hear the silence.
Know it is love, know it is God's whispering.



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.



Don't train your taste too fast. Looking into your heart,
you find the wedding cake of Albert Hall appeals
to you as much as Naila House and hybrid dorms
farmed out at Mayo College. But

you do frequently favor "what is is." And you
begin to see that the whole world can be defined
as a "colonial" structure, impositions,
conquests, borrowings, loans, filtered

and reclaimed. There is nothing but what happens at
the center of things. Shiva's dance. Let the dancer
gyrate. Sit among the ruins of the temple,
contemplate time. You were once shocked

by bright pink military barracks in China.
But the Singh's sang the buildings of Jaipur pink, kept
them that way. You may prefer Ellora, or Mahabalipuram,
or find ecstatic rapture in

Bilbao. Let the world build and amalgamate.
Even the cave man was not content with unmarked
walls. There's no greater paean to architecture's
chaos than University

of Washington's campus. But trees grow tall, taller
willingly hide the sins of all willful, would be's.
And India, better than most, knows that what's built
will one day crumble back to dust.

Absorb the consequences of action, enjoy
the fruits of desire. What is here today will
not be here tomorrow. The world is but one part
museum, ninety-nine parts change.


Guggenheim Museum

You saw it first on TV, you didn't catch the country,
but saw the gigantic prow, the stack of
cylindrical forms, the reflections
and the light.

It must have been the opening, or the pre-opening
promo, you didn't listen very closely,
but it did seem to resemble it's older
cousin, Guggenheim, where you,
O Devayani,

have walked round and round going down on a ramp,
going down past the art in the quiet well.
But this was more than that: the shimmer,
the glow. The sound bite

Where is Bilbao?
The Basques? O, Devayni,
it's Spain, not Basqueland.
There was trouble there some years ago.
The Basque regional government, Autonomous Basque Community,

Basque Country --
they call themselves various things --
want cultural prestige, and are willing to gamble
a hundred million dollars, theirs and others,
to get it. You study the story in the Architectural Record:

The Basques persuade Guggenheim and Gehry,
who engages CAITA the computer,
and a formidable conceptual enterprise -- of
boats and blossoms, of sheer sided walls,
undulating curves,

crowns and prows, sleekness and sheerness,
shapes of reactors and rotundas, shapes of
hulls and umbrellas, shapes of precise
corners and pinched curves, bellying walls,

and multileveled -- manifests. It sits on the Nervion River
being no color, every color,
like a hummingbird -- irridescent --
for its patterned skin is titanium:
colorless rectangles of

silver, gold, blue, brown, the color of sunlight and night,
the color of the water and the sky,
the color of buildings near by,
the color of convex and concave, the color of repetition,
of coherence and

numinous thought
rearing dreams on the river, heaving dreams
up from industrial dirt,
O Devayani,
turning geometry into light.

And you've only seen pictures --
of Museo Guggenheim Bilbao,
Bilbao, Spain, built by the Basques,
Guggenheim, Gehrey, et al --

...the geometry is the light...

#160 RUBAI


One's had enough experience, she cries,
with rancorous temperament, but espys
the flaw in momentary reasoning
knowing that time's wing flies and flies and flies.

Copyright © 2000 through 2015 Jan Haag

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail:

The Jaipur Sequence

Dancing Shiva

#204, Short Couplet II


#206, Capitolo

Let's Look At The Old Films of India

#120, Hendecasyllabics III

#207, Sanskrit Didatic, RASA

#159, Interlocking Rubaiyat

#157, Carol Stanza

#208, Mandakranta Meter

#209, Vakh


#211, Gayatri

#220, Brhati




#213, Tristubh, KHAJURAHO II

#152, Envelope Couplet



#215, Usnik, COMMENTARY

#216, Kakubh

#217, Pura Usnik

An American Workman at Elura

#218, Gayatri II, ELLORA

#219, Pipilikamadhya

#221, Purastad Brhati

#222, Pathya

#223, Skandhodgrivi. COLONIAL DESIRE

#224, Sato Brhati

#225, Nyankusarini

#226, Uparistad Brhati

#188, Ghazal


#227, Jyotismati

Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum

#160, Rubai

The Desolation Poems

The Jaipur Sequence




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