of exhortation based on an ancient Sufi form.

(in alphabetical order)

I began writing the Devayani Poems in about 1988, while living in a Korean Zen Center in Los Angeles.
Devayani is the spirtual name given to me by my Guru in 1980. It means: "Leads to God."

- A -



My hair is straw, my body dead weight,
yet my spirit is light as a girl's.
O Devayani, do we never age? Yet, as the bones
roll from bed in the morning, it seems we do
nothing but age, age in the night, and across
the day's span filled with laughter
at the fountain of interest running gleefully
beside the widening stream of abstinence.

Like boustrophedon from right to left
and left to right, life writes
its alternate tales of laughter, terror
As the pendulum of a clock far older than you,
O Devayani, the nights alternate with the days,
the possibilites with despair. Yet the birds fly on,
the leaves listen to the twig's call: soon, soon, soon,
and too-eager blossoms begin to scent the surprised air
while you tie your scarf tighter, walk faster,

swing your arms, right, left, right, left,
agree to want, agree to mourn, to learn that ancient India
has no history except that lived by humans day after day
after day without record, without loss. Free,
they were, to open their hands to the wind, to sing without
having to preserve, to eat without
analyze the coming through of substance
meant by nature to fertilize the future food.

At every point our age tries to stop the flow:
write an article, analyze the writer, form a committee
investigate its members, each action, reaction as if our goal
were to slow down to stasis where all humanity
works on one problem: how to stop the flow. When
stopped we'll explode, the fragments unable
to move from lack of authoritative confirmation. There
no longer enough left to study without

tripping over your neighbor's surveys, statistics. Who
just lives? opens their hand to the wind? blows
their breath across the wide open sea? Let it all go.
Let it all go. Memorize nothing, sing each song only once,
like India without history. O Devayani, satiate your curiosity
in the vast kingdoms of your heart, the unassailable breadth
of a wandering mind, like the dead weight of the ox

turning right, turning left around this present emptiness.


1228 San Anselmo, before 12-25-97

O Devayani, can you survive the panic,
the panic of being alive?
The blankness where the heart used to be?
Can you survive in a world
where the heart has become stone
and the back has become pain
from lifting the burdens
of life, never intended by God?

O Devayani, can you survive the panic
of breathing,
knowing the air is poison,
can you survive the panic
of convictions,
where laws are against sense,
against reason,
where reason itself
has become a word to justify

the lawless making of laws
against the nature of humans,
against the nature of earth.

O Devayani,
can you survive each morning
waking with a moan,
a cry into the pillow,
a doubt that you'll survive the day:
the heart racing,
the breath shallow,
no air to breathe,
no clean air to breathe,
no pure water to drink or to bathe in?

O Devayani,
a man came up and crushed in your car.
It has made you afraid to live
to breathe, to wake
in the morning to the panic of being alive.

It has stopped your heart and your life,
it has filled your chest with cotton wool,
as if your breath is curled around the sawdust
of what used to be lungs,
as if the pounding in your neck were your heart,
making your jaws ache and your skull
pull tight like a woolen cap knitted of shrinking steel.

O Devayani, the panic is going to getcha!
The bogeyman in the woods.
The DMV in Sacramento,
The insurance company that stalls.

O Devayani, will you survive?


1228 San Anselmo, before 12-25-97

O. Devayani,
think of that terrible self,
the casual Adam,
or the other half,
self-effacing Eve.

In a dream this morning, Paul
said, Why don't you give up those vikriti patterns.
Crooked, that means, vikriti means crooked patterns in music.
In drumming.

Ever since I gave up my ambitions, I seem to have nothing to stabilize me.
No place to hide, no where to go, nothing to do.
When I was intent on success
I stepped over the pain and walked on.
I did,
I went,
I saw,
I became.

Now the pain is so intense
I cannot see, do, go, become.

O, Devayani the question you were nursing in bed this morning,
before the phone rang,
was why no one paid you any attention? But it was put in other words,
with more detail, clarity.
For it is you who back out, back away, withdraw, do not speak,
and put up a front of not wanting to be spoken to.

You lose energy among crowds, with people, with most people, in almost every crowd.
The terror of those other Adams, other Evas.
They give you nothing unless you scream and scream and scream, but then,
they turn with perfunctory attention and give you consolation for screaming.
They never get to the core.
They think the symptom is the thing to consoled.
But way below that,
way deep down,
it is what?

I've made something very pretty for you and you pay no attention.
But under that? What?
I am someone very pretty, and I need love and attention.
But you've ignored me for being me.
Long ago, I made a conscious decision based on the evidence
I had at that time assembled.
Which was, that if I was ever to have friends, I had to play their game,
Do it their way. No one ever wanted to do it my way.
If I did beautiful things, they ignored them, or, envious, turned away.
If I were to have friends, I must deny myself.

The message was clear.
The message was loud.
Go out, pretend to be interested in their world, help them do their thing,
no one, it was clear, was ever going to enter my world,
help me.

Which is not quite true. Certainly Leslie, help me with getting published,
Swapanda spends time with me whenever I ask, to drum, to write about the drumming.
But there is more going on. I want more and I don't even know what it is?
What is it I want, O God, what will mend the hurt, the deep black hole in me,
where terror and anguish arise, tears,
tears so that I can hardly step into the sunshine
hardly greet the day without tears standing in my eyes,
hardly stay to face the rain lest the tears fall on my cheeks.
The pain engulfs me.

The phone rang and Betty called, to say Florence had twisted her back,
now in a brace, now in pain.
I must go over there was my first thought, be the family savior.
We talked, later I reread my letter to Florence of seventeen days ago.
It says it all, leaves the door open.
I don't have to pursue to my own detriment,
I've pursued through my life, trying to please people, to do it their way.

I also, as I go through my giant stack of copies, realize I write letters to keep
people away. As much as I think I write letters to
communicate with people, it keeps them away.

I am so afraid of people that I cannot talk to them, cannot phone them,
so I write letters, even knowing they are a very ineffective tool.
That somehow in this modern world, everyone knows that letters are a
put off, even I know it, but I persist. Everyone else talks by phone, meets, lunches,
but I had my days of phones, meetings, lunches.
That never got anything done either.

Is all this to see, just to see that I am totally helpless, and
only God can do anything.
That it matters not at all what I do. God disposes when God sees fit.
And for some reason I was born to live in a void.
I was given enormous talent, and have repeatedly been shown that
it means nothing, avails nothing, you might as well toss it out the window,
shit on it. Everyone else does.
It has nothing to do with nothing, except, perhaps to fill a few hours in the
void. But it will not lift you out of the void,
nor make you friends, and the littlest thing it might bring you,
will only be followed by envy, never love.

O, Devayani, you are deep in the void,
and can only go deeper.
Blackness, sorrow, anguish, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness.

This is somewhat like when you gave up smoking,
when you thought all that outbursts and passion was anger,
and it turned out to be the life force awakening.

Which was followed by an enormous surge of creative energy:
Angel's Death
Narcissus Jonquilla
part of Jocasta

And at times, now, you feel that, too, that things that have been
long dead in you are suddenly shaken alive,
that new life is flowing into you
and it is painful, it is painful to come awake.
And you can't tell waking from dreaming.
You can't tell even the next step,
even the next blind step to take.

You don't know where you are or what to do.
Like in the drumming, as Swapanda says, you know the bols,
but the connection between brain and fingers is not there.
Just not there.
You know the piece, you know the bols, but you are playing,
and suddenly you have no idea where you are,
None whatsoever.
It is frustrating, anger inciting, fearful, humiliating to try again and again and again
and never be able to do it, never know where you are.
Never know where you are with God or man.
Never know where you are.
You try again and again, and you're getting better, Swapanda says so,
you know it, but you cannot play it thru,
you never know where you are.
And as you were careful to explain to him yesterday,
it often isn't even that you
are distracted or thinking of anything else.
It's just a void, a short circurit, as if nothing were there at all.
Nothing is there at all.

Which may be a metaphysical truth, but how do you live with it?
How does it help you to live?

No wonder I want so to die.
There's nothing there at all.
So why should I be here at all?
Why this pain, Why this anguish?
What an exercise in futility,
to go through all this
For What?

And Love?
Well, my dear, you've never seen the face of love yet.
People prate of love,
But I've never seen or known anything but addiction,
or false and limited concern.

Kashinath Bodas
died just a few weeks after his concert here
where eleven people came to hear
a voice, beautiful, sweet,
behind a face so ugly that it was fascinating.
and a few weeks later he is dead.

I went,
I heard him,
I enjoyed.
I spoke not to him, but to a few others.
How lovely his voice, how moving his performance.
Now he is dead.

I had even written an article, part of which was about him,
to tell about the concert. I made it up from sheets of paper, other
backgrounds given to me.
I wrote an article of praise to encourage people to come to his concert.
I didn't know him, all but 11 of four or five billion peopled on this earth
didn't come.

He died.
A moment of shock.
And we go on with our lives.
So much for the meaning of life.
No, nothing is there at all.
Nothing answers.
Nothing calls.

If you disturb no one,
no one disturbs you,
except for the repairs you have to do to your body,
your car, your hunger, your sorrow
at living in a void.
A void you can fill with activity,
so you don't notice the lack of walls,
the darkness,
the bottomlessness,
the pit of despair,
but which seems
once you stop,
and find you are totally alone
in the void.

O, Devayani,
cry with compassion
for the loneliness of that terrible self,
the casual Adam,
the self-effacing Eve.

The First Cause.
Shiva's comic dance.

O, Devayani,
I think I spy a mechanism you use.
You jump in, do enough to bring attention to yourself,
get the greatest drummer in the world to pay attention
imply promises of great work to come
fall back into childhood,
thirst, wait for the attention,
do too much to
ever do what you promise
begin to realize that
no one could do what you promise
and yet continue to live on the attention it has created.

Then what?
You run away,
or are sent about your business.

You are a Marybeth in a larger,
subtler scope.

And yet you could do what you promised or implied,
before it got to be grandiose.
If you would settle down and do it
bit by bit by bit,

instead of overfeeding on all the knowledge,
all the time, always taking in too much to
sort out, afraid you'll miss something
and in turn miss the boat because
you keep feeding and never take time to digest.
I am terrified to take time to digest.
I must keep feeding,
for its the only way people know I am there?

Must keep eating
Must keep feeding.
O, Devayani, how else does anyone know you are there?


1228 San Anselmo, before 12-25-97

O Devayani, again,
the bottom dropped out of your world.
No particular reason.

The mail came and no check.
You took a walk and the copies you inquired about
were more expensive than even you had anticipated.

There's a coldness in the air.
There's a feeling of nothing to do,
no where to go,

of lostness now that you have given up
your motive for being,

your motive for being over the last two years.
The music, the Indian music --
for though you listen to it even now,
the one recording you like,
its poignancy only
adds its burden to your already questioning heart.

O Devayani, your already questioning heart,
your aching heart.

You sigh.

Nothing in the whole world appeals.
There is only emptiness --
out of which you know
bliss can grow,
but emptiness
which clangs like a hollow hall,
where every cry resounds,
every tear falls like a waterfall
thundering down the mountain

splashing into


12-19-96 (5319, Seattle)

O Devayani, why is it you cannot trust yourself
to stay at home, to work, to do other than
eat eat eat eat eat eat all day long,

there are many things you love to do at home,
putter, and read, and straighten, and muse,
and write poetry, and yet you cannot trust yourself

to get anything, or much of anything done because
you will, in the un-repressible way you have,
eat eat eat eat eat eat all day long.

You've heard of Amazing Grace, well this seems to be

Amazing Hunger.



O Devayani,
In a world not too filled with large petals
and large leaves,
you think of the giant poppies
in the Botanical gardens of Brooklyn.
Huge red poppies
far larger than a plate,
each single petal big enough

for bread and butter,
stand by a pond
with stems like ropes, and leaves
as large as the giant leaved
magnolia growing in Seattle's
Tall and skinny stands the tree,
obscured in summer's

viridian lushness.
But in autumn
when its leaves drift to the ground
each as enormous as the sole of a large-
footed dinosaur, they become yellow
on one side
and white on the other.
Between these giant poppies and magnolias,

each in an Olmstead garden,
stood the forests
and foliage
of North America's continent.
They were, O Devayani,
and will be


5319 Seattle, before 12-25-97

O Devayani,
"Classical art is

So saith Ad Reinhardt
while living in New York City and writing
about Khmer Sculpture
in 196l
in a booklet published by Asia House.

classical art is
pointing with a needle,
stitching one hole at a time,
with purity of heart,
prior to the jungle...



1228 San Anselmo, before 12-25-97

O Devayani, the anxiety!
O Devayani, what is God's vision to
have let man create a society
pillared in anxiety,
pyloned in anxiety,
from underground foundations of silo missal sites
to the top of the World Trade Center
Anxiety fostered by every breath of media,
of advertising,
of over concern,
of insurance,
of passing the buck,
trying to make people believe that life is
a process in which there should be no pain.

O Devayani, the terrible feelings,
the pain of trying to keep the
at bay --
the overwhelming anxiety --
trying to keep life at bay,
trying to keep
anything at all
from happening,
dying from the anxiety, the fear
of having to pay
for the tiniest
flaw in one's

O Devayani, at this moment, so anxious --
wanting to tear at your flesh,
wanting to jump from
this body,
wanting to crucify the voice --
nail through until the blood flows
from the wounds
in your heart that
tell you
this should not be!

This should not be.
This should not be,
This should not be.

And why not?
what does it matter?

The screaming anxiety!
The pain of even trying to write this
poem of anxiety!

The agony,
the knowing that there is nothing
that can prevent the disasters
of life.

O Devayani, and knowing, too,
in your subtler heart
that that is the problem.
Humans inventing a word:
"disaster" --
and sticking it
on this event and not that,

inventing bugaboos in the night
that have nothing to do with the power
to live and to laugh,
to enjoy each day,
inventing a world in which
every corner you turn
can make you a failure,
make failure
you must worry about,
insure against.

O Devayani,
to have constructed a world
of such pain
to keep you in line
so you don't try anything
anything insanely
any things that is by nature

They want you to live your life in a button,
inside a hole, circumscribed,
cut to fit,
no loose ends.
And as soon as you have guarded
you can start up the anxiety machine,
put it in high gear.
It produces mists and clouds of
poison gas
breathed into everyone's lungs.

Everyone breathes,
quite voluntarily,
the poison of anxiety
into their lungs,
their hearts,
their lives.

O, Devayani, nothing should ever happen!
No molecule in the universe should move,
lest it cause some preventable disaster!

The Buddhist say:
no life no death,
that death and life are the same thing.
In America, U.S.A.
life has become
a death of anxiety,

induced by the richest society man ever knew
-- for awhile --
until the Arabs got their oil
and snatched that distinction away.
And what did it produce?

If you don't do it for yourself,
we'll do it for you.
How can you bear to live without insurance,
without a refrigerator,
a house, a roof
and a fur coat
over your head?
How can you bear to live without
your books and your car,
and your pillows, and comfort?
How can you live without your kitchen
and spices?
How can you live?
has become a style of death.

Now that you're afraid of the bugs and the trees,
the wind and the rain,
now that earthquakes are
prepared for
as if nature
meant you to live in fear
the 364 days of the year
they don't happen.

Buckleup your seat belt in total discomfort
364 days of the year,
lest you should be bumped on day 365.

What makes you think you can prevent
love and old age,
financial loss,
health and happiness's disappearance?

O Devayani, have you never heard of

Look that up in the dictionary!
O Devayani.
"Vanish or likely to vanish,
transitory, fleeting."

Trying to guard against
the evanescence of life
stakes the heart
down with

Trying to prevent everything:
the theft,
the burglary,
the murder,
the flood,
the famine,
trying to prevent night from descending
and the sun from
rising too early,
who profits?

Consider that, O Devayni,
who profits?
The merchants of anxiety,
the purveyors of fear.

Step up, O Devayani,
get your anxiety policy
right here!

And guess what?

It works no better
than all the anti-anxiety placebos
manufactured in a greed
and power hungry

This poem is not strong enough!
Devayani cannot express the power of anxiety.
It's power to control,
its strangulation of all that is life,

its bear-claw-grip at the throat,
its lion-ripped
slash across the heart,
its elephant-sitting-upon-the-chest
power to stop the lungs,
crush the ribs,
smash the hollowed-out brain
with fear,

Our ruling star is anxiety,
it controls
the world.

And you.

Guard against everything.
Most of all, be vigilant
against the haphazard vagrancies of life,
the lyrical skipping sprite of disaster.

Most of all, be afraid to breathe,
lest you breathe in a bug,
be afraid to walk the streets,
lest you attract a murder,
be afraid to sleep,
lest you have an aneurysm in the night.

Be afraid to be afraid,
so you can perpetuate
anxiety unto the tenth generation.

The suicide rate of young people
escalates, and we won't know why.
Murder predominates,
and we don't know why.

Life seems no better than death,
and we tell ourselves we don't know why.

If you are afraid to die,
you'll find you are even more afraid to live.

O Devayani, try living,
and you'll find that death is not a problem.

On and on and on
you write,
but nothing roots out your terrible
over an uninsured

How dare you, O Devayani,
not share
in the burden of anxiety
made mandatory
by power hungry
of fear
say you can prevent
for just a few hundred bucks a year
and are certain not to pay up
one red cent
when you kill yourself
by being afraid to
go out in the night
when the house
catches fire.


12-16-96 (517, Seattle)

O Devayani, it would be hard to explain
how the archangel sat beside you, and was you
and was within you
driving through the streets of Los Angeles,
the city of the angels,
His great wings arched
over him and over you
tiny inside, sheltered,
embraced, encased by wings
that were palpable,
wings that hovered,
walked with you everywhere --
stepping down from the curb,
in the passenger seat of your car,
when you walked and when you talked.

You drove and yet you were sheltered
in the angel's wings beside you.
The archangel walked with you
inside what might have been a difficult

But because the wings wrapped you around,
you stepped off into space and began
to fly,
to fly in freedom,
and once you were awing
the angel's wings did not come again.
You have not seen them -- once -- to this day.

If you could look at your back, directly, head on,
would you find those translucent wings
growing? grown? arching? sheltering?
O Devayani, would you see
your wings?


11-7-97 (517, Seattle)

O Devayani, with its round nose looking up,
its startled eyes, ears a-point,
its heart racing,
its hooves ready to run,

like an alert, antlered "L",
always facing you,
always ready to flee,
Is it a lack of trust? Even as

the corn kernels dribble from your hand.
Intense attention
and then the bounding feet,
white tail bobbing.

pound the hooves, and they are gone.

O Devayani,
can you muster such a clear, swift
stare? Such a judgment without
Such decision to survive?

Can you prick up your ears --
hear the danger before it arrives,
know the smell of man,
of enemy,
even with kernels dribbling from his hand?

Your heart cries:
"I meant you no harm.
I've brought food. I've brought love.
Admiration. Gentleness."
The hooves pound,

the head points as a dart, and they are gone.

O Devayani, in the forests of the world,
America, Europe, Asia,
you have extended your hand to the deer.
Their eyes, bright brown,

The parallelograms of their bodies
lift into the air,
the tiny hooves, the angular legs,
their hearts pounding louder
than their feet,

the forest enfolds them.
The rain wet branches of late autumn,
brown in their despair,
will not speak to you either,
nor eat the corn

when they are gone.


1228 San Anselmo, before 12-25-97

O Devayani, to end in a bronzed book
at the terminus of Fifth and the graveyard,
without the willies, without the terrors,
shiny, bronzed and free.

No body.

Those who believe in the resurrection of the body,
or want it,
must be quite young.

The older you get the more delightful is the contemplations of
No Body

-- being nobody, going no where
except out of the terrors of
the long dark night of the soul,

the horrors,
the fears,
the blackness,
the chaos
the invasion of
mind over matter.

For the matter knows
there is nothing wrong,
but the mind with its
twisted perversions
and preference for

the demons,
the horrors
the terrors,
the fears,
the drama,
most of which never happens.

Why, O Devaynai, such an arrangement for torment?
You feel you have let desires
the necessity for
you feel out of the trembling and fear
you have surrendered to God,
that you will do anything for peace of mind,
harmony, the quietness of a pleasant life,
you will surrender
you have surrendered,

the heart stops beating double time,
the breath slows and goes down beyond the throat,
the tension oozes away, leaving only the feeling of jelly-limbs,

O Devayani, you cry! "You take it God. I surrender
my unmanageable life, my fears, my hopes,
my wants, my desires,
I give them all up."

And in the stillness of a moment,
the palpitating heart gives way to peace.
You lie back in the arms of God, as in a bath
of hot water,
at ease, the aches bleeding away.

A moment later with the slug
and violence of a chain saw
biting through redwood,
the mind is planning again,
taking upon itself
to make the phone call,
write the letter,
get it done,
force it through,
the brutality of the screaming saw
takes over
as the desires are kicked into action.
The will,
the need to do,
the need to declare,
be in charge
take over the being
the body,
the mind,
replace you on the rack of despair,
in chaos,

Necessity! reigns!
Surrender is forgotten.

O Devayani, to end in bronzed book
at the terminus of Fifth and the Graveyard,
without the willies, without the terrors,
shiny, bronzed and free.

No body.

Ashes to ashes.

Where will your desires be then,
O Devayani.


155 San Anselmo, before 12-25-97

Birds of paradise sit golden, blue and orange
in the gardens of the Angels, thick-stalked,
tall and juicy. A thousand blooms spring
from one plant, with leaves broad and long.
O note, Devayani, how thick grow the flowers.

The leaves and the stalks grow thick, choking, turning
brown, until a human hand clips the birds
of paradise, controls the leaves and trims each plant.
Then each remaining plumaged bird sings with the fullest throat,
shimmers in light, preens itself on life.

Note, O Devayani, when you sing to sing each wild note,
to sing the order and progression, to remember
in each tamed note the beauty of the wild.


Beauty, before 1996


Introduction to The Devayani Poems

- A -

Above This Present, Emptiness, 01-08-98

Above This Present, Emptiness 01-08-98 (Rumi Collection)

Accident, before 5-10-96

Adam, before 5-10-96

Again, before 5-10-96

Amazing Hunger, 12-19-96

And, 11-4-97

Angkor Wat, before 12-25-97

Anxiety, before 5-15-96

Archangel, 12-16-96

Attention Is The Deer, 11-07-97

At The End of Fifth Avenue, before 5-15-96

Aviary, before 5-15-96


Beauty, before 1996

Copyright © 2002 Jan Haag

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: or





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