BY JAN HAAG
THE ANGKOR WAT POEMS
(In chronological order)
Over the years I have written many poems about or referring to
Wat, Cambodia, Khmer,
Polpot. I am ensorcelled by Angkor-Cambodia-Khmer-Polpot --
the greatest monuments of humanity and the deepest depravity of
Collected and posted
So saith Ad Reinhardt
while living in New York City and
about Khmer Sculpture
in a booklet
classical art is
pointing with a needle,
stitching one hole at
with purity of heart,
prior to the jungle's
CYWYDD DEUAIR HIRION
My bus, though slow, is quite strict,
Ethiopian, Khmer, Jew
the traveler's dream, deep and pure,
On the city bus, I go
with Hindu, Muslim, condo
bound. My home, this global gift,
To enjoy and not to shun
all others is earth's function.
Level with the lacunaria of columns,
the coffering of soffits, the
layered papery sphere, rimmed bells
of philology, theology, red-cheeked
survivors of Tibet's
diaspora, scatterings of Angkor Watt's
Khmer killed, East Timor regrets,
howls in the bloodied air,
dodged about, not admitted to sets
of muqarnas beneath a
string of robed
towers sending up musical, wailing jets,
fog blown from unseizable
seas, dark as night on an
range. Ride the black-wasp air, the debt!
ice-cold neck of the pole stilled.
IN A JUDEO-CHRISTIAN-ISLAMIC WORLD
My name is Devayani.
I'm a Hindu-Buddhu, living in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic world.
Vikramaditya's class --
"Non-Western Architecture," he calls it,
misnomer to be sure,
unless you understand "Architecture" as
creation of the world!
And "Islam" is about as Western as it gets
-- if Christianity (Judeo-Christian-Islamic thought) is
Plus the Incas and the Aztecs;
Machu Pichu --
how far West can you get?
But then, again, what is he going to call
"Most-of-the-Rest-of-the-World Architecture 101"?
on a swift El Nino of the world's religions,
an introduction to
all but untaught
any place else on earth.
I sit here at 66 trying to imagine myself into the
mind-set of the
young creatures hearing all this
for the first time. He stretches
like the puller of a slingshot, darting swift
into stilled waters.
There is silence. Often, a nonplused hush.
What is the man asking?
What is he saying? Do I hear aright --
that there are more
in Heaven and Earth
than are dreamt of in the U.S.A.'s sanctum
of Capitalism and "Democracy"?
What an astonishing concept! --
consider the world as a world: one,
indivisible, diverse, all parts
influencing the whole;
to acknowledge histories older than ours,
wiser, more beautiful than ours, more
astonishing, mystical, magical,
Would one really rather worship
the World Trade Towers than Angkor
bow down to twin phallic symbols of technology
rather than pranam to a whole universe
of Goddesses and Gods, animals
adventures and stories, giant heads of the Khmer,
small details of
Milk Ocean's Churning?
Would one rather wander Elephanta, Ellora,
or Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chattanooga?
even the University of Washington's Microsoft Word,
never been asked to spell
Teotihuacan, Chichen-Itza, Machu
Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta,
But then again -- credit where
credit is due --
it doesn't spell Chattanooga either.
The World Wide Web is smarter
-- like Vikram, a Chandrigarian-American-Hindu --
its education has been accomplished by the world,
India, America and
the axial, structural universes between them:
East, West, North,
World History has little to do with Western History --
a brief, violent after-shock of some 500 years.
Early in the morning
the coffee machine breathing
Out of bed again,
Life growing more and more
expensive in dollars and cents
and sense and fear
age and creation...
The declining body aches
Memory ageing, clouding,
coffee machine breathes
in and out, in, out, and
to be sucked up to
course along the veins...
older with the sweetish
smell of age? of old? of the pulp mill?
coffee? a bad liver?
Breathe for me, O coffee machine,
brain, tickle the mind
turn on Word and Start-up
in the poetic
tease the creative tooth.
Terror, fear, disgust,
vomit -- all the offal sells better:
It's a new regime
skirting the hypocrisies
gentler, nobler age
I grew up in.
We're back to Genghis
forward to Mohamed the Muslim,
world conquerors riding
on stock options,
beheading the rest,
making life too
for those who only want to
a little coke,
of a pleasant
a mild evening.
"We have known this world before,"
historians of the race.
World conquest is back in fashion
Four or five masters,
the rest slaves
Is it end the of the race?
that the many
can support the few
for only so
then the world
civilizations of dust
in the Tarim Basin.
The coffee has stopped breathing
The caffeine embalms my veins.
for ten minutes more --
I have simplified my life down to the bone:
One exceedingly tall stemmed vase with yellow flowers,
Chrysanthemums, feathered like the firs,
A few dark clothes,
The imagined soughing of the pines:
The wind lifts, waves, rides the undulating branches,
Fresh blowing rain, and the lake,
Mossy roofs, dark windows,
Behind the thick-paned windows in warmth:
Reading about Cambodia, I nurse a heart of despair,
I can eat what I wish, go where I please,
Wear dark clothes, court
Imagine the monstrosity of the world:
In silence is the puzzlement, the pain, the unendurable,
The rain, death by starvation,
Decapitation by mines
THE BEGINNING OF WINTER
The terror grips my soul
As if I were a Cambodian
I belong no place
All the places I have been
The people I have loved
All have been destroyed
time and disaffection
The failing of my senses
The loss of my
The failure of my ability to love
The need to find
To find peace of mind
To find solitude
My soul is dead and I linger on
So willing to go
not choose me.
My flesh calls
My skin itches
Stings and pains
I fold a sheet
Effort when I climb the stairs
I think it is true
We live for others
And if there are no
Why live for me?
It'd be so much more
Well, this is the first day that I feel alive enough to write.
from Chautauqua, out of the snow,
the winter of my heart, the heart
I read about Cambodia, I have spent days doing so,
drifting into weeks. At last,
in The Gates of Ivory, I have found
a novel character, who thinks as I do,
an alteration in our society
was called for, was due, was a
idea. No matter how grotesquely wrong it's gone, at the
was a protest against the horror of the ways things
continue to be. Where not even
one five billionth of the
enjoys the spoils of it all. The rest are slaughtered
in spirit, and in body, by greed, by crudity
aspiration, by hacking away the environment,
by the nothingness to
hope, the keeping busy-ness of life
so that one need not live to or think about a second day coming.
Struggling with body and soul,
I want what Vikram says not only
be beautiful, but true:
ascension at Borobodur,
from stories to
nothingness -- Angkor's towers
in the sunset,
monumental, awesome; Ajanta's caves
to house a low humming, meditative nothingness;
bronzed kings, golden gods,
celestial maidens created
this world-illusion, somethingness.
Breathe, be gone.
emptier than air.
Constructed elaborations fill the time
being and not being with "...involuntary
muscular movements of
propelled onward through
intricate codings, Sufic
whirlings, a single
pillar pierces the sky. Ascend.
*Collier's New Century Dictionary, 1933, p. 1285
Struggling to contain the world,
the whole world... Early on we were
taught about the pyramids, Egypt,
certain things, not
The Western World, not
the Hindu, Islamic,
We were taught we Caucasians
were the human
cultured, civilized, others
were savages, even builders of
were savages. We detonated their
worlds to prove
it. Only awesome remains survive:
pyramids of Hindu,
Inca, Assyrian. India kept no contemporary note
sword-swinging Alexander's claimed conquest --
a mere gnat
aside, ubiquitously occupied,
as they were,
with their own omniscient destiny.
PI MAI/PHI MAI
This morning's NET says you don't exist.
One of those dreadful
set up solely for e-commerce, it knows
of history, art, literature, nothing of the world,
other languages, Westernizes and Commerce-izes
Your Importance, your immortality denied,
nonetheless, for an
I see you,
flashing in the background.
It seems you
exist in German.
And I remember.
the jungle cut back
the mile-long corridors of
crossing at right angles,
who built this and why?
privilege of you,
when I wander through Thailand,
a glimpse of your
maybe 7,000 years older than mine.
I return to the
I find it
"Phimai is home to an ancient Khmer sanctuary. It predates the Angkor
ruins of Cambodia
and is believed by some scholars to have been a
model for them."
(By October 22, 2001 this reference from BackpackAisa has disappeared from
the NET, I'll find another.)
The Net does not fail me.
Sanctuary by Peter J. Burns
is an early Chinese name for Cambodia.)
Though written for the tourist, this tells some of Phimai's history --
toward the bottom.
Monument in the desert, temple, stepped pyramid, public works
possibly that from which the Babylonian gardens
hung, possibly tower
from which languages divvied into mutual
incomprehensibility. It is
difficult for us to conceptualize
ziggurat, stupa, Borobodur,
Teotihuacan: solid monuments, open steps,
corridors -- a weird way
life, of worship.
Our highest towers in the West are office
We, pragmatic, use temple-architecture for banks.
Today is my Brother's birthday. Art thou thy brother's keeper?
70, a vegetable, a slow, still animated vegetable. He can say "Yes,"
can say "No." He eats, sleeps, watches television.
He had a stroke
when he was younger than I
am now. Happy Birthday,
Today, in addition, begins a new Poem Series -- rather, a Dual
Series, maybe more than one Dual
Today, I start the Z People Biographies.
But they take NET
which I cannot do at home.
So each Z Person may take several days
*(Through a mistake, I never got to the second Z
The mistake was so amusing, who needed to go on?)
To preserve my sanity,
I need to write at least
one poem each
Simultaneously with the Biographical
Z people sketches,
the Xs. Do them all.
All, that is, that inhabit my
Dictionary. However, it's hard to
how many all is.
*(I never got started)
Skipping X, itself,
the other eleven topping the
alphabetical X s are derived
from Greek "yellow. " The question is:
Are they the same -- belonging in one poem?
Or are they
different? That was the great question
when I was picking
foraminifera: Are they the same or different?
Sameness/difference may be the magna/summa
along the obstacle course
of the human race.
Yellow is appropriate for my brother.
three, I was
the youngest and pink, my sister was middle
so there was only yellow left for Con, the eldest. How
assigned in reverse chronology I do not know.
*(Pink is the most
choosable of all colors.
Blue and yellow are facts of life.)
always a little out of it,
odder than me,
and certainly a whole magnitude different
than my normal sister --
tends him devotedly.
So the stroke may have been a
He got to stop trying to fit into a world that has no place for him.
Anyway, the Xs:
It's the 24th letter of the English alphabet.
It denotes an unknown quantity, person or thing.
You see people, the Xs, strolling the streets
of Seattle or (by now)
any other town or country lane, talking
-- maybe to Kuala Lampur,
Paris, Urumqui, Angkor Wat -- surely distributing
electricity of some kind
-- a student radiating from UW's Red Square
to a student in Moscow's
Red Square beside the Kremlin.
It was always difficult to be present in one's own life.
possible for "friends" to walk along,
one talking to Peru, the other
When they part they say:
With ears occupied elsewhere, they "See ya."
They do not speak to
One wonders if they wonder where they are.
means ten. But the Romans couldn't do it --
math and higher
-- with their cumbersome, elegantly
carvable, complex numerals. So,
along with a bit of Islam,
the West adopted Arabic numerals.
where it's got us!
Also, it tells right there, under X2 , how
be Xmas, and Christian (though I
have never seen this one) got to be
Via the Greek, of course, from their X which
rendered in English as Ch.
So here we begin running with the Chi's
with an introduction longer
than any poem will be
-- except maybe X number 2
with eleven jaundiced Xs
*(it never got written),
xanthopsia, which means seeing everything tinged
A vision last night before sleep:
Leaves and leaves and leaves,
curling like shadows,
awareness floating through, dream-like in
chiaroscuro, golden-brown, parting darkness;
still into jungle, like roots
over stones/crumbled buildings. Where
I? Angkor? I
see jungle, no buildings. Still moving, I can't get
I stand at an edge of
obscured by my vision. Dim light
glows from the horizon. It might
but, though faint,
the light's too bright for
Does tropical dawn come up brilliant? Is it
A billion flickering
candles rimming earth's edge. I open my eyes
again. I am awake,
fear. I feel I could have
I wanted, if I waited quietly for them. I question its
Was it a prophecy, a remembrance, another life -- or just
beauty of living?
I gave up on Tao Te Ching --
too much abstract advice for weak/
Who could utilize
such advice to choose breakfast, make
decide which bus, what walk, invent
terror of aloneness in the anxiety-driven human-gathering
we mistake for civilization. Now I study
Cerros, Palenque, Tikal, Teotihuacan,
the Aztecs -- civilizations
so exuberant, flamboyant, talented, awesome in architecture,
art, literature, blood, that one would think
Frankenstein-God would have stopped there.
Today Maya-spirit -- creatures of feeling, superlative
despair -- is gone. I cannot sleep. Nor
my mind of pierced penises,
snatched hearts, pierced
human-made mountains, pristine, white, sun-toned, sensuous
fabrics' beauty, terrors of jungle and jaguar,
of royal ceramics, art higher
than our Leonardo
their buildings grander, more abstract
than the Tao. Lost in
their stupendous work-ethic, like ours, an escape
from imperious Gods?
Was there no one to help defy
the terrifying shadows. Apparently the people decided
built vast domains, triumphed,
then withdrew support,
returned to the land to farm,
as Polpot obliged the Cambodians to do.
The Maya assuaged their
making human life
more horrifying than anything met
How can one go on after civilizations
colossal? Perhaps they thanked Gods
Spanish come to help them die.
they had done enough, had done it
all, had begun
their retreat before
their civilization, supervised
Spanish, aided by Spanish diseases,
Their supreme victor's prize was
often death, the spurting of
from the heart
for the delectation of Gods. Even
our eco-terrorism, bombs, starvation-enslavement of the
people, our privatization of food, our
soon-to-begin-manufacture of human
beings, still, we need
light-years to match
Maya hubris, Maya grandeur.
On earth in the moonlight, what still
fascinates me is Angkor
Ongcor, and hundreds
of other wats conjured
from Cambodia's plain
near Tonli Sap, the largest structures on
our planet save for the
snake of the
Chinese Wall made into a concatenation
the mountains and valleys of the landscape
Middle Kingdom by Chin
Huang De. But
Buddhist, Hindu, built by
Khmer Kings in
renunciation of this paltry world, the might
of Angkor -- even in
square-meters, bare rock
for the Western world)
Mouhot -- the power of desire bleeds through.
Buddha found the
then proceeded for
fifty years to preach
In his name were built a plethora
grandest structures on earth,
with brain-washed, unpaid
slave labor. His desires fulfilled, he
died. Along came
Capitalism, declaring we'll enslave
you, but we will pay you,
this time, not so wide as high,
some of the
structures the world
could conceive, preaching desire. Cultivate
To be alive,
in the definition of
have desire, gluttony, greed. Like the Buddhu
Hindu subsisting on austerities
in the woods,
the 21st Century world, just
doesn't cut the mustard. Desire
After desire is death. Construct your
you build Ongcor with stone or imagination
There is nothing more to
life than the living of it.
but what happens at the center of
things. Dance Shiva Dance. The moon went
from half to full, and back
to half again
and down tumbled the World Trade Towers.
Then there was dust, silence, samadhi, consciouslessness.*
*This last line inspired by Bob Fisher.
Reflected sunlight at 9:06 a.m.,
the autumn is not so gloomy,
thoughts, grand visions
illuminate my mind,
but I tire early
I watch the kingdom crumble --
what Angkorians must have felt of old
It's hard to connect what I hear
to me. For this
is a peaceful
As the coup d'etat goes on,
encouraged, daily, to lead our lives:
buy, spend as if
neither bombs in
the loss of
jobs, nor the enrichment of the rich,
not the firemen fighting the
for the right
to retrieves bodies of their brothers.
the 5,000, were buried
beneath the debris
below the World Trade Towers,
limousines, documents; 70 feet down
spaces descend obese with billions of
dollars worth of world trade
knowledge and what was
changes, how do you win a war
that has no enemy -- except
with appetites, thoughts visions, desires
I have long thought I would
like be to around
demise of the Western
World. Who knew it
would be this
Or that the autumn in cerise and gold
beautiful, full of
birds flying, scarlet leaves
welcome rains, surprises,
I think I am opting out.
The medical profession thinks
ridden and depressed.
My riposte is: You'd have to be crazy
anxious and depressed
in a post 9/11 world run by
who thinks he can go
king-making in every other
they don't agree with
him, call them The Axis of Evil,
The world has not seen
such mindless aggression
sure-footed on the footpath blazed
and the old testament
went into "Enemy"
"every man, woman, child and cow."
It was ever
You'd have to be mad
not to be anxious and
opt out into the illuminated
shadows on the wall.
The bliss of not being here.
the sun doesn't shine,
I am not here.
The shadows are darker
My pain is illuminated by
the blankness of being.
It would be like inviting other
people to live with me again
them in at the door
and set them down, comfortably.
their health and
their wealth, their stories and their
Southern School, Capote,
Faulkner and whoever came
Even the "bee that stung poor
re-emerge, transmogrify the night,
set with me in the kitchen
dim refrigerator light
listening to the cicada's scrape, buzz
novelize while waiting for misty
dawn to seep through grey moss
clumps. Reading Lescroart almost convinces
me I can write again, order
the world, tease meaning out of
His characters, so different from
me -- like Martians -- have
have meetings, convictions, errands, live lives
importance. Crimes to be
solved, loves to be won or
-- so deeply -- if one person murders
another. For me, for years,
been like: one more or less
person doesn't make much
How can it matter when "my
country 'tis of thee" goes
bombing millions, yes MILLIONS of other
people -- Vietnam,
Afghanistan -- lets millions die
with wheat rotting in our lockups.
So who can really
one human murders another for
a few thousand, million
hatred, love. We murder every day.
It's just who does
who gets away with it
or who doesn't. O, I suppose
that would make a novel. It
hundreds of novels which people
read and disregard. Free speech
means you say what you please,
write what you want and everybody
reads, hears it like poetry -- irrelevant
to life! "Free speech" has
convinced Americans you can shout it
in the streets, write it in
sky, march one-hundred-thousand strong -- what
you say will be
forgotten. Writing might have some therapeutic
effect on the writer,
effect whatsoever, on any democratic representatives,
decision-makers who listen
only to God and the corporations.
that isn't why I don't
write novels anymore. It's been a
joie de vivre,
the lack of a reason for
being, lethargy, fatigue, the lostness of
living, a sense of dying, slowing,
aching, bewilderment at the
of EVERYTHING. What makes a difference
(doesn't make a difference) today, no
matter what happens, it
remade, fancied-up, resold by tomorrow.
of everything in
flux, Shiva dancing... But that's not
it's blank mind. I
never did have anything to
say. I've written 3 or 4,000
poems, have said nothing, nothing that
will be heard. The trees stll
lose their leaves, the cat
boxes my hands, the wind blows
heat up the radiator. Some will
counted and some will not.
It hurts, if one stops
think, to be
un-counted caste, among the outcastes, where
dwell like churning fish,
orchids swallowed by the sea.
Yesterday, because I had time and nothing much else to do,
perhaps because it was Thanksgiving Eve, I finally
looked at one and
a half of John Pilger's Cambodian films.
Today, I am compelled to ask: Why?
must life go on -- Why? given it
does and it will
do I feel compelled, being an isolate, mostly
unwilling to engage my fellows -- even for dinner --
why do I need
to look at some of the greatest
I use that word though I don't believe in it, indeed reject it
(because it is a Bushism) -- committed by human against
by The United States of America against a little
never threatened or hurt us, nor did we
disliked in anyway. We
went, dropped bombs
and helped the evil guys, and kept doing
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
'til we were forced to drop "genocide" from our vocabulary,
the world, thinking we were the greatest evil on earth,
us on the basis of that forbidden truth: Genocide.
what I did on Thanksgiving Eve. This morning
I walk with my sister
and, even before that Charles
-- also not going to "family" -- asks
Shiva Purna and me
to join him and Bill at 2:00 p.m. This I
still wondering just why we need to go on in the face
people -- not here, but elsewhere -- who kill their
mercilessly while we, gentle artists, mouth "human
and inadvertently find our destinies evolving with butchery.
You begin to notice what's there:
the bare branches, bending, rising,
in the fog. The sun high,
an incandescent white cloud,
Cool air comes through the window.
Crows cawing, a seagull
wings by. The cat moves, stretches
flat on the sill. Last night
in the high-ceilinged, white
the huge room full of soft,
cemetery light, an
illusion of Cambodia...
The cat, barely discernible, sits on
the mirror: black ears and twilit,
black tail, playing
something's reflection in grey-shimmering-gold light.
the darkness I imagine the long
aisles, towers, faced-stones
Phimai. I was there, not at
real. It substitutes
itself for read-about things. I try
to imagine myself Cambodian -- in
jungle darkness, in the oil-lamp
fine delicacy of Suryavarman's exuberant dynasty.
young girl, lying in twilight,
watches the Siamese cat -- reflected -- paw
moving at the shallow
I try to imagine myself Cambodian
with Nixon bombs
"carpet-bombing" -- one
bomb for the rug's every stitch.
and more die by
bombs, land-mines, starvation, the American-encouraged, genocidal
Polpot. Bombs arrow down, tracing
designs in the sky. Great
puff, fog-like, embroidered with the branches
Skulls lie everywhere.
piles of skulls, pits of bones.
I lie in my high-ceilinged white
room on soft sheets,
and comfort, watching the Siamese cat,
playing in the
mirror. I have
nothing to do, nowhere to go,
in the night or by
except into my imagination seeking to
Cambodian Holocaust -- ignored by
the world then, ignored now,
so beyond imagining, that even choosing
to think about
imagined. Yet, for them, for Cambodians,
dying, deaths, skulls, hunger,
the torture, the disembowelments, the
as real for them as fog
in the branches of my winter
trees, vast and lacy in brightening
light. How odd that any
of the human race has stomach
to go on, after what we
have done to each other, still
do, daily. So I live in
silence and alone, trying to shade
my eyes into seeing what is
there. Is a single human life
worth anything at all? Or
it, like the cockroaches, the billion,
Who'd miss one
or one hundred? The mass will
reproducing, reproducing, reproducing, reproducing
guaranteed destruction. No one
counts the branches of the trees
the fog or in sunshine.
Or, if they could, which count?
Yesterday's? Tomorrow's? No imagination can
equal the dropping of
bomb. No imagination can resurrected even
one moment of life in
Phimai, Ayutthaya. No one, not even
I, can imagine my life,
in the night, in the fog-dimmed
light, watching the cat play
its reflection -- like the dark-earred cats
must have played,
dipping their paws into their own
the great, artificial lakes
beneath the explosion-headed, smoked-shrouded palms.
"...man of two languages... a cicerone " OED, p. 698
Yesterday, late afternoon, I saw the film about Kissinger,
genocidal maniac, the urbane, smooth, smiling
killer of millions
ends with the last puzzle
piece dropping into place: on the morning
11, 2001 the newspapers were about to headline his being
as a war criminal 'til, at 8:45, the planes began to hit
Twin Towers, the Pentagon, etc., and the Pres. fled
country from airport to airport, for the rest
of the day.
There was never any doubt in my mind that this "terrorism"
orchestrated by Bush, to divert attention, to protect the oil,
was the dubash? the agent, the go-between?
Kissinger. Then to cap the
brazen brouhaha of it all, a year
later, he's to head the
committee into the Twin
Tower Terrorism. But a few people have
memories, such a hue
and a cry that he must resign, and the other
But have you looked around lately to see how many
criminals our unelected Bush has pulled
from the mothballs and
re-employed to help shape up America
and the world.
is bucking to be in the line of descent:
gang of four
to say nothing of Genghis Khan
the Christian Patriarchs
Muslim and Hindu fanatics set at each others' throats
by the British
the extermination of the early Americans by the
the savagery of Europeans
the hordes, the hordes,
Do you think this doesn't haunt the 21st Century mind
most powerful people ever to inhabit the earth --
able at will to
dominate or declare a moratorium.
It was ever such, since the beginning of the world:
the mad, the
and the power hungry.
What are the lives of a few million people
compared to one's thumb on the button?
"A fresh-water turtle..." Century Dictionary, p. 1027
Time to drop another poem into the bin of time:
strolling in the cool
air this morning, I was accounting for
all those things I have not
done -- which I thought
I wanted passionately enough to do.
I never spoke to the Dalai Lama -- too shy.
I never found a man I
could love and live with
and who could live with and love me.
never got to Lhasa,
Wat or Borobudur.
"...having a brown carapace covered with pyramidal eminences." CD, p.
I never lived long enough in New Mexico.
I never got the great novel written. I have
never found peace
comfort in any spiritual belief
for long. On the other hand, I have
lived long enough
to realize the humorous futility in wanting anything at all,
recognize the futile humor in desiring huge, American
everyone. Laboratory rats go crazy when given too
much space. Crazed
Americans are probably beyond recovery.
The kitten, Shiva-purna, is who he is who he is
who he is. He is not
different. He does
what he does what he does. He does not
write poetry to drop into the bin of time.
"...vulgar form of Morsel, v. " OED, p. 683
Being distracted this morning, the dictionary I grab
is the OED, and
there is "moslings" --
kind of an adorable word (like a kitten).
In the 1875 quote "...used in wiping off metals while
grinding and polishing." But it's not in the Century.
Too old? Not
even an "archaic." But Morsel v!
We have to look into
that. Oh, my God,
there's not even a "morsel v."
"To divide into 'morsels' or small pieces." OED, p.672
in the Century, only an "n." -- and in The American Heritage,
Random House, no v. : "to morsel."
Even as late as 1861, we have
from Lytton and Fane:
"The split and morselled
look how it started out! 1598 Florio, "to morsell,
to bite." And
1621 Molle, "Chopping into pieces, morselling
and deuouring their
prisoners." Well, now, we don't
do that today, do we?
nice clean carpets of bombs macerating the millions,
Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq -- it's not only okay,
for them, and they should appreciate it as
much more sanitary than "moselling."
The rich have to have some means of entertainment
in this world, so
they fight wars, have parties.
But they are always afraid that the
more fun, working, achingly serious.
the rich, out of envy, snap up
the interesting jobs as well. They
actors, anchor-men, journalists, lawyers,
that, when "rich" was invented, were
scorned as beneath the
of the great Khans, the Emperors of China,
whose entertainment was building
Building -- now there's a noble trade,
but hard to
so the rich, the kings
and emperors had the talented poor
build their buildings,
then stuck their royal names upon them.
you rather have your name on
a building? or have the capacity to
a thousand hours
carving the Churning of the Milk
detailed, intricate, sensuous with curves
But stock-broking, the trades, the "business"
government? -- too far from parties, entertainment
the glories of
remaining in HQ,
way behind the lines, behind the smart bombs,
guided missiles, on the telephones,
the wireless, e-mail,
holding press conferences,
weekends at Camp David,
Meetings in the Azores,
or flying around all over the
fearful of pursuit
The rich have to
the pleasure of sweating
in games, tennis, polo, hard-ball.
never get the chance at the "good sweat"
of chopping a log-pile to
through a long cold winter.
ANGKOR WAT II
No matter how you succeed
in pushing back time and oblivion
matter what new knowledge
you may find circulating about the
No matter what exquisite perfections
of your civilizations may obtain
The jungle lush and green
pumping oxygen comes back for
Angkor Wat's splendor
Until the sun in her omnivorous
in her perpetual greed for growth, for incineration
swallows up the earth.
Inspired by Vikram Prakash's 4-15-03 Angkor Wat lecture
In the gardens of Kampuchea the lotus sprout from skulls.
life is to attain belief that nothing
will be there when I
Extract expectation from the squishy gray matter,
beside the lotus, through the eye socket, the nose
hole, behind the
grimacing teeth. Plant deep.
The lotus grows from
blood, explodes like uranium
enriched earth, spattering brains, bits
bone across fields,
leaves a meteor's crater in my breast, deep,
But no matter, life is
like that, full of pain, agony,
torment and yet
pure, unblemished lotus sprout from skulls.
Do not expect tomorrow to be there when you arrive,
nor the palm, the
mango, nor the silk-cotton tree.
Expect nothing, fill it with
Don't expect even the weather. Let it be.
the void of pain, let
the silence fill up your world
The Buddha was here
and Shiva. Now
Do not expect tomorrow to be there when you arrive.
Don't expect humans to change. Will a fish?
Will a tree?
the same since we can trace our ancestry.
Capable of killing
another, we think that human consciousness allows us
different, that eventually we'll train nature's law to conform
After a certain amount of history and despair, I
humans to change,
nor a fish. Evolution might
gills. Or has she taken them
away? But consciousness,
down the scale of ontogeny, will never recapitulate
before we can subdue our urge to murder one
Why should I not,
God's sake, appear
a fool? Don't expect humans to change.
BRONZE AND STONE
Censers and apsaras,
like cyclamen throwing back their wings,
hot air thick with incense,
the ragged palms,
Pile the stones on one another.
Chop the roots.
are not mortar.
In use for
1103 years by men in orange,
Censers and apsaras, Buddhas, Vishnu, and Shiva
sacred symbols of humanity, overgrown by roots
leaves, greener than algae or slime, too green.
Bronze and stone. Censers and apsaras.
I am an archaeologist anthropologist paleontologist
seeking not for
artifacts the ancestors or the bones of animal.
the square-faced Khmer.
It is not far to
monumental passage or
across ramp along aisle
or estuary marsh flood-
underpinning the stupendous achievement of Cambodian
by jungle revealed again where there was nothing there
was something replaced
by nothing again then something
like bitter melon a dried
mango elegant to the taste and
explosive pain guarded
grandeur of vision
resulting in mined and skulled fields.
Now that I have rinsed the
sorrow from my system and the people
from my life I can walk into
Sap wetting my ankles without compassion.
When the masquerade has
there is the green earth and the emptiness of being
water less than forever.
Copyright © 2003 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
INDEX OF THE ANGKOR WAT POEMS
BY JAN HAAG