BY JAN HAAG

INTRODUCTION + POETRY + ESSAYS + MUSIC + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART

HAAG'S BIO

ART & POETRY - ACCUMULATIONS





INSPIRED BY RUMI



On the 18th of December, 1997 I began re-reading perhaps the most beautiful book of poetry yet published in English: Coleman Barks' and John Moyne's translation of Rumi -- the great mystic poet of the 13th Century -- entitled The Essential Rumi. Each day I read one section of the twenty-seven sections in the book (consecutively), and each day I wrote a poem. The titles and content for the poems were chosen by closing my eyes and pointing to a word in the section of the book I had just read. Significantly, my finger fell again and again on empty space, the space between, the void, nothingness. These poems were written at a time in my life when I was full of a transcendent joy.




THE EMPTY PAGE

12-18-97

Re-reading Rumi,
not remembering his words
-- like my father:
"I don't remember what happened
yesterday,
but I know I enjoyed it."

The pages of Rumi are empty,
no words, nothing to say.
Live in your life,
trust in the Friend,
be of good cheer; the director
is directing the play,

the actors are acting.
The musicians will appear
-- in the third act.
And they do --
until there is singing enough
in your heart. You can put away

your ears. Imagine,
in ancient India, and no doubt today
-- nothing has changed that much --
professional ear-cleaners
sat on the banks of the Ganges,
-- and other rivers -- probing,

seeking, unblocking the ears --
such intimacy!
It's difficult to conceive
of an ear-cleaner not yourself.
O Devayani, you clean your own ears.
Don't you?

And, eventually, you put them away.
You put away the odors of cooking,
the spices, the curries,
put away the garlic, the onions,
the thick, rich stew,
you put away taste,

yet you remain ravished
by the sight of the world:
the diamonds in the trees
after the rain,
the apartment houses of spiders,
one intricate web upon another,

filagreed -- ravished
by the sun, and the moon
floating behind clouds
behind winter branches,
the structures of trees
naked, the chill wind

biting into your skin spoiled
by sunlight and warmth
all the days of your life,
by hot desert bones
and bare mountains,
-- translucent mountains --

mountains you can feel between,
touch with fingers of love,
great piles of earth heaved up,
sliding back down to the sea.
O Devayani,
you are ravished by time and its

attainments.
"Peace be with you," you say
to earth
rummaging through empty
pages, looking for meaning,
looking for thought,

looking for interior
volcanoes spewing desires,
necessities.
Necessity is the birds
overhead
or the great blue heron,

yesterday,
perched on the rail of the island
walkway. So deep in thought were you,
Devayani, you did not see
the great bird until, stretching out
its neck, it lofted into the sky,

flying low, flying with immense
wings flapping
across the empty lake
into the empty sky,
landing here

on your empty page.



YOU

12-19-97

I see four flaming poplar trees
from my window:
yellow flames in the fall,
stick flames in the winter.
I have not been here for spring.
In summer, late summer,
I was otherwised occupied:
getting to know you
in the garden where you polish
your stone,
in the white room
where you worry and laugh.

In the spring, when the daffodils
bloom before the lilacs,
let the stone absorb oil from your hands,
let the sphere complete its fullness,
let the alabaster become like a crystal.
Look!

Let it reflect you as you are.



THEN

12-20-97

O Rumi, give Devayani empty words,
meaningless words,
conjunctions and pronouns,
modifiers and a gerund or two,

no hard core verbs or nouns or adjectives,
just the interstices between
the meanings, the links,
supposed understanding.

Devayani doesn't need more.
The mind can circle like a buzzard
round any remains of a thought, of a heart
hunting --

then
take flight
for no reason at all,
dipping and coasting

on gigantic wings, broad as a condor,
strong as a pteranodon,
knowing the lastingness,
the logic

of optimism,
guessing you're somewhere
on the printed page: your passion
and devotion,

your fierce possession of the Friend,
your harmonious whirling in forever,
your coming down through Barks,
touching my heart, others.

Every morning, Devayani reads,
and every morning she forgets,
is left only with an open, breathless desire,
for the bleakness of a winter's day

or the sunshine on sand and rock, sea and desert
where, if necessary, she will
backpack through the aorta

right into the heart.



OTHER

12-21-97

O Rumi, Devayani guessed:
another neutral word.
Nothing but neutrality in this world --
is that the message?

Or is the message more elusive,
like the dawn?
It was at Stonehenge
Devayani discovered,

the distance between the dawn and the sun.
Three thousand people wandering
in tall wet grass waiting for the sun to rise
over the Heel Stone.

And it did. But only after the milling
and the muttering. Some walked away
early in the dawn unable to tell if the sun would
rise again for summer solstice.

1979.
Many years before now,
where Devayani waits
today,

again in the north, for the winter solstice sun.
Even though she has come to love
the naked branches, their evident

anatomy,
even though the browns and reds
of the water's edge lined with lingering
ducks reminds her of the carpet maker's

pleasures,
the shimmer of ochre threads,
of red and Sienna, scarlet, crimson and rose,
cochineal, madder,

within the nameless darkness of the brush,
the fallen rushes, the dark water
reflecting the dark sky, the murky waves
of one indominatable pleasure boat

rocking the shore -- still it is the sun she loves.
The sun she greets day by day.
"Ah, I see you are another minute early,"
she says today, and will not forget to say tomorrow.

Sighing a deep contented sigh when
the suns rays become warm enough
for human skin to feel the warmth.
In the north,

that can take until June.
Devayani has scope for her longing.
The delicious poignancy
that others lavish on loving a man or a woman

she spends on the darkness and the light,
the love of the cycle
the sphere,
the roundness of a winter's day,

the roundness of a summer's dance.
O Rumi, as the other solstice
swings round again, Devayani
feel a tiny flame, a tiny sun in her heart.


At last.



EMPTY

12-22-97

O Rumi, you insist on emptiness, each day urging "empty."
Dump out the emptiness.
Empty the nothingness.
Clean out the void.
Let the birds sing.

Not only the birds. This morning, over dishes,
Devayani was singing one
note, one single note
celebrating the water,
the warmth,

the flow, the nothingness of cleaning almost clean
dishes, the dimmness
of the kitchen on the
darkest morning
of the year.

It cannot get darker down in her cellar, rooting
around in her happiness. A
moment later, the world
began to glow
pink

and gold. For the first time Devayani saw sunrise
from her eye high window
so illuminating that she
dashed coatless into
the cold winter air

to see the whole sky a blaze of numinous morning. Is
nature playing favorites? The darkest
night, the most dazzling
dawn? Nature's
amusement?

O Rumi, Devayani must leave her page right here,
skip out into this pinkest of
all dawns to amble through
the Arbortuem toward

cyberspace.



NOT

12-23-97

"...someone who wants no more, who's not himself longed for by anyone else..."

So it's "not" today,
Rumi, my love,
says Devayani.
But she had already chosen:
"who wants no more"
and
"not longed for by anyone"
the most comforting
of your words
Yet, Devayani does
not know how she got here.

"Love"
-- longing, wanting,
understanding
used to be the Ganges
tumbling from Kailsas,
the Mississippi
knawing at the Atchafalaya,
no dam,
not even Nagajunasara,
could hold it back.
"Love"

-- addiction, need,
'til slowly you began
to understand that no matter how someone
loved you, it wasn't enough.
You wanted to love them,
to do for them, to steal into the center of their life,
to make them the center
of your life. When they were ungrateful
you wanted, yes wanted! to suffer --
wanted them to suffer.
"Love!"

But now, you've passed
on wanting another human being.
You sing praise to the world
that no one lies awake longing for you.
Words of comfort!
Words of wisdom!
Come and go in freedom on this earth.
What a belly full of shit this "love"
is as taught in the Western World.

The only "love" addiction you can be proud of,
O Devayani, later in life,
is a small developing compassion
knowing how much it hurts,
knowing how deep the pain,
knowing how irretrievable the loss,
knowing that only on the other side
of passion, desire, lust
is the quiet oasis of

I "love" no one and no one longs for me.
A certain sweetness has grown
in my heart for all humans,
a little mercy for all
no matter their lusts or desires,
a certain knowing I've been there,

a knowing that I need not ever be there again.



WORK

12-24-97

"Do the work" -- a phrase that always puzzled you, Devayani.
It sounds so important, dedicated.
Knowledgeable.
Mystical.

Rumi, my love, it is a phrase that Martin often used.
As Devayani writes this she doesn't know
whether to put him in
the past

or the present, for he never answers her notes --
note or two -- nor initiates notes
of his own.
Odd.

How quickly someone disappears from one's life -- often
to reappear for no known reason.
Except you can
be sure

Shiva's watching, laughing, spinning his amusement.
For certainly, Devayani has nothing to say
to Martin right
now. Nor,

it seems, any other human, except through notes, through
the Web, except to Ann, delight of Devayani's
life, who laughs
and lives.

Last night, after looking at the other half of India's history, talking
about it with Ann, Devayani thought about the Hindus
and the Muslims
slaughtering

each other, which, as usual, seemed the only thing worth talking about
-- the wars, the terribles, the turmoils --
to the documentarians,
who ignored

the 700,000,000 out of the 800,000,000 who live in peace,
if somewhat hungry peace, tilling the soil,
draped in the beauty
of saris

and dhotis, generations after generation, washing in the river,
cooking on the plain, building huts of stone
and temples of
filigree,

just being, doing their daily chores with grace, and humor, and
occasional -- stress that occasional --
tragedy. O Devayani
if that

is what belief brings one to -- why so much the better, it is
a swift road out of this world. If religion
is more important
than

life, then, of course, die for it. Why not? But if you want to live
and dance through the rhythms of sleeping
and eating, and living
work,

why then, turn only to the secrets you know in your heart, live out
the span of your years, watching,
with Shiva, the
spectacle

the God of the dance, the God of the drum, created out of flame and bliss,
out of pattering on the mud,
out of desire,

work.



LITTLE

12-25-97

Ah, yes, "little,"
Rumi says:
and Devayani finds she is reluctant
to refer to the fact
that it is Christmas morning.

How blessed her year ends,
with Ann, who also does not
celebrate this most
profoundly
commercial
of all ritual festivals.

At times, in the nights
Devayani thinks the lights are pretty,
especially the little white ones
outlining trees and facades, fences.
Indeed, Devayani is all for
cheering up the night
with cold sparkling lights.

As long as one is in the city
unable to share the sightless
void of the night only with the stars,
abundance in lighting
is not a bad practice.
Devayani remembers San Francisco
outlining
her bay shore buildings

up the corners and down --
a fairy-land across the bay, traceries
through the intermittent fog, and she
remembers Diwali, Festival of Lights,
celebrated earlier in a different
culture, the darkest night of the year.
Devayani would have to understand
more about the earth's
rotation to understand why

their Diwali and the Western Solstice
don't coincide, but she
was instructed to think about "little"
this morning. And her mind is
flat with even less.
Don't chase the flatness away
says Rumi:
stay with the void and the flatness and little.
Inside of it is the glory
Devayani felt her own life to be

just yesterday.
Most fortunate of women,
immersed in work, not longing for anyone,
no one longing for her.
Ultimate freedom.
The only plan on her agenda for the new
year -- two years to the millinnieum --
to walk away each day from
work
at sunset, so she can
see the birds! -- at this season

-- the crows
by the half million,
wheeling black in the evening sky,
shrieking out the end of the day,
settling in the williows' branches
bare and exposed,
falls of thread against the sky.
A bird punctuating
the top of each branch
large against the fragile, lacy tangle
They never rest at the bottom.
Do they consciously silhouette

themselves against the sky,
ready to wing on
in the gold and
pinkish light, their
companions
settling on the poplar tips, the ends
of bare-branched maples,
Chinese lattice,
windows toward celestial dwellings
as the light fades, and darkness
shelters the sky.
O Devayani, look toward the sky!
The emptiness, the purity of nothing,

twilight,
the birds nested, the stars not yet summoned,
a cloud or two,
before the lights of earth,
little white lights,
outline the hiding places of humans.
The residential streets are empty by
six o'clock,
the business streets still abustle
with buying buying buying.
When will they have bought enough?
You buy one present and it's an expensive,
instructive
dud, making you realize it was more

for your taste than for Ann's.
But fear not, each lesson learned adds
to the freedom, "Do the work..."
the Gurdjieffian Martin quotes,
the problems are solvable.
Solve them.
Let the residue of "little" dissolve
like sugar in water
until there is nothing,
until the obsidian crows
find perching places in your
curling ventricles, on capillaries,
in the atriums,
synapses, sleeping eyelashes,
foolish desires to please,
or to act "in accordance with reason."
Buy presents. Like the little lights.

Shout with Ann, "Love! and Work!"
from the porch with the broom
toward the curling wisp of smoke
from a metal chimney --
even if its steam.
Be deceived, be deceiving not only to yourself
but others, until you fly with the crows
against the naked sky, perch on branches
whose sap has gone down to the roots
and waits
and waits
and waits
to fulfill the promise of the little green buds
that never go away, never sleep,
that watch for the coming of the littlest

sign of warmth, of spring.



BLANK SPACE

12-26-97 (1)

O Rumi, Devayani is afraid to address it,
the question of eating.
Is that why you have given her blank space?
Space enough to consider
gluttony and greed,
things we pass over
in the night and in the day.

At last, she finds she is not living from fear
from anxiety, from dreading the axe of God,
of man. Yet you want
more. She eats less, she still eats too
much.
She consumes (as an American) an un-American
lack of goods
and services,

and yet she must always eat to satiety. Why?
You, O Rumi, call them the comforts, the nafs.
Well, they are. But each time she attacks the demon
who lives in her belly, it rebels and, "O Rumi,"
Devayani sobs, "it always wins."
For many months past, however, she has forgotten about
the eating. Just eat. And she eats less,
grows healthier -- mostly from walking --
slimmer in the hips, more awake, more aware.

But you tell her the work
is to be conscious. To use consciousness
to fight gluttony, Devayani knows she would be doomed.
Leave her alone, leave her the blank page,
let her back away from bad habits,
let her forget them,
let her neglect them,
let them die of attrition, inattention.

Let Devayani, in the comfort of her warm bed,
eat what she pleases. It is
diminishing, don't ask her to raise
discipline to consciousness,
self-control to an art. There are things
that she is not capable of. See her, bless her, take pity.

Trust Devayani, she trusts you.



THE NAFS

12-26-97 (2)

The nafs come from another direction now.
We were sailing along in bliss.
Devayani and Rumi were sailing along in bliss.
Writing good poems, keeping quiet about our
project. Yesterday, or the day before,
she spoke of it -- that's one thing.
And the other -- is that today you admonished
Devayani to discipline, to take up the pickaxe.
You say: unless she picks it up,
does her own demolishing, she'll get no credit,
no treasure. But the treasure is freely given.
You teach that, too.

Does Devayani quarrel with Rumi?
Devayani, after six decades, found a way
that works for her. She works daily.
She does not agree that by assault and
discipline, giving up her poetry,
her life of busily leaving a snail's trail
that she becomes lighter. Too much sitting
doing nothing leads to depression.
You didn't, dear Rumi, in Konya, have the
desolation of empty streets.

Here we are circling like buzzards,
around one of Devayani's recurrent themes:
We have arranged life in America so that
nothing ever happens -- unless you go out and cause
something to happen. We live in ones and twos,
and after you finish with
school and go, as you might,
to work with a computer, you need never speak
to another soul. We've arranged a society
where nothing is supposed to happen by accident.
We buy insurance against everything!

The monks sealed up in their caves for three days
and three months
and thirty-three years -- fed and alone --
knew nothing of the isolation rampant
in this insured and anxious world.
O Rumi, look where the poety has gone!
Gone Gone Gone Gone Gone.
So much for thinking, for discipline,
for consciousness.

Shall I pretend I never read Part Nine?



POEMS -- WITH BLANKNESS BEYOND

12-27-97

There is more space than matter
in this universe and beyond.
We honor ourselves by
thinking we can created
global-warming,
by thinking
that dropping our mightiest
puny bombs

will blow this world out of shape.
But no blast, man-made, ever
equalled St. Helens, Krakatoa or Tamboro,
no climate shift will ever be seen,
man-made, to annhilate
the dinosaurs.

You can be sure that when
Mother Nature
tires
of us there will be blasts
and changes in temperature
so beyond comprehension
that we will not be here
to comprehend.

Empty space and something else
will be fashioned
for earth.
Others will come to
eat, sleep and
fertilize the earth,

perhaps even make
civilizations
like-one-strand-of-spider-silk
criss-crossed round the earth,
stronger than steel as cables,
but one on one,
filaments as insignificant

as empty space.



WITHOUT WORDS

12-28-97

O Rumi, rapidly apporaching the end
of the Western year,
you caution me to silence
and more silence.

Silence within silence.
No words within empty space.
Nothing on the blank page.
Less within the void.

The poplar trees poke at the sky,
the ice crystals of a frozen dawn,
the diamonds left on the trees
by dew,

all these say "silence." Only the crows
cry in the sky, ebony against
the grey, obsidian with flashing
glints of color,

irridescent, where no color is,
where only light is,
where nothing but light is,

where silence is lightness is God.



SILENCE AGAIN

12-29-97

Silence again,
and above that, light.
And above the light?
Silence again.

There is no "above the light."
There is only silence and the glowing light
at the dawn as
each day the world begins again.

Do not try to hold it through the night.
Leave it in silence.
Leave all shadows in the light
and all sound in the silence.

Let the sun rise over the shimmering sea,
let the golden sun set across the silver ocean.
Listen to the silent roar of the ocean,
the breath of the wind, the shine of the sea.

Let the winter trees bear witness
to the spring.
Let the empty cup bear witness
to the spring.

Let the crouching cheetah bear witness
to the spring.
Let the comfortable couch bear witness
to the spring.

The metaphor springs away
as I look into my OED --
there are eleven pages of
variations on "spring"

a veritable metaphor for itself
springing up from the plainest
plains or planes of language,
manifesting from concealment
in the silence.

Silence again,
and above that, light.
And above the light?

Silence again.



HOWLESSNESS

12-30-97

How to get there without asking the questions?
How did you get to the end of the year?
How did you get to sleep?
How did you eat

the entire box of candy? Yesterday? and the day
before? The same way you get to blank
mind, and a poem,
the same way

you lie down, and pretty soon you are gone,
the same way that three miles pass
quickly as you walk
to school,

the same way time disappears between the pill
and the next alarm. Is it contentment?
Is it in attention? Is it
the smell of

spring in the air? The small buds' urge to open?
The witch-hazel's smell from the dragon's
claw of the yellow flowers --
so soon?

"From China," the label reads. It says the flowers curl
in the cold. But they curl winter or spring.
How do the flowers manage
without a word?

How do birds fly, wheeling overhead, more precise than
the blue angels, more silent than the wind.
Caw! Caw! Caw! you scream
at the crows

challenging them to dialogue. Shrieeeeeek!
reply the seagulls and silence replies
the sky. Soundlessness describes
the trees

who wait until the sough sough soughing of the wind
plucks melody from their bare branches
while waiting for the rustle
of leaves.

Wait as the moss covered branches wait, wait as
the buds -- there before the leaves fall,
wait as the sap waits
in the earth.

Does it ever say: "What a long climb," to get to the
twig ends? Does it ever say: "Why always green?"
The camillias blush pink, bloom
scentless.

Today, within the hour, you can howl at the going down
of the moon, the darkness of the morning,
the scent of rain, the fresh
morning air. How?

Howl.



BETWEEN THE LINES

12-31-97

there is space, and within the space
there is a cream colored void
above the black pitter-pattering
of the print.

Between now and the end of the year
is a matter of calcuable hours.
Calculate. Make plans. Ruminate.
Think, above all

think. Turn the hours into fragments
of doing, doing this and doing
that, scratching and eating, typing
and walking, breathing.

Some of those things take care of themselves.
And if you did nothing, nothing at all?
The dawn would still come,
your blood would still course,

birds would be heard sooner or later for,
for the end of the year, it is
warm -- fooling the flowers
coaxing them out of their buds, singing

of warmth and of spring, when there is surely
more winter's ice to come. Who controls
the weather? Why no one, no one at
all controls the weather

nor your scratching or eating or typing,
walking, breathing, sneezing.
What a surprise the stroke of midnight
will be, even if you're

asleep. Two years before the millinneum.
Whose calendar? Theirs. They
even manage to quarrel about their own
calendar. Some say the millinneum

begins at 2001. There is no such year as
zero. So, two years from midnight
there'll be a whole year of
zero. Nothing at all

between the lines. Breath in the void,
blue in the sky, sap in the
trees' veins, thoughts in your mind,
ginger in the colorless

tea, a billion billion molecules
on the tip of your tongue --
swallow and the tongue's tip is at
the tip of your toes

or in China. Best wishes from Devayani to China
or India or Ladakh. They give up
their calendar for the new year.
More and more each decade

everyone's time on earth grows to be more the same
time. Devayani thinks Shiva likes variety.
When the sameness of time
and the sameness

of civilization reaches critical mass -- well, you don't
hear dinosaurs weeping in the wind.
Caw! Caw! Caw!
my cries, harsh and pungent

fly out to echo the birds -- a strange
white haired lady, O Devayani,
walking along crying at the birds, crying,
crying, crying,

crying
with the birds
exuberant, exaltant, sitting in the tops
of the trees, on the thread-thin, twiggy

branches
reflected in the dark
winter water, flying like bits of
flotsam in the sky -- 10,000 crows litter

the sky,
10,000 crows find suitable winter branches
and rise with a flutter of wings
like ruffled papers. Flip through

the novel of life,
you'll find the spiders have gone into the humans'
houses for winter -- they'll spin
no webs with fog jewels until the spring.

They don't trust
like the buds. When the weather turns warm
the buds bloom. The buds, wingless, legless,
too sturdy when young for the wind,

obey
the whims of the weather. Are there less
blossoms on earth for that? or for the chop
chop chop of civilization?

But no tulip
fields, no fields of daffodils, roses, daisies,
narcissus, iris, aisles of cherry trees
march, Hosannah! across the land

without
the chop chop chop of civilization.
Glory to the newborn year, peace on earth
and good will to the birds.

Hundreds of thousands
of snow geese must be slaughtered
following the success of our
compassion -- and the deer. The balancing of earth

is an odd occupation.
Perhaps by 3001 we'll have learned
to trust nature -- or be gone in between the lines
in the cream color of nothing, nowhere.

Caw! Caw! Caw!
Perhaps we'll hang out with the birds.
The dinosaurs, it is thought, evoluted wings,
but we make them at Boeing. Nothing gets in our

genes!
Perhaps, O Devayani, we'd do better
to go out each day and pump our arms
in the wind, practice our cawing,

prepare for flight,
take off, learn where the colorless blue
sky becomes darkness. In the meantime,
be grateful for the desk lamp,

the spaces
between the letters, the evanescent
nothingness of thought, show gratitude
for the heater, and the brave

late show
of light coming up on the last day of
a Gregorian calendar year, just before the Greek calends.
You celebrated the Solstice, now celebrate the New Year.


Bring calendulas, chrysanthemums and an open heart.



BESIDE THOSE

1-1-98

Again the empty space between the lines
speaks louder than the words.
Come, be with me, O children of Balthazar.
Bring Balsamea, bring myrrh.

Stand in the pale star light as dawn
crests the new year, the rain
faintly crackling on the leaves,
the wind lifting it to a patter.

O Devayani, who is Balthazar? One of the Magi,
wise men, priests, cultist, come
to worship; merchant to Shakespeare
and, like anti-matter, non-merchant,

a girl in another play.
"The quality of mercey is not strained..."
And it seems there are more modern
usages, Durell, The Quartet.

And beside those? -- this famous quartet of Balthazars,
why did you, O Devayani, choose
that name this morning --
Balthazar. Whose children? Why children?

Again the hunt, the balm, the Balm of Gilead,
Con, a Magus of Ireland,
bring balm, a dozen plants named myrrh,
Sweet Cecily, Sweet After Death

and a resinous exudation, a spiny shrub.
Myrrhy lands. Balthazar! leading
Devayani on a chase through
dictionary, books, words, printed patter,

and beside those marks, the silence, the rain,
the empty grey void, the blank cream colored paper.
Color doesn't count in nothingness.
Does the rain?

The factor of dawn, soaking the feet,
they displace less water then you would have thought.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh, the magi marched
across the desert

led by a star -- perhaps Jupiter, Saturn and Mars,
or a comet, or a nova.
Jupiter! Saturn! and Mars!
What a conjunction of darkness and human dissension.

Shining down on Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace
arriving, mixing metaphors, obscuring intentions
so the world could go on being as it
was.

Jupiter, supreme God of the conquering Romans,
Saturn, God of vegetation, unrestrained revelry, license,
sluggish, gloomy, the reign of the golden age,
and Mars, God of war.

Did they soak their feet, those Magi,
Caspar-Gaspar-Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar-sar
after they crossed the burning
desert?

Or did the nova burst and go away? Did the comet
circle and not return?
Beside those, what signs did we have that anything
would be different

than planned on the six days before rest.
Charm the mind with speculation, O Devayani,
calm the appetite with fear. Beside those,

the page remains empty, a golden void beside a door.



RANKED

01-02-98

O Rumi, has Devayani given that up?
-- to be ranked above or below,
ahead or behind, better or worse?

Give her a percentage. Maybe 92%
But where she falls back into
the 30s is in ranking her own

desires. This one is good, and that
one is bad, this one should be
and that one should not be -- constant

torment of the desires, the nafs,
forever dismissing and beckoning, crying
and laughing, and judging one good,

one bad. But remember, as long ago
as December 11, 1981 -- O Devayani,
remember the dream, the vision,

the hypnogogic vision:
"With great respect and love
I welcome you all with all my heart,"

the Guru's injunction; and you saw

all the nafs -- you didn't know the word then
-- rank upon rank arrowing into your soul,
your heart, equal. All the desires

and emotions, feelings and torments equal
and honored. Isn't it odd, Devayani,
that you know and do not know.

You write words of wisdom, day after day.
You Know. You Trust. You See.
And the next day you are blind again,

trust no one, know nothing. Why is that?
And yet you know the answer.
It takes time to turn the vacillating course,

oscillating desires, the trickle of tributaries
into a main stream, a river, a deep, quiet flow,
a profound knowledge, quietude, a generous part

of the soul. If you must rank
one naf beneath the others, note your
determination to be puzzled,

always insecure, always troubled,
willing, always, to turn to terror, anxiety,
worry, hurt, fear -- the Naf with the biggest

head! -- with its rank upon rank upon ranks of reasons.
Yet, even so, welcome it! with all your heart,
invite it in, give it a drink!

Give it cardamom! Queen of the Spices,
regale it! feast it! stimulate it! stay up all night!
drink great draughts of anxiety!

Sin! O sin, sin, sin, Devayani, sin!
Eat it with a large spoon: puddings
of terror and cakes of fear for yourself

and the world, the neighbor, the cat.
Worry! "With great respect and love, I welcome
you all with all my heart." Later you

may notice that some stay home. Disappear.
Wear themselves out. Don't come to the party.
Never decide to not invite any of the nafs

to your soul's party. Only then can
the flame disappear into the sunlight,
the glass dissolve with cleanliness.

Scour! Open your soul and scour it
with your fear, your despair, rub
each capillary clean. Ping on the shining

glass, so clear you mistake it for shaped
water in your hand. Let it ring! Sing!
When you have a complete matched set

of the negative nafs you can nest them in tissue paper,
put them in a box, rank upon rank without rank

and give them away -- to the wind.



THE PLACE BETWEEN

1-3-98

"Greedy energy," Rumi speaks of;
yes, Devayani knows it. She calls it her work.
And this day, today, and tomorrow and tomorrow,
given choice -- which she has --
she would do nothing else.

Or rather,
it is the main choice, and all else
ranges itself behind "the work".
"The Work" is writing this poem.
The Work is lying in bed late,
doing nothing at all.

The Work is timing her homeward walk
to walk among the birds, the crows,
unafraid, some walking beside her,
others flapping their wings

across the lawn, to drift
away from her and the sun,
forthright and black against the sky,
turning the trees to filligree.
The Work means listening, sympathy with others,

and silence, exuberance and laughter.
The Work is agreeing to be alone,
lonely, indulging in the feelings
welling up within, listening
to them, giving them space, giving them
solitude, giving them attention,

giving them the peace to play out their roles,
one after the other,
a troup of great actors,
thespians abroad making the head

swarm with excitement the fingers jab into
the sunset sky, ready to scream,
"Caw caw caw"
and be calmed by the advance of the night
sky. Becalmed in the midst of the turbulence

of knowing and being alive.
Devayani takes too big a bite,
always, of everything. It's a vice.
May she forgive herself!
And yet...
Who created the impulses

the beauty of the world,
the magic of the rising sun on the naked
branches of the poplars
making Devayani long to put on her

glasses, run for the door,
run out into the street, cheer
for the pink and the gold,
bask, and wave her arms,
lie down and wash,

bathe in the light, drink in the light
and yet be at the computer
eviserating her soul, converting
her longing, her wild wild longing to words,
letting the light pour in and the words pour out?
Discretely.

Discreetly.
No shouting, no laughter, just internal expansion
as if the sun rose in her heart.
Who?

The Work!
Between the lines.
The Gaiety!
of doing what you want to do
in form, in pattern, in design,

in cyberspace.
We've had enough love, we've created,
already, too many humans.
Let the present generation come in cyberspace,
produce visions of the world!
Other worlds. Many worlds.

Celebrate
what was, is,
and what
could be!

Experiment, like Shiva,
with the eighty-eight million billion
forms of being: dinosaurs and platypuses,
cardamom and cadmium
beings and sequoias,

civilizations and the ends of civilisations,
drink it all in,
as Devayani once drank champagne in thin-stemmed
glasses, feet dangling into the Grand Canyon,
the place between one cliff and another.

And let it all go.



SAID

1-4-98

Another way to pronounce it: Said, Port Said.
Where is? was? Port Said?
The Port at the Mediterranean end of the Suez
Canal.

The Canal has been a concept and partly a reality
since the 20th Century B.C.
More than once, it has fallen into disrepair.
been closed,

abandoned. Why is it, Devayani, you can't,
with your complicated mind, take
the simple word "said" and dwell with it,
make a poem?

Rumi has pursued, persecuted? you all along,
right to this eighteenth poem
in a sequence began on the eighteenth of December.
Only once

or twice has Rumi given you a viable word. Mostly it is
silence and blank space.
Meditate on silence, blank space, the interstices
between.

If he gives you "said," why run to the dictionary
to look up Port Said?
You were talking about Macau last night.
Port Said, Macau --

the lurid dreams of your youth took root
when the cities of the world
were isolated and wicked. The romance of the
cities

of sin, the movies of the exotic ports of call,
lie latent in your soul.
You've never been able to imagine what wickedness
is or why.

It still seems a bible-class concept, nothing to do
with life. Macau, in 1988 was still
heavy with colonial concrete. Telephone lines
tangled

and generations old, led from house to house,
cement balconies sagged
from Portugese structures, gardens of tropical
beauty bloomed

round city-grimed buildings, Buddha's birthday
was celebrated with fire.
Great billowing clouds of roiling incense smoke
curled

from the temples, floors deep with wrappings, swathed
Devayani's ankles; thick dust
lay in the home of your friend's brother,
a Baha'i

who played cello in the symphony, ate in restaurants
better and cheaper than one could
cook at home. He had never used
his kitchen.

Beauty bloomed, vines clung among the ruins, and our
laughter filled the midnite streets.
Devayani and the friend walked through the casinos
only when

inclement weather threatened delay of the hydrofoil
back across the open sea
to Hong Kong. Devayani feared she would be
late to pick

up her India visa. "Said." What to say about said?
Devayani has said it, babbled about
the world, rambling round and round. Rumi
has stilled

her imagination this morning and silenced her with
the word "said." Quietly, the computer
hums, dully Devayani's mind rejects her poem.
What has she said?

Devayani, saying little, said too much last night, with
the Baha'is, listening, greeting,
meeting, eating, developing unquiet mind,
babbling,

clapping, laughing, much was said and nothing heard.
More austere than Noah
on his Ark, Devayani likes her humans

one by one.



THEY

1-5-98

O Rumi, be with me, help me write
this poem.
I hear the rain outside, I feel the rain
in my heart,
the sadness, the refreshment.

I feel the wind whistle through my ventricles
as if I were not here.
I feel the ache in my back and my neck,
and the tiredness in my eyes,
and what might be a headache --
longing to go back to sleep.

If I were not here, there would be empty space,
but people attest to my life.
They see me.
They hear me.
They can touch, smell and taste me.

I am not some other where.
I sit comfortable in my bones.
The cat's chin rests in my hand.
The heaviness rests in my flesh,
comfortable, warm
and alive.

Whose definitions are these anyway?
In my mind I am walking around Greenlake
in the howling wind and the whistling rain,
dry though the drops fall.
In my mind I taste the nothingness

of that blue black beyond the stars
and it is good.
But the terror is that as I grow
closer to the stars the stars expand into
novas and super novas,
giant suns, colossal comets,

bursts of cosmic grandeur no different than
a human house afire. One need not travel
the celestial sphere. The fear
I seek is in my heart, which expands
to the size of a black hole,

deep, unexplorable, gravity-sucking,
unseen, merely hypothesized.
If I dare to tiptoe the perimeter,
with the magnitude of a volcanic splash
I will light up the sky
for the millisecond of a light year

and be gone,
molecules to molecules,
cosmic dust to cosmic dust,
one breath to tell my story,

only they to listen.



SPACE AND FOREBODING

1-6-98

If you stand back and give it space,
the foreboding will never come,
or if it comes,
you will know it for the wide space
around it,
for the spaciousness of its setting,
for the graciousness of its request,
which you can refuse.

You need not attend to fear
but, like the friendly domestic cat version
of the lion, you can invite it in,
pet its stomach, realize the thick
white fur doesn't even conceal a flea,
especially after the de-fleaing
medicine, which is your invitation,
your smile, your laying of the table
with hot soup and tasty meat.

The space around fear and foreboding
is decorated by hard sweet persimmons,
by quince and kumquats, lychees
and durian, exotic, but edible --
some say the most delicious in the world
-- like cherimoya. If you eat it
you will be sweetened. At least
for the moment.

A moment of foreboding
can lend spice to the succulence
of Amnita Caesarea, Caesar's favorite
mushroom: red and gaudy yellow,
supported with white kid and a veil.
Eat hearty, do not fear. Nothing is
the other side of fear; nothing
the other side of life

and death. Like persimmons, we ripen and fall.



BEFORE SHE

1-7-98

Rumi, Devayani thinks you are playing with her.
Every day, nothingness, every day, blankness,
every day, the space between, every day
the void, as if the stars had all
contracted back into their spheres,
as if life were to be nothing but silence,
solitude, contemplation
of notes lacking between
intervals of celestial music.

Love is a mystery, you say. To Devayani
speak not even of love. You say "all forms
of love," but Devayani thinks you can't mean
addiction to tormented love, the love she was
taught by movies, in stories,
the love she was urged to call love
-- and did so,
tormented by lost life.
O Rumi, what do you mean by love?

Whisper in Devayani's ear. Is it the crows
rising at dawn in their seven thousands,
flying like flaked soot to Capitol Hill
for breakfast and home at twilight to rest
as silhouettes in the lightly sketched trees?
Is it a look exchanged with a stranger,
acknowledging the wind?
Or was it truly the twisted heart
after trust had been destroyed?

Is it the message to move on when delight
dims, when the soul can live without
audible music, when colors have become
Devayani's eyes, her veins, when the thread
is no longer woven? O Rumi, the Friend prepares
cup after cup of bitter tea, forcing a search
for sweetness in the light blue sky
and the crows, eager for breakfast,
eager for dinner, eager to become

tracery darker than winter branches
against the sky. Devayani sits alone, plucking
her tuneless lute while you assure her that
the Friend is listening. Devayani believes you,
Devayani plays the music she cannot hear, does
the work, her compelled work, lives in warmth
and cold. And, O Rumi, Devayani giggles
in her happiness knowing she is as happy, maybe

happier than the ink black, sky-flying crows.



ABOVE THIS PRESENT, EMPTINESS

1-8-98

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
analyzing 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's
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.



THOUGHT

1-9-98

Thought and the time to do it in
are rare commodites
in the age of the
automobile.

Thought and the time to do it in
are elusive qualities
in the age of
television

Thought and the time to do it in
are strange abberations
in the age of the
propragation

of mass anxiety, misplaced hysteria
induced by speed and the
media: coercions as
potent as

thought-police, as the dropping of hydrogen
bombs, the genocide of nations.
Free speech, in a land
heard

but not acted upon, is annihilation of
thought and the time to do it in.
On the other hand, tragedy,
subsequent

suffering, anguish of mind, of spirit can lead
to consciousness which can, if
we're lucky, lead to
compassion

and a compensatory lack of thought, of reason
-- which drives the world quite mad,
creature against creature,

for all excellent
reasons.



NO WORDS

1-10-98

It did seem, again, yesterday,
that there was no word from spring.
The frost was thick, the air was filled
with an icy chill.
The early rhododendron,
all abloom in its deep pink glory
was frozen, each trumpet frosted
and stiff and, at that early
hour of the morning, radiantly
beautiful in the crystalline
light beginning its
daily rebirth.

O Devayani, you thought of it all day long,
and this morning. But this morning
you are not going to pass its way,
nor tomorrow. Can you contain
your heart, your wonder to know
if the blossoms survive?
For now,
you remember them glazed, glowing
and only imagine their limp,
ice-bitten, defrosted heads.
As you grow older you find
it difficult

to enjoy many resplendent gifts
of this world -- knowing that frosted
flowers today mean withered flowers tomorrow.
Does that make them less beautiful?
They've been there several weeks,
singly blooming:
one, human-high, brave bush,
not far from the curled witch-hazel
permeating the cold air with its
scent. If Rhododendron goes
in a blaze of frost glory,
celebrate its fleeting beauty!

The blooms, after all, have a secret.
Gambling on the weather,
eager to be first in all the Arboretum
to trumpet their survival --
and the spring -- no matter how distant
or what hazards lie between,
they will come again -- early --
next year. No words can urge
or inhibit their impetuosity. If they
feel the warmth, they will come. Bright,
pink rhododendron verging toward purple,
even without blooms, Devayani will greet

you come Monday. She trusts to your
resurrection -- from ice this winter
or dormancy next too-early spring.
Don't learn from experience!
Don't fear the frost
"Those whom the Gods love, die young."
Replace Devayani's admiration with
longing. She knows she will greet again
your many-petalled blossoms
brave enough to trust,
without words,

the time to bloom and the time to die.



OF SPIRITUAL

1-11-98

Think, O Devayani, about the little spaces between the rain drops --
twenty-two billion, trillion, trillion, trillion molecules that jostle
without touching the delicate water. There is more space than
that in the human heart. Think of the endless chain of the
wind molecules, bumping each other, shooing each other
along. There is more enegry in your sneeze than is
seen in a hurricane -- calling upon, as it does
the reflexes of the body, the brain, being
alive. Look everywhere, Devayani, life
is everywhere, you cannot mistake
the beauty of the world in a
drop of water, in a human
tear. There are spaces
between the tears of
a human heart. Make
your heart a bowl

to contain them.



EVERY HUMAN

1-12-98

goes to sleep and wakes
to each day under the canopy
of the sky in the darkness and in
the light. Do the bears that hibernate
sleep each night before the long sleep? Is
it a quantity of sleep we need? Or rest from
the strangeness, beauty and hardship of the day?
If the stars were not there, would we be more alone
than we are now? Did God so limit the world that we were
created only once? Living inside our atmosphere going round
and round, not really aware of the elliptical journey, not aware
of being upsidedown beneath the canopy. There is no up and no down
in space. Why is it that an egg crashes to the ground splashing yellow
and gel? If Devayani asked enough questions, would you answer? Under the
umbrella of rank or rain every human rests, and at one time or another thinks
of the stars and the empty spaces between the galaxies, and decides on a space-walk
alone,
little,
humble,
beneath
terror,
space,
time,
fear,
joy,
and
laughter
like a lamp
held up against

night sky, stars, hope.



CLOUDS

1-13-98

And so, this is number twenty-seven,
the last section of The Essential Rumi and I am at work
at five fifteen in the morning, the snow, fallen in the night, deep
outside, but the branches of the trees already danced bare, warming. Yesterday,
wandering through the wonderland of the world turning white, and my head swimming with
stress, until the walk home through the white night sky and the white path laid
with stars, dancing to no tune what-so-ever, even the crows conceding
to rest their wings while the snow flaked down, down, down,
the world silent, the traffic muffled,


the bus stops crowded as if the flying
saucer flights had come to an end, and where were they
to go in the beauty of the night -- it was to see, to feel my heart
empty of motive, empty of longing, empty of everything but the chill of winter
the softness of the full moon illunimating the purity of the sky making twilight like
noon, my heart fresh again, like dawn, completely covered by snow clouds and
silence, solitude, footsteps gone before, and now filled in, perhaps
pointed to a way I have never been, following in trust,
I am never alone nor comfortless.


and


NO CONSTRAINT

1-14-98

The project is finished, the heart soars.
Are birds really free?
Flying in the sky, aiming toward the sun.
Are they chriping about
bliss or remorse? Leaving the earth, not
being able to reach the sun?
O happy birds, Devayani envies you, your
choices, themselves seen as bliss

Do you want more? Does she want less? One
day soon. She will fly into the sky,
scan earth from aloft by the proximal rays
of the sun, sigh, attain enlightenment,
the weightlessness of the bird, the light
by which to see everything, everyone, you!
Until then: the weighty mountain, the plod-
ding step, within the grace of earth's secret
places made to delight the heart and be succor
for the longing, wonder, the headiness of creation.





Copyright © 2003 through 2015 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: jjhaag@gmail.com






POEMS INSPIRED BY RUMI



The Empty Page, 12/18/97

You, 12/19/97

Then, 12-20-97

Other, 12-21-97

Empty, 12-22-97

Not, 12-23-97

Work, 12-24-97

Little, 12-25-97

Blank Space, 12-26-97

The Nafs, 12-26-97

Poems With Blankness Beyond, 12-27-97

Without Words, 12-28-97

Silence Again, 12-29-97

Howlessness, 12-30-97

Between The Lines, 12-31-97

Beside Those, 1-1-98

Ranked, 1-2-98

The Place Between, 1-3-98

Said, 1-4-98

They, 1-5-98

Space And Foreboding, 1-6-98

Before She, 1-7-98

Above This Present, Emptiness 1-8-98

Thought, 1-9-98

No Words, 1-10-98

Of Spiritual, 1-11-98

Every Human, 1-12-98

Clouds, 1-13-98

and

No Constraint, 1-14-98






OTHER POEMS






BY JAN HAAG


ART & POETRY - ACCUMULATIONS

POETRY + MUSIC + ESSAYS + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART

INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO



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