BY JAN HAAG

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

INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO





(12-18-97)

LET'S LOOK AT THE OLD FILMS OF INDIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Copyright © 2000 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: jhaag@u.washington.edu


OTHER POEMS

Bilbao

The Cattle Have Diamond Bones

Feeding Frenzy

From The Jocasta Poems #15, Blindness

George Coluzzi

India

I Am Innuit

Tibetan Chronicle

The Woman Who Had No Necklaces




BY JAN HAAG


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

INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO



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