BY JAN HAAG

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



RYOANJI

02-02-97



O Devayani, you didn't spend much time in Japan.
It was hard to get around with only English.
The Japanese were more formal than the Chinese
from whose land you had come,
where they laughed if you wanted to climb
their stone camels, and gave you mallets
to strike their great gongs.

But a few things, O Devayani, you had heard of.
A few things you needed to see. A moss
garden --
someone took you to a moss garden. You had never
dreamed of such green, such shades, such softness --
velvet elegance in the dappled light
of afternoon, the mysteries of the muffled

heart. Peace. Stillness. The shadows
of music in the light, the paths,
the paths of silence through the dark.
But you, O Devayani, you had heard of Ryoanji
-- most famous garden in the world,
for peace, for silence.

You took a bus, noisy, crowded. It was hard to understand
where you were going. No one seemed to care,
no one spoke your language. On a fairly
ordinary street -- if there is such a thing as an
ordinary street in the exotica of foreign countries --
someone said to get down from the bus,
pointed or nodded, you have forgotten, O Devayani,

what the manners are there. The entrance was pleasant,
on a crowded street,
well proprotioned, a wall, a doorway, and,
perhaps,
nine hundred school children,
all dressed in blue jumpers and white blouses,
blue knickers and white shirts,

well behaved, for the most part,
as Japanese children are, but nine hundred
children whispering, talking, smiling, giggling --
you had come to meditate. Ryoanji is a rock garden:
gravel, rocks, a little moss, a wall,
trees -- cedar, pine and cherry -- beyond.

Hopelessness entered your heart.
You would have to come again
for the silence, for the meditation.
You took off your shoes, you put on the slippers,
you filed with all the hundreds of children
out onto the veranda, the polished corridors of cypress,
the steps -- on which one walked or sat -- gleamingly clean.
You were disturbed by the restlessness of God's newer

creatures, so you didn't walk far. You sat on the top step
near a porch
pillar, glanced at the rocks, the raked gravel,
the bits of moss on the rocks, the rocks so carefully placed,
the gravel so reverently raked, the one group of rocks
and the other. The wall. And there was stillness.
Silence.

O Devayani, your heart went heavy with the deep
breath of meditation. Silence descended on you like a mantle of moss,
weighty, your breath deep, your heart thudding slow,
slower. The rocks so carefully placed --
the lion and her cubs -- the white gravel, the white wall,
embellished only with age.

How long had Ryoanji been there? You must have asked --
but there is no remembrance, just the rocks
and the gravel and the wall
and the very great silence,
the rootedness of deep meditation,
the weight of the rocks and the trees of this earth,
as if their roots grew right down through your heart

stapling you to the earth, as if when you rose --
if you could, O Devayani, with the weight of the rocks, rise
-- dirt
would slip from your folded arms,
the richness of the compost from which we grew
would cling to the tentacles of the strong young roots, intricate as lace,
soft as moss, dangling.





Copyright © 2000 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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




THE DEVAYANI POEMS

Feeding Frenzy

Gifts

India

Lung-gom-pas

Nothing



BY JAN HAAG


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

INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO