BY JAN HAAG
+ TRAVEL +
of exhortation based on an ancient Sufi form.
(in alphabetical order)
- B -
The cold! O it is cold, Devayani.
The air is the temperature of
and all his wealth, wealth enough
to bring the
snow from the mountains.
Beauty is as seductive as the free
of bright crimson blood.
The crimson and silk of ice
the temperature of the rich man's soul.
O Devayani, the Maharajas are
but the rich man's heart infests each breast.
O, it is
it is cold.
Rumi, Devayani thinks you are playing with
Every day, nothingness, every day, blankness,
every day, the
space between, every day
the void, as if the stars had
contracted back into their spheres,
as if life were to be
nothing but silence,
of notes lacking
intervals of celestial music.
Love is a mystery, you
say. To Devayani
speak not even of love. You say "all forms
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.
Rumi, what do you mean by love?
Whisper in Devayani's ear. Is it
rising at dawn in their seven thousands,
flaked soot to Capitol Hill
for breakfast and home at twilight to
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
audible music, when colors have become
Devayani's eyes, her
veins, when the thread
is no longer woven? O Rumi, the Friend
cup after cup of bitter tea, forcing a search
in the light blue sky
and the crows, eager for breakfast,
dinner, eager to become
tracery darker than winter
against the sky. Devayani sits alone, plucking
lute while you assure her that
the Friend is listening. Devayani
Devayani plays the music she cannot hear, does
work her compelled work, lives in warmth
and cold. And, O Rumi,
in her happiness knowing she is as happy, maybe
happier than the ink black, sky-flying crows.
Again the empty space between the lines
speaks louder than the
Come, be with me, O children of Balthazar.
Stand in the pale star light as dawn
new year, the rain
faintly crackling on the leaves,
lifting it to a patter.
O Devayani, who is Balthazar? One of the
wise men, priests, cultist, come
to worship; merchant to
and, like anti-matter, non-merchant,
a girl in
"The quality of mercey is not strained..."
seems there are more modern
usages, Durell, The Quartet.
beside those? -- this famous quartet of Balthazars,
why did you, O
that name this morning --
children? Why children?
Again the hunt, the balm, the Balm of
Con, a Magus of Ireland,
bring balm, a dozen plants named
Sweet Cecily, Sweet After Death
and a resinous
exudation, a spiny shrub.
Myrrhy lands. Balthazar! leading
on a chase through
dictionary, books, words, printed
and beside those marks, the silence, the rain,
empty grey void, the blank cream colored paper.
Color doesn't count in
Does the rain?
The factor of dawn, soaking the
they displace less water then you would have thought.
frankincense and myrrh, the magi marched
across the desert
by a star -- perhaps Jupiter, Saturn and Mars,
or a comet, or a
Jupiter! Saturn! and Mars!
What a conjunction of darkness and
Shining down on Bethlehem, the Prince of
arriving, mixing metaphors, obscuring intentions
so the world
could go on being as it
Jupiter, supreme God of the
Saturn, God of vegetation, unrestrained revelry,
sluggish, gloomy, the reign of the golden age,
God of war.
Did they soak their feet, those Magi,
Caspar-Gaspar-Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar-sar
crossed the burning
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.
BETWEEN THE LINES
there is space, and within the space
there is a cream colored
above the black pitter-pattering
of the print.
now and the end of the year
is a matter of calcuable
Calculate. Make plans. Ruminate.
think. Turn the hours into fragments
of doing, doing this
that, scratching and eating, typing
Some of those things take care of themselves.
you did nothing, nothing at all?
The dawn would still come,
blood would still course,
birds would be heard sooner or later
for the end of the year, it is
warm -- fooling the
coaxing them out of their buds, singing
of warmth and
of spring, when there is surely
more winter's ice to come. Who
the weather? Why no one, no one at
all controls the
nor your scratching or eating or typing,
What a surprise the stroke of midnight
be, even if you're
asleep. Two years before the
Whose calendar? Theirs. They
even manage to quarrel
about their own
calendar. Some say the millinneum
2001. There is no such year as
zero. So, two years from
there'll be a whole year of
zero. Nothing at
between the lines. Breath in the void,
blue in the sky, sap
trees' veins, thoughts in your mind,
ginger in the
tea, a billion billion molecules
on the tip of your
swallow and the tongue's tip is at
the tip of your
or in China. Best wishes from Devayani to China
or Ladakh. They give up
their calendar for the new year.
more each decade
everyone's time on earth grows to be more the
time. Devayani thinks Shiva likes variety.
sameness of time
and the sameness
of civilization reaches
critical mass -- well, you don't
hear dinosaurs weeping in the
Caw! Caw! Caw!
my cries, harsh and pungent
fly out to
echo the birds -- a strange
white haired lady, O Devayani,
along crying at the birds, crying,
with the birds
exuberant, exaltant, sitting in the tops
trees, on the thread-thin, twiggy
reflected in the
winter water, flying like bits of
flotsam in the sky --
10,000 crows litter
10,000 crows find suitable winter
and rise with a flutter of wings
like ruffled papers.
the novel of life,
you'll find the spiders have
gone into the humans'
houses for winter -- they'll spin
with fog jewels until the spring.
They don't trust
buds. When the weather turns warm
the buds bloom. The buds, wingless,
too sturdy when young for the wind,
of the weather. Are there less
blossoms on earth for that? or for the
chop chop of civilization?
But no tulip
fields of daffodils, roses, daisies,
narcissus, iris, aisles of
march, Hosannah! across the land
chop chop chop of civilization.
Glory to the newborn year, peace on
and good will to the birds.
Hundreds of thousands
snow geese must be slaughtered
following the success of our
compassion -- and the deer. The balancing of earth
is an odd
Perhaps by 3001 we'll have learned
to trust nature --
or be gone in between the lines
in the cream color of nothing,
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
Perhaps, O Devayani, we'd
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,
grateful for the desk lamp,
between the letters,
nothingness of thought, show gratitude
heater, and the brave
of light coming up on the last
a Gregorian calendar year, just before the Greek
You celebrated the Solstice, now celebrate the New Year.
Bring calendulas, chrysanthemums and an open heart.
02-02 before 1996 (155 San Anselmo)
O Devayani, not again will you walk in the dust of Bijapur
nor see its
domes, nor its library.
O Devayani, not only the dust will you not
nor the broad lanes or the narrow,
nor sit in the
garden with your back against
carved pillars studying—
O how many
study in Bijapur!—
but you will not be in the guest house
being cared for by one kind man,
and a pot of
O endless pot of black tea!
In Bijapur—no one knew you
you thought you might die. In Bijapur, you thought you
with almost everyone you knew half a world away.
curd and small bananas and drank the black tea.
You did not die in
Bijapur the puri* where the Taj Mahal's dome
was tried out—bigger,
broader, plainer. Inside the Bijapur dome
music resounded. A whisper
could circled the girth of the dome,
from ear to distant
Everything your guts contained spilled out in
you thought, in its dust and near its plain
dome, you would not be
unhappy to die in Bijapur.
O Devayani, the world's puris are too much
You drank the black tea
and vowed if you recovered
one day you would return to Bijapur,
its dust and its dome.
but you did not return to Bijapur's dust.
Devayani, you owe your life to Bijapur,
but you visit it only in
in visions of the wide dusty streets and the narrow,
illusions of half heard music in the singing dome of Bijapur,
remembered glimpse of a cow in the shade of an alley,
in the slow
purusal of the image of the students
leaning against the magical
pillars of Bijapur.
You, too, O Devayani could go there
to study. You could return and study.
O Devayani you could study
of life found in a pot of black tea.
never eaten puri again. You took no vow,
but you have not eaten puri.
It has not made you sick.
Your sickness now is with other puri, the
on the other side of the world, with the others
who were not
There were no others in Biajpur when your guts
out in prepared spaces. Only strangers.
You were content, O
Devayani, to die among
strangers in Bijapur.
O Devayani, the
heart cries out for the dust of Bijapur,
for the long bus ride past
fields, past the fields of the desert
where one woman walked, a jug on
her shoulder, her hand
held wide against its base,
covered by a sari against the heat,
the desolation on the road that
led to Bijapur.
Her sari of intricate pattern and fabric, her feet
bare on the path
between fields, she walked into the distance
as you rode, long ago, toward Bijapur.
You saw it first on TV, you didn't catch the country,
but saw the
gigantic prow, the stack of
cylindrical forms, the reflections
It must have been the opening, or the
promo, you didn't listen very closely,
but it did seem
to resemble it's older
cousin, Guggenheim, where you,
have walked round and round going down on a
going down past the art in the quiet well.
But this was more
than that: the shimmer,
the glow. The sound
Where is Bilbao?
The Basques? O,
it's Spain, not Basqueland.
There was trouble there some
The Basque regional government, Autonomous Basque
Basque Country --
they call themselves various
want cultural prestige, and are willing to gamble
hundred million dollars, theirs and others,
to get it. You study the
story in the Architectural Record:
The Basques persuade Guggenheim and Gehry,
who engages CAITA the
and a formidable conceptual enterprise -- of
and blossoms, of sheer sided walls,
crowns and prows, sleekness and sheerness,
shapes of reactors and
rotundas, shapes of
hulls and umbrellas, shapes of precise
and pinched curves, bellying walls,
multileveled -- manifests. It sits on the Nervion River
color, every color,
like a hummingbird -- irridescent --
patterned skin is titanium:
colorless rectangles of
gold, blue, brown, the color of sunlight and night,
the color of the
water and the sky,
the color of buildings near by,
the color of
convex and concave, the color of repetition,
of coherence and
rearing dreams on the river, heaving dreams
up from industrial dirt,
turning geometry into
And you've only seen pictures --
Bilbao, Spain, built by the Basques,
Guggenheim, Gehrey, et al --
...the geometry is the light...
Photograph, Copyright © Architectual Record, October, 1997
O Rumi, Devayani is afraid to address it,
the question of
Is that why you have given her blank space?
Space enough to
gluttony and greed,
things we pass over
in the night
and in the day.
At last, she finds she is not living from
from anxiety, from dreading the axe of God,
of man. Yet you
more. She eats less, she still eats too
(as an American) an un-American
lack of goods
and yet she must always eat to satiety. Why?
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
Devayani sobs, "it always wins."
For many months past,
however, she has forgotten about
the eating. Just eat. And she eats
grows healthier -- mostly from walking --
slimmer in the
hips, more awake, more aware.
But you tell her the work
be conscious. To use consciousness
to fight gluttony, Devayani knows
she would be doomed.
Leave her alone, leave her the blank page,
her back away from bad habits,
let her forget them,
let them die of attrition, inattention.
Devayani, in the comfort of her warm bed,
eat what she pleases. It
diminishing, don't ask her to raise
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.
04-24 before 1996 (1228 San Anselmo)
O Devayani, you have always wanted to find the link
world and the human world.
a bridge that links the
petty plight of
to the grandeur of god's
You look around
in the early light,
you peer beyond the darkness of twilight
the shadow and the stillness,
into the brilliance of the wind
sunshine on the afternoon trees,
you squint into the
you ravish your soul,
at each hour, each
looking for the bridge to pass
over from the mundane into the
where God's love
lends meaning to the
You hunt to see where joy
must surely bubble up
beside the sturdy cassions.
for the bridge
and all you find is the
mud-sucking swamp of
in empty houses,
the wail at the heart
of all music,
the putrid in the scent
of the cloyingly sweet
All is too ripe,
all has grown rank
from God's intention
to human despair.
05-06 before 1996 (1228 San Anselmo)
O Devayani, the fist clenches your heart again tonight,
breath, no power to breath,
the sadness of mourning,
the sorrow of
trying to remember.
You sit with the greatest drummer in
you experience the rhythm,
but you can't focus your mind
upon the bols.
Your mind, follows your eyes as they
around the room,
trying to find meaning in the wisp of a curl,
the fold of the sleeves of a sweat shirt,
in a winding of incense
before the painted image of
in thoughts about
the palpitations of your heart,
in a dimple,
in the flash of white
teeth against the darkness of Hindu skin,
your mind drifts to
to the syringa you smelt last night in
to the scar on Katy's cheek,
your eyes light on the buds
of the gardenia,
growing just fine in the sunless room
the bols of brilliance are taught,
where the rhythms of the universe
taught and practice,
you, O Devayani, can begin to understand
the wonderous rocking of the
the rhythms that well
up from a
be based in Shiva's
re-creation of the universe after
Your eyes shift around the room,
in search of
meaning, in the flashing of eyes,
the momentary sound of rain,
wind tossing the orange tree,
but Nancy laughs, O
perfectly convinced there is no meaning.
there be meaning?" she hoots
withlaughter and delight.
yet the clutch at your heart tells you
that karma is burning,
very passion of your despair,
says you should be moving
Again you're being booted out of your life,
money—almost he same amount
as at the departure from AFI,
the same unulterable despair,
understanding what has happened.
The welling up of tears,
the decade of your mother's death approaches,
the imminent death of
O Orphan child,
at sixty-two more
devastated by chaos,
as if it
were the tail of a comet
the results of your strides across the
the comet's tail whips up
whereever you pass
great good fortune,
happenings in your
as if your presence brought
bounty and good will,
none of it for you.
where you pass other people lead the
lives you long for.
You pass with ashes in your hand,
no breath to breathe
even in the wind.
You see the comet's swirling tail of good
and you smile.
It makes you glad that where you
bright blossoms spring up,
it's as if you fly along
in the invisibility
of the slip stream.
nothing more palpable than a con-trail.
For all the gifts that
God gives out in your wake—
none of them are for you.
with empty hands.
What could you possibly want to fill them
Where is the meaning in a fluttering of the eyes,
in the thunder of the drums
whose rhythms are too complex to
pay attention to,
to figure out.
I can only respond in my
with my heart,
not with my mind,
I am not
here to practice,
but to do, to hear,
to ruminate on
on bewilderment and
Devayani, do you smell the burning
of your karma,
you, float you beyond despair.
are thick with the beating on the resounding
Karma burns, O Devayani,
you will not
through the night,
you will not live
in this chaos
- A -
Above This Present,
Aviary, before 12-25-97
Beauty, before 1996
Before She, 01-07-98
01-07-98 (Rumi Collection)
Beside Those, 01-01-98
01-01-98 (Rumi Collection)
Between The Lines,
Between The Lines,
12-31-97 (Rumi Collection)
Bijapur, 02-02 before 1996
Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, 11-30-97
Bilbao, 11-30-97 (21st
Century Art Collection)
Blank Space, 12-26-97
Blank Space, 12-26-97
Bridge, 04-24 before 1996
Burning, 05-06 before 1996
Copyright © 2002 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: email@example.com or
BY JAN HAAG