of exhortation based on an ancient Sufi form.

(in alphabetical order)

I began writing the Devayani Poems in about 1988, while living in a Korean Zen Center in Los Angeles.
Devayani is the spirtual name given to me by my Guru in 1980. It means: "Leads to God."

- B -


Before 1996

The cold! O it is cold, Devayani.
The air is the temperature of Maharaja's silk
and all his wealth, wealth enough
to bring the snow from the mountains.

Beauty is as seductive as the free flow
of bright crimson blood.

The crimson and silk of ice
is the temperature of the rich man's soul.
O Devayani, the Maharajas are gone
but the rich man's heart infests each breast.

O, it is cold, Devayani,

it is cold.



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.



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

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

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.



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,

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

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,

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

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

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.


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 tread again,
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
sick of puri*, vomiting,
being cared for by one kind man,
and a pot of black tea.
O endless pot of black tea!
In Bijapur—no one knew you where there—
you thought you might die. In Bijapur, you thought you might die
with almost everyone you knew half a world away.
You ate 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 ear.

Everything your guts contained spilled out in
Bijapur and 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 for you.
You drank the black tea
and vowed if you recovered
that one day you would return to Bijapur,
its dust and its dome.
You recovered,
but you did not return to Bijapur's dust.

O Devayani, you owe your life to Bijapur,
but you visit it only in dreams,
in visions of the wide dusty streets and the narrow,
in illusions of half heard music in the singing dome of Bijapur,
in the 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.
They study.
You, too, O Devayani could go there
to study. You could return and study.
O Devayani you could study the significance
of life found in a pot of black tea.

You have 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 cities
on the other side of the world, with the others
who were not in Bijapur.
There were no others in Biajpur when your guts
spilled 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,
her head 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.


Guggenheim Museum


You saw it first on TV, you didn't catch the country,
but saw the gigantic prow, the stack of
cylindrical forms, the reflections
and the light.

It must have been the opening, or the pre-opening
promo, you didn't listen very closely,
but it did seem to resemble it's older
cousin, Guggenheim, where you,
O Devayani,

have walked round and round going down on a ramp,
going down past the art in the quiet well.
But this was more than that: the shimmer,
the glow. The sound bite

Where is Bilbao?
The Basques? O, Devayni,
it's Spain, not Basqueland.
There was trouble there some years ago.
The Basque regional government, Autonomous Basque Community,

Basque Country --
they call themselves various things --
want cultural prestige, and are willing to gamble
a 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 computer,
and a formidable conceptual enterprise -- of
boats and blossoms, of sheer sided walls,
undulating curves,

crowns and prows, sleekness and sheerness,
shapes of reactors and rotundas, shapes of
hulls and umbrellas, shapes of precise
corners and pinched curves, bellying walls,

and multileveled -- manifests. It sits on the Nervion River
being no color, every color,
like a hummingbird -- irridescent --
for its patterned skin is titanium:
colorless rectangles of

silver, 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

numinous thought
rearing dreams on the river, heaving dreams
up from industrial dirt,
O Devayani,
turning geometry into light.

And you've only seen pictures --
of Museo Guggenheim Bilbao,
Bilbao, Spain, built by the Basques,
Guggenheim, Gehrey, et al --

...the geometry is the light...

Photograph, Copyright © Architectual Record, October, 1997


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
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.


04-24 before 1996 (1228 San Anselmo)

O Devayani, you have always wanted to find the link
between God's world and the human world.
a bridge that links the
petty plight of our problems
to the grandeur of god's

You look around in the early light,
you peer beyond the darkness of twilight
into the shadow and the stillness,
into the brilliance of the wind tossed
sunshine on the afternoon trees,

you squint into the invisible air,
you ravish your soul,
at each hour, each day,
looking for the bridge to pass
over from the mundane into the invisble
where God's love
lends meaning to the
continual ache
the coping
of living,

You hunt to see where joy
must surely bubble up
beside the sturdy cassions.

You look for the bridge
and all you find is the
mud-sucking swamp of perpetual despair,

the petty,
the demented
the silence
in empty houses,

the wail at the heart of all music,
the putrid in the scent
of the cloyingly sweet jasmine.

All is too ripe,
all has grown rank
hiding the bridge
from God's intention
to human despair.


05-06 before 1996 (1228 San Anselmo)

O Devayani, the fist clenches your heart again tonight,
shortness of breath, no power to breath,
the sadness of mourning,
the sorrow of even
trying to remember.

You sit with the greatest drummer in the world,
you experience the rhythm,
but you can't focus your mind upon the bols.

Your mind, follows your eyes as they
shift around the room,
trying to find meaning in the wisp of a curl,
in the fold of the sleeves of a sweat shirt,
in a winding of incense smoke,
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 penises,
to the syringa you smelt last night in Tiburon,
to the scar on Katy's cheek,
your eyes light on the buds of the gardenia,
growing just fine in the sunless room

where the bols of brilliance are taught,
where the rhythms of the universe are capture,
taught and practice,
analyzed, simplified,
so even you, O Devayani, can begin to understand
the wonderous rocking of the pulsations
of quasars,

the rhythms that well
up from a mystical
rocking of
rhythmic understanding
so deep
it must be based in Shiva's
re-creation of the universe after distruction.

Your eyes shift around the room,
in search of meaning, in the flashing of eyes,
the momentary sound of rain,
of wind tossing the orange tree,
but Nancy laughs, O Devayani,
perfectly convinced there is no meaning.

"Why should there be meaning?" she hoots
withlaughter and delight.

And yet the clutch at your heart tells you
that karma is burning,
the very passion of your despair,
says you should be moving on.

Again you're being booted out of your life,
—with money—almost he same amount
as at the departure from AFI,
phone bills,

the same unulterable despair,
the chaos,
the not understanding what has happened.

The welling up of tears,
as the decade of your mother's death approaches,
the imminent death of your father.

O Orphan child,
O Devayani,
at sixty-two more devastated by chaos,
you see
as if it were the tail of a comet
the results of your strides across the earth,
the comet's tail whips up
whereever you pass
great good fortune,
and marvelous
happenings in your wake,
as if your presence brought
bounty and good will,

And none of it for you.
As if
where you pass other people lead the lives you long for.
You pass with ashes in your hand,
dryness in your mouth,
no breath to breathe
even in the wind.

O Orpahn child,
O Devayani,
You see the comet's swirling tail of good cheer,
and you smile.
It makes you glad that where you walk
bright blossoms spring up,
and yet
it's as if you fly along in the invisibility
of the slip stream.

Nothing follows you,
nothing more palpable than a con-trail.
For all the gifts that God gives out in your wake—
none of them are for you.

You walk with empty hands.
What could you possibly want to fill them with?

Where is the meaning in a fluttering of the eyes,
in a smile,
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 wonder,
to ruminate on chaos,
on nothingness,
on bewilderment and

O Devayani, do you smell the burning
of your karma,
feel the nails
that crucify
you, float you beyond despair.

A drummers
are thick with the beating on the resounding

Karma burns, O Devayani,
you will not breathe
through the night,
you will not live
in this chaos


Cardamom, 01-01-98


Introduction to The Devayani Poems

- A -

Above This Present, Emptiness, 01-08-98
Aviary, before 12-25-97


Beauty, before 1996

Before She, 01-07-98

Before She, 01-07-98 (Rumi Collection)

Beside Those, 01-01-98

Beside Those, 01-01-98 (Rumi Collection)

Between The Lines, 12-31-97

Between The Lines, 12-31-97 (Rumi Collection)

Bijapur, 02-02 before 1996

Bilbao, 11-30-97

Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, 11-30-97

Bilbao, 11-30-97 (21st Century Art Collection)

Blank Space, 12-26-97

Blank Space, 12-26-97 (Rumi Collection)

Bridge, 04-24 before 1996

Burning, 05-06 before 1996


Cardamom, 01-01-98

Copyright © 2002 Jan Haag

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: or





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