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."

- F -


1228 San Anselmo Avenue

O Devayani, you always felt it would be out of joy
out of singing
out of immense bliss that you would come to know God.

But it is fear,
fear is what drives you into the arms of God.

Fear of men and men's laws,
Fear that they will get you
no matter how

no matter how small, limited
invisible you make yourself,
the laws
of men will get you,

and you fear that God will not be strong enough to interfere,
that though you try to walk along the path
of goodness, compassion and mercy,
you stumble,
and stumble again.
You want to be like other people,
you stumble,
you tremble before your own wishes,
you hurt and strike out,
you mind your own business
and are struck down

by the laws of men,
made for their own reasons,
some good,
some bad.

You tremble deep into the night,
you are afraid,
and the fear drives you into the arms of God,
because you now understand,
in the arms of great fear
there is nowhere else to go,
there is nothing else to do.

All day long you tremble in fear,
all day long you pray to God
and you hear nothing but silence.

The fear is real,
the silence is real.
The fear is as great that
God will play some trick on you,
as the hope that he will
sprinkle you with

a compassion
created in your own image.

For you still want what you want what you want,
and God is silent because you cannot hear.

How great will the fear have to become
before you can hear?
Even now, you do not think you will
live through the night.
You hope you will not live through the night
for once again to wake in the fear of God

is too much.
The heart gives out.
The breath is so shallow it barely
rises the chest above

O Devayani,
you pray only to die in the arms of God tonight
so that you do not have to
rise in fear again

O Devayani,
to die tonight
would be the greatest blessing.

Whether that dying be of the body
or of the contorted soul.

If of the body, good riddance,
how tired I am of being hauled around
in this aching hulk,
this frame that hurts more and more each year,
that I thought you asked me to repair
with the insurance money.

If of the contorted soul, Ah God,
how many years have I been asking
to be taken up, to be used,
how I have tried
to do your will,
how many million times
I have strayed back to the distractions of being human.

What a chaos of contradictions
I am.
One minute asking to be wholly your creature,
the next minute striving for my own
intentions and desires.

O, God I am so weary,
exhausted with fear,
Fear of your trickery
and men's laws.

I don't so much fear
nature, or the hardships of life
as I fear trickery from you
and the other people of this world.

I have been tempted,
and I have been lost,
like so many others.

I pay by living in enormous fear.
Imagine, O Devayani, the fear of others
if you fear so enormously.
O Devayani, you have compassion
for all those who fear.
Can God have the same compassion?
How you doubt.

Here you are, late in life,
come to fear,
to die of fear,
O Devayani,
to die of fear:

Fear of God,
(last line may be missing)


1228 San Anselmo Avenue

O Devayani, you went to the artists' feeding frenzy,
the glorious food of a lifetime,
and there you met a woman who had no fingers,
or almost none,
and no toes,
though you didn't have a chance to look at her feet,
but she was eating.
She was laughing,
she was telling delightful tales
of the people who had almost nothing, but who helped
her drag her husband's
body from the snow
half way up,
or almost to the top,
of Kangchenjunga.

Hypoxia, O Devayani, her husband suffered hypoxia.
The brain swells, the eyes go blind.
They tried desperately to
the third highest mountain in the world.
Her fingers froze,
her toes froze,
and her husband died. There, alone
in the snow with one Sherpa,
she descended
the mountain.
There was no place else to go,
Devayani, but down

Nepali villagers came from Ghunza.
Tibetan villagers from Folay
to help them
come down
and down
and down
from the third highest mountain.

They brought the Sherpa, the body, and this woman
who was to have no fingers and no toes
down to 10,000 feet
then up
in a whirlybird to Kathmandu.

O Devayani, imagine the black nights,
the loss, the sorrow, the brain
swelling now with the
unendurable pain
of living

Eating, to sustain a mutilated body, a soul torn as
if by bear claws, exposed, hurt, damaged.
Eating, and wanting to die.
Eating, and not knowing why
she hadn't stayed in a cave
and let the snow
comfort her

But she vowed, O Devayani, she vowed she would go back
to help the people who had helped her.
Why not? On a mountain so high
and so remote, surely when she wanted to.
she could walk to the cave,
walk into the ice cave
and sleep

O Devanyani, you sat the evening through
in the Bang-Kolb studio with Cherie Bremer-Kamp
and the artists as they nodded in, walked round,
admiring things of truth and things of beauty,
after the feeding frenzy.

You looked into Cherie's eyes.
Her narrow tongue darted, and her lips laughed,
but you looked into her eyes.
They were like pools that had filled long ago
with her own tears.

But she went back
and back
and back
-- a six day's walk up the sheer rocks
where even pack animals couldn't go --
to Ghunza and Folay
and she was going back again
with some artists and teachers and
nurses and her new huband,
an electrical engineer -- people.

She didn't seem to care much who they were or
what they had done as long as they could
"watch one, do one, teach one,"
tooth extraction,
mending of a bone,
building of a building,
singing of a song,
teaching of a child
to read, to write

O Devayani, she was taking chances
on the hearts
of people who wanted to help,
who may have been helped
even though they had
fingers and toes
enjoyed the fabulous food
cooked for the love of the artists
by the restaurateurs
of Sausalito.

Cherie went back
to Ghunza,
to Folay
each year,
and she continued to
climb --
not so high as

But her heart soared
up and
up and
up and

until her mouth could laugh
and her eyes
under their pool of
and her desire was freed --
at least temporarily freed
-- of longing for
the ultimate beauty,
the unimaginable
the ice cave.

Feed, O Cherie, feed.
Take what you like,
with your missing fingers,
and leave the rest.
You can be trusted.
to climb
Everests of the soul.
Everests of the soul.


5319 9th Avenue N.E.


"...record the story you have lived in five sentences."

When I was a child I wanted to live everywhere in the world and write.
When I grew up I lived many places, met many interesting people.
As I grew, I wrote a lot, and as I got older, I learned to write well.
I studied a lot of fascinating subjects and learned many arts.
My life has been rich and full, and I live in despair.

"...telling a cover story is one of the ways we avoid the story we must come to know."

When I was still a child I discovered I was alone.
No one wanted to do what I wanted to do.
I did wild and wonderfully adventurous things by myself.
I lived a life of success, and had great stories to tell.
I told the stories and, day after day, could see no reason to go on.

"...we tell the very same cover tale again..."

I can't remember my childhood.
I can't remember most of my nine lives.
At times I can remember the glory of getting everything I ever wanted.
At times I can remember only never getting anything that I dreamed of.
New (forgettable) things intrigued me daily, and I never find what I really want.

"...ever more ardently, out of fear of being in the unknown..."

Forget childhood, forget adolescence, they were too painful to contemplate.
Only when I decided to enjoy life in spite of being alone, did I develop any energy.
I have lived in-spite-of for at least fifty years.
The world holds many blessings, many treasures, much knowledge that fascinates.
I have tasted most things I wanted to taste; I look forward to death.

"...out of self-pity, self-righteousness, out of despair."

When I was young I wanted to eat.
When I was older I wanted to smoke.
When I grew up I wanted to fulfill movie-induced desires of fame and riches.
I got fame, if not much riches.
I realized I had riches of the spirit, and wished I were dead.

"Refusing to relinquish these misbegotten tales, we find ourselves
choosing a life that has nothing to do with our own."
O, Devayani!

"An authentic story is open-ended."

The sun is already shining at five a.m., making the leaves bright.
Your head is so tight you think you have high blood pressure and may burst one day.
People have began calling, interested in you, interested in your work.
Through the dullness of your just waking brain you perceive how to write your novel.
Won't it be wonderful when you wake in your coffin and have to do nothing at all.

O, Devayani, will you ever stop hiding?

Quotes from Deena Metzger's "Writing for your Life."


1228 San Anselmo Avenue

O Devayani, its hard to tell if its one poem
or two coming through,
or maybe three,
or even four

One is on What's wrong in just being a listener

and the other is

you cannot be silent
you cannot be in silence
because there is no silence within you.

Also, do not, neglect to consider
what great courage and splendid
advances toward good cheer it took
to part with Swapanji
without a "confession."

No heart to heart, no lingering,
either with him or with Khansahib.

"Goodbye" and out the door ending Act II
of six years of passion
and three years of accelerated passion
in the presence of the music.
Now begins Act III, or is this an entre' act?

What a great deal of dignity.

Now what actually is next my dear?
What actually is next.

And four
bursting into tears with Richard as I contemplate
aloud giving up the practice,
giving up being bound to the AACM
and taking on a free lance role to
write more about the music
and less about Swapan or AACM.

Instead of writing these tonight I spent an hour on the phone with Linda, my last night in San Anselmo. Alain has neither come by to bring the tapes of Swapanji's CDs nor to get the mattress.


1228 San Anselmo Avenue

O Devayani, how many opportunities for mistakes does the day offer?
Judge the day by the mistakes you can make.
Judge your knowledge by the errors you can correct.
Judge your practice with love, with concentration.

O Devayani, judge the music by its clarity,
its strength,
its beauty.
Judge the music by its perfection.
Nada Brahma.
The Language of God.
Judge the music by its perfection.

Scream your frustration,
from the mind,
from the fingers,
wail in despair over the lack of clarity,

Learn patience, learn love, learn concentration.
Learn The Language of God.
O, Devayani,

"If from the perfect the perfect is taken,
the perfect remains."



For Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham

O Devayani,
looking, with blankness, into the void,
you've been losing weight lately.
Such unbelievable good luck!
but you live, always, just behind
the edge
of terror.

Reading this morning, The Hours,
watching for twinges of the belly,
small dashes of pain, aches,
unusual feelings,
you hear static.

A continuation of sounds in the night?
Motors running, mouse rustlings?
Surely not static from a stomach.

O my God! static in the stomach?
Like a... O, Devayani
you'd forgotten to turn off
the radio the proper way.

No static in the flat, slimming
Not even hunger.

There's almost a shame in writing,
in calling it poetry.
Ennui rests in your chest,
like white frost on the lawn.
Seattle's winter with sunshine
is so unutterably beautiful
one must walk in the wind, in the park.

Storms at sea beyond sunshine,
driving the crows and the gulls
to flock in the big empty spaces --
but no! O no... a woman
scattering grains, kernels:
the birds flocking, fluttering
and quarreling.

Probably no storm at sea.
Only in your heart, the turmoil
of ennui, of lassitude,

Age. American life slimming down.
Your life slimming down.
What's the point of writing? Park
walking is the goal.

Invisible static from the stars,
from the constellation called God --
static, making you adhere
like paper bits to a comb,

O Devayani,
looking, with blankness, into the void,
you've been losing weight lately.
You'll soon have to dig nails
into the clouds, grab unto
the winter,
the branches.

Reading this morning, The Hours,
watching for twinges of the belly,
you wonder if a gull might have got you,
or crumbs from a lady's charity.
Age? Invisible static from the stars?
Or continuations
of sounds from the night?


1228 San Anselmo Avenue

O, Devayani, the furies rise.
Life is different.
Life is disappointment.
Life is hell.

My heart races.
My face frowns.
My skin crawls with anger and resentment.
The coffee surges through me, shattering my nerves.

I could vomit.
I want to vomit out those aspects of God
which torment me,
which torment me with such fury,
with such anger,
resentment --

the furies of disappointment,

O, Devayani
emotion feeds on your coffee,
emotion feeds on your fat,
Excess food furnishes
long term nourishment for
your shattered nerves,
your disappointment,
your resentment,
your anger,

anger at being used,
anger at being duped,
anger at being led into expectation.

Why don't you let it go?
How is it that you don't want to talk about it
and then trick yourself into talking about it?
And talking about it, feel again the fury,
the anger, the resentment,
the being used,
the hurt of being used,
and discarded,
of allowing yourself to be
used and discarded,

of wanting a world that is
different than it is.

The world is what it is and all your anger and resentment
will not changed the way
the world is.

All your idealism
and wanting it to be otherwise
have no effect on the world.

They have effect only on you --
being duped,

fertile fields for anger and resentment.

I live by the code: If I'm nice to you, you should be nice to me.
But some people in the world do not abide by your code.
You know that.
Don't pretend to be surprised.
All the wishing in the world does not make it so.

You think it means you can't trust people.
You think you want to trust people.
You think you want to think the best of people.
But often you behave like an ostrich.

Oh Devayani, here you are beating yourself up.
The world has hurt you and beat you, and
you must go them one better,
lashing at yourself,
lashing out at what you like to think of as the best
part of yourself, the generous and trusting part.

O Devayani, will that mend the hurt?
Be gentle,
Strike the drum gently.
Caress the drum gently.
Caress the drum gently.



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Introduction to The Devayani Poems

- B -

Beauty, before 1996
Burning, 05-06 before 1996

- C -

Cardamom, 01-01-98

to Cyberspace, 01-14-97


Dear Abby

Doris, 12-20-97

Dour, 12-12-97

Ecstasy, 11-16-97

Frost Mourning, 01-30-00

Empty, 12-22-97

The Empty Page, 12/18/97

Entertainment, 06-29-97

Etruscan Goddess, 1997

Every Human, 01-12-98

Father, 01-14-97

Fed Up, 11-02-97

Feeding Frenzy, 1995?

Gifts, 1989?

In A Judeo-Christian-Islamic World, 05-04-00

India, 1995?

Interstellar Space, 07-05-97

Khajuraho, 06-11-97

Lets Look At The Old Films Of India, 12-18-97

Little, 12-25-97

Lung-gom-pas, 1984?

Micro Paleontology, 04-24-97

The Nafs, 12-26-97

Next, 11-03-97

No Constraint, 1-14-98

Not, 12-23-97

Nothing, 1994?

No Words, 1-10-98

Of Spiritual, 1-11-98

Other, 12-21-97

Palimpsest (Ecstasy), 11-16-97

Palimpsest I (Sphere), 11-17-97

Palimpsest II (Diana), 11-22-97

The Place Between, 1-3-98

Point of View, 7-5-97

Ranked, 1-2-98

The Roaring Silence of God, 4-3-95

Roots, 06-27-97

Ryoanji, 1985?

Said, 01-04-98

Silence, 01-17-98

Solstice, 12-21-97

Steady Drizzle, 04-28-97

Two Tomatoes, 1995-96?

Sun, 00-00-97?

Then, 12-20-97

The Woman Who Had No Necklaces, 10-26-97

Work, 12-24-97

Yesterday, 2-10-98

Copyright © 2002 Jan Haag

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: or





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