shaping the clay

we think of the end
product

a coffee mug
that warms our tongues

clay that has been fired
in a kiln, transformed

or do we take it
for granted

a comic book we read
at night before sleep

for dreams of powers
and wild adventures

to recover that
which has been stolen

to put out the fires
that burn the world

when it is the origin story
we truly seek

our beginnings
not the end product

or is that wrong too
is it

not the past
not the future

not was
not will be

through the now
i am

///

This poem was written in response to Wordle 204 at The Sunday Whirl.

th ough t s

they’re rustling again
dry leaves tumbling by

don’t grab them
it’s no blasphemy

to let them go
you don’t need to keep them

or even hold them
open your hands

and let the plague
drift away

back to the monkeys
and their busy minds

smell the sweet air
feel the shifting deck

beneath your feet
rising and falling

earthen waves
in geologic time

here before you were
born whole

and here long after you
no tears

no effort
no will

no thoughts
no you

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 203 at The Sunday Whirl.

When wise students hear of the Tao

41

When wise students hear of the Tao,
they apply themselves diligently.
When average students hear of the Tao,
sometimes they keep it and sometimes lose it.
When foolish students hear of the Tao,
they laugh at it loudly.
If they did not laugh,
it would not be considered the Tao.

Therefore, it is said:
The bright way seems dim.
The path forward seems backward.
The level way seems rough.

True power seems like a valley.
Pure white seems soiled.
Ample power seems insufficient.
Steadfast power seems unsteady.
Real substance seems mutable.

The great square has no corners.
The great vessel is never completed.
The great note is hard to hear.
The great form has no shape.
The Tao is hidden and nameless.

The Tao alone is good at beginning
and good at completing.

These in the past attained wholeness

39

These in the past attained wholeness:

The heavens attained wholeness and became clear.
The Earth attained wholeness and became firm.
The spirit attained wholeness and became strong.
The valley attained wholeness and became full.
The ten thousand things are whole and growing.
Lords and kings attained wholeness
and put right their countries.

Without clarity, the heavens would split apart.
Without firmness, the Earth would quake.
Without strength, the spirit would dissipate.
Without fullness, the valley would dry up.
Without growth, the ten thousand things would die out.
Without leadership, the lords would fall.

Therefore, humility is the root of nobility.
The low is the base of the high.

This is why the lords and kings call themselves
“the orphaned, widowed, and without worth.”

Striving for praise, one is not praised.

Desire not the rarity of jade,
nor the multitude of stone gravel.

/ / /

I forgot to post this yesterday.

A person of true power

38

A person of true power
does not proclaim his power,
and is therefore powerful.
A person of superficial power
tries to claim his power,
and is therefore not powerful.

A person of true power does nothing,
yet leaves nothing undone.
A person of superficial power is always doing,
yet leaves much to be done.
A kind person takes action,
but has no intentions.
A just person takes action,
but has intentions.
A person of propriety takes action,
but others do not respond,
so he rolls up his sleeves
and tries to coerce them.

When the Tao is lost,
there is power.
When power is lost,
there is kindness.
When kindness is lost,
there is justice.
When justice is lost,
there is propriety.

Propriety is the veneer
of faith and loyalty,
and the beginning of disorder.
Knowledge of the future
is just a flower of the Tao,
and the beginning of foolishness.

Therefore, the master dwells in wholeness,
and not on the surface,
dwells on the fruit,
and not the flower.

Reject the one and accept the other.

The Tao abides in not-doing

37

The Tao abides in not-doing,
yet nothing is left undone.
If lords and kings would abide by this,
the ten thousand things would transform by themselves.

If they still desire to act,
I will restrain them using the uncarved block.
Using the uncarved block,
there is no desire.
Without desire, there is tranquility,
and the whole world settles itself.

When you want to contract something

36

When you want to contract something,
you must first let it expand.
When you want to weaken something,
you must first strengthen it.
When you want to tear something down,
you must first raise it up.
When you want to take something,
you must first give.
This is called the subtle light.

The soft and weak
overcome the hard and strong.
Fish cannot live out of water.
The nation’s sharp weapons
should not be displayed.