righteousness

XVIII

When the quiet compassion
Of the way is abandoned,
Overt righteousness arises,
Hypocrisy close behind.

People only speak brotherly love
In the midst of family strife.
People only speak patriotism,
When the land is in chaos.

trusting

XVII

The worst leader is despised,
The next-worst, feared.
Better leaders, loved.
The best, hardly noticed.

Prizing words,
They use them sparingly.
Trusting the people,
Their trust is merited.

Accomplishments quietly earned,
So the people may claim them
As their own.

beginning

All of fourteen, narrow as pipe cleaner, that first taste. The cousin getting married thrusts a bottle of old speckled my way. Tentatively, rim to lip, a sip. This is interesting. I drink. Still interesting. Another. yes – this merits further investigation. A band begins, and enlivened Jehovah’s Witnesses take the floor, leaving semi-consumed glasses of red at their tables. Careless, but it’s essential raw material. Science ensues. The beginning.

the constant

XVI

The systems of the world,
Observed, origins pondered.
All returns to the source –
The constant – tranquility.
The constant known – wisdom.
The constant ignored – ill deeds.

Know the constant, know acceptance.
Know acceptance, know impartiality.
Know impartiality, fear nothing,
Treading the path.

ice water

XV

Courteous like a house guest,
Whole as uncarved wood,
Open as a valley.
Careful, alert,
Fluid like running ice-water.

Murky – the disturbed puddle,
Remaining still, settling.
The water clears all by itself.
Still, until the right action, happens
With no thought.

The old sages:
Profound, wise beyond understanding,
They knew subtlety and discernment,
Not seeking fulfilment.
What is full is not useful.
Being empty, they felt complete.

no origin

XIV

Look and it can’t be seen,
Listen and it can’t be heard,
Grasp and it can’t be caught.

Its peak is not bright (unending)
Its depths are not dark (unnamed)
It returns to nothing.

Approach and find no origin,
Follow and find no end.

To know it,
To follow it,
Is the beginning of wisdom.