Friday, December 8, 2017

Variations on Lao Tzu's The Tao Te Ching by Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles

Verse 8

All that's best is like water.
Free of struggle,
it nourishes
the Ten Thousand Things.
Free of strife,
it flows into places
neglected by multitudes,
thus resembling the Tao.

In living, stay grounded.
In contemplation,
dive deep in the heart.
With others,
be gentle, try kindness.
In words, keep true.
Summon justice
when ruling others.
Honor competence in the daily.
Each action knows
its time and season.

Lessen struggle: weaken grief.


Verse 9

Fill a bowl past its brim
it spills over;

keep whetting a blade,
it turns dull;

keep grasping for money
or security,
your fingers clench.

Desire approval from others,
their prisoner you'll become.

Do your work, step back:
Serenity's way.


Verse 11

Thirty spokes form 'round a wheel's hub.
Its center of nothing makes the wheel useful.

Kneaded clay smoothly folded 'round a space,
it is in that space a pot becomes useful.

Punched out room for a window or door,
where each isn't is where it's most useful.

Put everything, then, to its appropriate use,
knowing, at once, its nothing is useful.


Verse 12

The five colors obscure our vision.
The five notes deafen our hearing.
The five tastes dull our palate.
Coveting and pursuit invite distraction.
Wanting the precious slows our progress.
The wise, therefore,
are for the stomach, not the eye.
Leaving without, keeping within.


Verse 22

Give in and win; make space
and be complete; work to a finish
and be renewed; working small
makes for accomplishment;
at large, working crafts confusion;

so the wise embrace the One,
becoming a model for the many:
not gaudy, they are luminous;
not pushy, they are known;
not boastful, they are valuable;
not belligerent, they endure.

Because the wise do not compete,
there's nobody to defeat them.
When the Elders said, "Bow your heads
and carry on," they weren't being flip.
This is the true and lasting way.


Verse 24

No one can stand long
straining on tip-toes
nor walk afar easily
if hurrying by.

The obvious is overlooked,
the over-wrought ignored,
the arrogant or braggart
will never grow
nor be truly believed.

Avoid all these
as one should avoid
excess food
or tired, mindless actions.
Follow the Way.


Verse 33

Understanding others: intelligence.
Understanding oneself: wisdom.
Subduing others: strength.
Subduing oneself: greatness
Pushing blindly forward takes will,
though keeping grounded guards position.
To embrace life, accepting all, even death,
is to live the truth: enough’s enough.


Verse 43

The softest things
embrace and erode
the hardest things.

The subtle
the dense.

is also power.

Chatterless teaching,
unhurried doing:
the Path of the Masters.


Verse 44

Renown or integrity,
which is nearer?
Integrity or wealth,
which is dearer?
Lightness or heaviness,
which proves a hindrance?
Wanting is exhausting.
Amassing ends in heavy loss.

The grateful avoid disgrace.
Those who know their worth
are not endangered.
Those who live this way endure.


Verse 47

Not venturing out,
one can still know the world.
Not peeping through windows,
one can still see the ways of heaven.
The farther one trudges,
the less one comes to know.

So the wise
stay put, yet know;
aren't into peeping, yet see;
via inaction, still get things done.


Verse 68

A thoughtful leader does not force.
An able fighter keeps his temper.
A great competitor does not compete.
A wise leader is also meek.
This is the power of non-competing.
This is the ablest use of strategy.
To follow Nature’s lead
is always the surest way.


Verse 70

Though simple to comprehend
and easy to imitate,
few under the heavens
follow my words and example.

Words, though, carry an ancient lineage;
doings, too, their very long practice.
When both remain unknown,
I remain a mystery.

Yet in mystery,
known to few,
abused by many,
true worth increases.

Thus the wise go about in jade,
though dressed in common clothing.


Verse 71

Discerning ignorance is strength.
Passing up wisdom is disease.

To be sick of disease
is to posses vitality.
Thus the wise remain robust
because they call disease disease.

About the translator

Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles is a teacher, poet, translator and literary critic who lives and works in Miami, Florida. He received his B.A. in English from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his MFA in Creative Writing/Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. He is the author of one collection of poems, Everything, Nothing (2014), and has published poems, reviews and translations in Ragazine, The Cimarron Review, Danse Macabre, TheThePoetry, Big Bridge, Osiris Poetry Review, Ashville Poetry Review, El Colloquio De Los Perros and La Galla Ciencia.


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