Spangles

The Tao that can be trodden is not | The random clicks of a geiger
All in the world know | Sun flung spangles, dancing coins
Not to value and employ men | Through very short times of space
The Tao is the emptiness | Between the bones of my temples

Heaven and Earth do not act | Their books do not proceed
The valley spirit dies | The mountain spirit rises up
Heaven is long-enduring and earth | Of newly-minted leptons
The highest excellence | Spun in a synchrotron’s shining turn

It is better to leave a vessel unfilled | Or leave it out in the rain
When the intelligent and animal | Meet, the ands are given back
The thirty spokes unite in the one | For thirty years of protest
Colour’s five hues | Music’s ∞ harmonies

Favour and disgrace would seem equally | Luminous compared to concrete
We look at it, and we do | Nothing we don’t know how to do
The skilful masters in old times | Had cunts that curved space
The vacancy should be brought | To the feet of the blonde-eyed anarchists

In the highest antiquity, did not know | The arguments of men
When the Great Tao | Counting the sounds of an acausal realm
If we could renounce our sageness | Without going bankrupt
When we renounce learning | And watch repeats of a reality show

The grandest forms of active force | Are all derived from hunger
The partial becomes complete | For something even more precious
Abstaining from speech marks him who is | Who truly glarks the light
He who stands on his tip toes | Still can’t reach the bulb

The mathematical symbol in line 12 reads “infinity”.

The left-hand half-lines are the opening words of each of the first 24 chapters of James Legge’s 1891 translation of the Daodejing, selected according to a metrical pattern. The italicised lines on the right are quoted from the following books: Einstein as Myth and Muse, by Alan Friedman and Carol Donley; A Key to Modern British Poetry, by Lawrence Durrell; Ulysses by James Joyce; lemon oil by Jackson.

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