don’t die

geoff mcfetridge


After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what’s
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry, to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say: Don’t die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn’t there still
something singing? The truth is: I don’t know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don’t die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe,
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.


24th Poet Laureate of the United States


strong within, gentle without

shaun tan


True joy is

experienced by those who

are strong within and

gentle without.


The hexagram Tui teaches us how to come into possession of joy. In our search for success and happiness we are prone to think that we must take aggressive actions to achieve them. The instruction of the I Ching is just the opposite: only those who practice innocence, acceptance, and detachment inherit true joy in this world.

We often see around us how forcible effort brings about what appears to be progress. Our egos tempt us to believe that these gains are lasting and valuable, but the truth is otherwise. Whatever is won by the desirous, ambitious, demanding manipulations of the ego will soon be lost. Others can always be temporarily browbeaten into doing things our way, but only hearts won by friendliness and sincere goodwill are true over time.

The I Ching teaches us again and again that joy and success cannot be forced or stolen. They are achieved gradually—but steadily—by those who relate correctly to others and to the Higher Power. To relate correctly means to steadfastly practice innocence, detachment, acceptance, modesty, and gentleness. Life is full of shortcuts, but this is the only route that leads to true joy.

The image of the hexagram is that of two lakes joined together to keep from drying up. It is an encouragement to us to join with like-minded friends now in the discussion and contemplation of higher things. If we engage in an ongoing conversation about proper principles with our friends, our relationship to truth is steady and our ego cannot seduce us into the doubt, fear, and anxiety that lead away from joy.

In your heart, be firm in holding to what is good and honest and correct. In your thoughts and actions, be gentle and accepting. Those who persevere on this path will meet with true joy and lasting success.


from The I Ching, or Book of Changes

Hexagram 58, Tui / The Joyous


One who dabbles in inferior emotions,
attitudes, and actions will be undone by them.
Let these things go and return to
innocence and truth.

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fame and fortune are shallow and injurious

orion above easter island


People yearn 

for fame and fortune, 

but this is like aching to taste the

point of a weapon. These are shallow, 

confusing, empty of virtue — yet 

people become fixed on them 

and lose their way 



Look closely 

at things that shine 

without substance. Fame 

enflames one’s idea of self and 

separates one from humanity. Touched 

by it, people grasp desperately to 

get and keep it. What is the 

wisdom, though, 

in resisting 




is a lover similarly 

impossible to satisfy. 

Constantly demanding energy 

and attention, fencing off people’s 

hearts, it returns less and less to 

the soul. Yet common people 

contort themselves 

into cripples 





the injury 

built into these, 

and let them 

go by.


Wei wu Wei Ching, Chapter 32

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great skill looks clumsy



The greatest

perfection seems imperfect, 

yet its usefulness is endless. The greatest

fullness seems empty, yet its usefulness is inexhaustible. 

Great straightness seems flexible. Great skill looks clumsy. 

Great eloquence sounds awkward. Movement triumphs 

over cold. Stillness triumphs over heat. 

Clarity and tranquility set

the whole world

in order. 


from The Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu,

Chapter 45



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your heart clear as crystal

connie gifford


The speech of the birds

and the voices of the insects are all

the secret of transmitting mind; the brilliance

of the flowers and colors of the grasses

are all writings on seeing

the Way.


To learn, it is necessary

to have your higher potential clarified

thoroughly and your heart clear as crystal.

Then you will find understanding

of mind whatever you



Huanchu Daoren