Tao Poems

My Thoughts
on the Tao

by Richard Seymour

Click to see full painting by Richard Seymour


All creation was preceded by Nothing.
"Nothing", therefore, is the substance
From which all things come,
And to which they shall return.

That infinite Nothing gave rise to nature.
Nature's perfect symmetry is instinctive.
Whatever upsets that balance can be said to be wrong.

We are all part of nature.
As such, that instinct is part of us.
To contribute to the balance of all things,
Is to live in harmony with one's self.
To move against the effortless flow,
Is to cause disruption to our surroundings,
And so to us.


White Noise

Do not dismiss white noise,
As it may contain every sound in the universe.


We Write

To write is not to add knowledge.
To write is to dispense with it.



Men may commit monstrous acts,
But they are Not monsters.
They are human
As are we.

What exists within them,
Exists within us too.

This is why they are dismissed as 'evil':
To distance Us from Them.

This must be understood,
Before They are understood.
Punishment alone does not prevent.
Understanding must come first.


The strength of weakness

Be wary of the very strong
And they shall become weak.
Be dismissed as being weak -
And that shall be your strength.
Remember that the oceans place themselves
Below the land;
But all rivers flow into them.
And remember, too,
That water - the most Pliant of all substances -
Has shaped continents.


The One True Voice

I aspire to silence the voices,
That I might hear the One True Voice.
When that One True Voice is silenced,
I shall hear Everything.


The Function of the Dao

The function of a room,
Is in its emptiness.
A room that is cluttered,
Has less space to live.
So it is with the Dao.



Clouds do not drift in the wrong direction,
Nor do snowflakes fall in the wrong place.
A fish can thrash against the current
And make no progress;
Or it can do nothing, and float for miles.
When you let go of the handrail of life,
No wrongs can befall you.
If you open your mind to the Dao,
You can never die.


Precipitation of the Soul

Water evaporates.
It becomes the air.
When it is ready to return,
It rains down upon us.
When we die,
Our souls become the Dao.
When they are ready to return,
We are born again.


Paradox of the Poet

You may point to the stars with your finger;
But you finger is not the stars.
Take love:
The very act of naming love
To give it a name
Is to reduce it in meaning:
"Love is this; but it is not that."
"Love is A, B and C; but it is not X, Y or Z."
A tree really does not exist in the forest,
Because nouns exist nowhere.
Only on a blank sheet of paper can the nature
Of anything be truly accurate.
Language is the finger that points.
Some only see the finger;
Others see what lies beyond.


Our Children

Fate has laid infinite paths,
Free will is our to choose on which to walk.
We do not need to arrive,
For a destination to exist.
Our children are already born,
Whether we conceive,
Or not.


The Limitless Reach

He points his finger to the stars.
The sky ripples.
He remembers his name.
All is still.



One may use a knife to protect oneself,
Or to threaten another.
One may use a pen to write the truth,
Or to publish lies.

Knowledge of the true nature of things is Power.
Power emancipates,
Or it corrupts.


I Am

I am not this.
I am not that.
I Am.


Half Empty or Half Full?

Would an optimist say a glass is half full,
Where a pessimist would say it is half empty?
A glass may be made of anything,
But its function lies in its emptiness.
That emptiness may be filled with whatever we choose.
The pessimist sees future potential;
The optimist sees only what is gone.
While others grow thirsty as they debate this point,
A Taoist drinks the water,
And is refreshed.



There can be no good without evil,
So that, we say, is that.
Does it follow that there
Can be no evil without
No sadness without happiness;
No hate without love;
No dark without light;
No despair without hope;
No wrong without right;
No yin without yang?
Must we forgo positives
To extinguish all negatives?
To do without effort;
To want without attachment.
To live without dying?


Ever Decreasing Circles

I shall write in ever decreasing circles,
Till I have nothing left to say . . .



Culpability spreads through the human race -
Like ink in water.
We are all tarnished by evil deeds.



I am a verb,
Not a noun:
An event,
Not a thing.
As a whirlpool is water,
So I am Tao.



A sailboat moves with the wind,
But May still be steered.
You may flow with Tao,
Yet still make choices.


The Power of the Sage

You can bribe one who is greedy;
Shame one who is guilty;
Flatter one who is vain;
Threaten one who fears;
Steal from one who values possessions;
Tempt one who has desire;
Break one who is unbending.

The sage is none of these things.
This is the source of his strength.