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By John Brehm

Do nothing and everything will be done,   

that’s what Mr. Lao Tzu said, who walked   

around talking 2,500 years ago and   


now his books practically grow on trees   

they’re so popular and if he were   

alive today beautiful women would


rush up to him like waves lapping   

at the shores of his wisdom.   

That’s the way it is, I guess: humbling.


But if I could just unclench my fists,   

empty out my eyes, turn my mind into   

a prayer flag for the wind to play with,


we could be brothers, him the older one   

who’s seen and not done it all and me   

still unlearning, both of us slung low


in our hammocks, our hats tipped   

forwards, hands folded neatly,   

like bamboo huts, above our hearts.


Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2001)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

John Brehm
John Brehm was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and educated at the University of Nebraska and Cornell University. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Oregon Literary Arts and Mountain Writers Series in Portland, and at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado.  

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