I Ching

Emperor Fu Hsi imagined he saw
the marks of yin and yang
on a tortoise shell
and that is when the trouble began.

Fifty yarrow sticks,
sixty-four hexagrams, and
four thousand, seven hundred,
thirty-three years later
there are still only
four thousand ninety-six
ways to catalogue pain.

There is the pain
of Not Knowing,
and of Knowing,
the pain of Certainty,
and of Uncertainty,
the pain of Doing,
and of Not Doing, and
the pain of Not Not-Doing.

Whole wounded taxonomy--
finite binomial code of
yang and yin--
whole and broken lines
configured in the Book of Change.

Facing south,
a lone table
centered in the room.
Facing north,
the sage approaches, and
solemnly, the I Ching
is taken from its shelf and placed upon
that ominous plane.

He kowtows,
kowtows once more--
three times in clockwise circles
fifty yarrow sticks
are passed through
the smoke of incense as
The Inquiry
is burned into his mind,
emptied of all else.

A single stick,
culled by chance,
is set aside
(passive witness to
what the rest portend),
and then
the ancient arithmetic begins...

Brant Lyon

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