A Doing Nothing Poem

by Robert Bly

After walking about all afternoon

Barefoot, in my shack,

I have grown long and transparent . . .

Like the sea slug

Who has lived alone doing nothing

For eighteen thousand years.

From Robert Bly’s Like the New Moon, I Will Live My Life, Fredonia, New York: White Pine Press, 2015. The poem alludes to a Shiki poem, in R. H. Blyth’s translation, which reads “Doing nothing at all, / The sea-slug has lived / For eighteen thousand years.” The poem also echoes Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa, or “Essays in Idleness,” and Bertrand Russell’s praise of idleness.