Sea Glass Norito

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Sea Glass Norito

-- the final poem in the Feast of Memory series, offered before a yama-sesshin (mountain retreat, literally "touching the heart-mind in the mountains") 

 

Armament-to-Firmament

Like the samurai of old,

who were asked to leave their swords outside the teahouse

but who sometimes snuck a small blade in their sleeve just in case,

when I've hunched over paper to write poetry in the past

I have always bowed low at the door

but entered halfway-armed nonetheless...

 

...until now.

 

Now, there is nothing left to protect.

No defensible ground.

No formulation. 

No strategy.

No armor.

No thoughts of gain or loss.

No impulse toward joining-up.

No encapsulated heart.

 

How is one expected to function

in the wide, wild, spinning world

when one's own soul has been spread across the cosmos

like shards of sparkling broken glass left over from a lover's quarrel?

 

An aching voice at midnight whispers:

"It involves the search for a cosmic medicine."


No Saving Face

As if trying to find my way through a blinding rain, 

I've stumbled upon another strand of days

where I no longer recognize my own face.

This heart-mind has become nothing but a river in time.

 

And my face.

My own face

is not the one I remember from lives before,

or even from within this one;

nor my hands, nor my feet, nor my step, nor my gate.

The days feel like slogging through The Swamplands again.

Their hothouse churnings cause me to ponder notions of fate.

 

In brief moments in-between,

I pick up the old scent trail of forest-kami again.

They stand as a constant presence at the edge of the worlds.

Ever and ever they ask the questions: 

"What medicine do you need?

What medicine is needed by these times?

What medicine are you?"


Paying Homage at the Ruins

The old forms are crumbling inside and out.

In our shared anxiety, we can build walls or pick up swords,

but soon we will find that we lose even the will to raise our own arms.

 

I'm not interested in loud marches.

I walked through the pine forests and magnolia groves

with the gentle buddha from Plum Village.

He barely said a word.

All that was imparted was through his footfalls,

and his care-filled eyes.

 

If people need to raise their fists and yell,

and set themselves ablaze in protest,

I understand;

but his will be the inner revolution

that lasts another...two-thousand years.


The Wearing Away, and the Worn

As the gate of the next moon starts to open,

and we all step through whether we want to or not,

the humidity of my own Night-Jungle-Wandering-Body

starts to wonder if I'll ever find what they call a Purpose Driven Life.

Perhaps something will coalesce. 

Or, perhaps, I am nothing but a piece of sea glass

worn, and worn, and worn down some more,

left-over from a prayer I put into a bottle long ago.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: The Graceful Sky / Cavern of Sirens / Steve Roach & vidnaObmana

Liner Notes:

norito (Japanese): a liturgical text or incantation in the Shinto tradition, usually addressed to a kami. Kami are the spirits worshipped in Shinto tradition. They can be elements of landscape, forces of nature, the spirits of venerated dead, as well as other unseen beings and the qualities these beings emanate.

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kokoro .:. ambulation

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kokoro .:. ambulation

 

Late Winter Shikantaza

The sound of cicadas swells outside; a unified tide of tree-chanting at dawn.

The day has barely begun

and already the heat is driving its way into these bones.

The spirit-eyes of this wandering heart-mind,

which often dwell beyond the embodied,

have taken flight again, without leaving this seat.

I think back to late winter shikantaza;

sitting like a mountain but hearing myself weep. 

Now: a set of eyes all cried out

becomes a wandering stone lantern.


..and the tumult

In the middle of the night, I heard the voice of Dao-Sentiment River.

We spoke of partings and losses.

Those by our own volition. Those by others.

Those that pack a wallop and take a year to grieve.

A friend turns to cinder in a final breath of fire.

Another is lost at sea.

Another lost to disease.

Then there are those losses beyond the fading edge and the tumult.

Dao-Sentiment River asked, "How is your heart-mind-river?"

"Lighter everyday," I replied.

Hearing my heart's voice say that,

I realized the locking pin holding my last shackle together

had been knocked loose.


Mid-Afternoon Dream: Outer Moon-Inner Moon Alignment

- in advance of the July 2018 lunar eclipse -  

I see an old man counting moons.

He names them as he goes.

He looks like an accountant sitting there, thumbing at his abacus.

His gaze raises and turns sideways, just as I begin to wake.

My eyes look up at the ceiling fan's spinning blades,

yet I still hear his voice echoing from the land of dreams:

Brace up. Brace up.

This corridor of time is a teacher.

A shredder-of-tapestries and illusions.

A revealer of hidden things.


Nightwalk: Sweating Prayers

One step after another, I take what was once an ancient trail.

It's been paved over and renamed

but its firefly luminosity is maintained.

Ten-thousand steps later, I take a deep inhalation of thick summer air.

And just like that...

a spinal adjustment given by the cosmos

and the fragrance of bushido pours forth again from my pores.


The Most Difficult Practice Within the Hands of Each Traveler

Bearing in mind that the first glance

ensnares us in a mirage of entanglements,

always take a second and a third glance.

Notice how you get hooked. Notice how you project.

Pull the projection back. Therein is freedom, for all

projection leads to fetters on the soul of self or other.

--Kuma-sensei


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Nami / Magical Imaginary Child / Chihei Hatakeyama + Federico Durand

 

Glossary:

kokoro: from the Japanese; literally translates as "heart" but essentially means 'the heart of things.'

shikantaza: a Zen term that literally translates as 'just sitting' - sitting without agenda, sitting without aspirations for enlightenment, sitting without ideas of "is this the wrong or the right way to sit?"; shikantaza...sitting...just...being: just-sitting.

bushido: the code of the warrior in the context of old samurai culture, but still very much a vibrant orientation in Japanese culture, spirituality, and martial arts today; bushido is governed by eight core principles, namely: rectitude or justice, courage, benevolence or mercy, politeness, honesty/sincerity, honor, loyalty, character/self-control.

 

 

 

 

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Navigation .:. Tending Ki

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Navigation .:. Tending Ki

"If you follow the present-day world,

you will turn your back on The Way.

If you would not turn your back on The Way,

do not follow the world."

--Takuan Soho (1573-1645)*


South-By-South-By-Inner-South

There's the modern way:

aspirations for neat and tidy, but messy in the end;

and then there's the old way:

Submitting to the Downward Arc of the Precipice

that leaves our bones

spread all over the river-smoothed rocks below.

 

From the sounds of it, no one in their right mind would go for the latter.

It means traveling into the depths of the self,

sorting through a lifetime of the shadow

to burn everything away that prevents the light from shining through.

This is why they call us chasm-jumpers and crazy clouds, after all; 

after the 'original one' who became a glowing Zen dragon in the mountains.

 

I know what some are thinking.

Neat and tidy sounds like the "safe" route.

It's what church, friends and family, billboards on the highway, and Uncle Sam say to do.

I mean, look at all the perks you get;

a 401(K)

a bow tie in coastal seaside colors

an ankle bracelet with shiny diamonds.

No one ever curious-enough to ask:

"Who are you behind that mask?"

 

But, then, it all starts closing in around you,

and you can't rightly complain about claustrophobia

if you're the one who quarantined your own soul away from the wider view.

And so,...

you jump.

 

This is when some will say:

"Oh, she's really losing it"...

"Oh, he's 'going through a phase'..."

 

while others,

who know,

will nod and whisper:

"Another chasm-jumper is discovering their wings."

<+>

Tending Ki

Our spirit, our energy, is called ki in Japanese (chi in Chinese; as in, T'ai Chi). It is our personal life force; our thimbleful of the Universal Life Force. Ki is in everything. In trees and mountains. In clouds and wave-forms. And, within each other. This is basic Shinto or Taoism, really, but it underlies all the arts, and the martial arts.

When we become disconnected from ourselves, we lose ki. If we don't eat in a way that nourishes the vitality of the body and mind, we threaten our own ki. If we are wounded in an attack, if we don't take care of ourselves or get enough sleep, or we suffer from a sleight of hand or a sleight of heart, we may end up leaking our ki.

Part of good, sound navigation in life is making the tending of our ki of paramount importance. Sometimes that means making an honest assessment of whether certain people or places are "too expensive" to our ki. A person's loyalty must be to their own ki, for one cannot serve others if their ki is depleted, and chronic ki-depletion is the root of disease.

This was one teaching offered by my teacher. 


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Cupressus / Akupanga / Aglaia

Liner Notes:

*Takuan Soho was a Zen master, master swordsman, avid practitioner of gardening, brush painting, and the tea ceremony, inventor of the daikon pickle, and author of The Unfettered Mind. At the moment of his death, he painted the Chinese character for dream (夢), laid down his brush, and died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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Enter...Change-Maker

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Enter...Change-Maker

With the fading light of day comes a reminder.

Pulsing just behind the veil of time,

walking alongside us in perfect symmetry,

Change-Maker has arrived.

 

With nothing bolted to the ground,

the inner tides rise and swell

and push us toward new ways of flourishing.

   

We were born from the soil.

Did we really not expect

the husk-cracking of self

when we flirted with the light of awareness?

 

The Teacher says:

If you go, you will be stretched.

If you remain, you will be stretched.

It is a question of scenery, and whether one is truly fed.

It is a question of blooming and where best and with whom one can do so.

 

Even if it means being stranded

with only the vast sky as company,

there's no denying the longitude and latitude of a calling.

It can be denied for a while,

but Change-Maker ripples through the seen and unseen

and will be waiting for us come morning.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Glimpse / World's Edge / Steve Roach

 

 

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Kenma (Polishing)

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Kenma (Polishing)

Foot

upon

path.

Let us walk among the trees.

They are the first shrine

temple

sangha

hermitage

church.

 

Let us breathe deep

as if our own chest were a vast valley between mountains

being filled up by silken clouds on a breeze of holy intent.

 

Like the essence brought forth from the polished rice in saké,

the Golden Spirit of Life is within us all.

 

Oh, but how we hide the light.

Oh, but how we hide from our Great Life.

Oh, but how the world,

with its incessant need to mold us,

becomes a false, wavering mirror

that has even the most ardent of Travelers

doubting the glimmer they've been carrying

since the very beginning.

 

Like the essence brought forth from the polished rice in saké,

the Golden Spirit of Life is within us all.

It must be properly harvested

soaked

steamed

matured.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Walking Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Acacia + Arbor Vitae / Tree of Life / Loren Nerell and Mark Seelig

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Pulse of Night

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Pulse of Night

Last night, a brother and I paddled the river of memories.

We took the deep trails and the switchbacks of laughter.

We drank like Scots chasing Romans away before the building of Hadrian's Wall.

We found our stride.

Relocated our swagger.

Everyone needs a night like this now and again.

A night to reclaim one's holy wildness.

A night to remember bonds that do not fade with age.

A night of fearless spontaneity.

A night to grab a goddess by the hand and dance the spinning cosmos awake.

You may not remember everywhere you go on such a night

but when the Deep-Seeing Eye of the Traveling Self

pieces the shards of the evening back together again,

you'll see that every step of the way

you were accompanied by the light of humanity

and the deep faith of the ten-thousand things.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Mira La Luna / Dandara

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Moments-as-Monuments: Five Memory Poems

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Moments-as-Monuments: Five Memory Poems

Seeing

Being an empath in this world is like swimming nude in an ocean of thistles.

You walk by.

Our gazes connect.

I feel what's stirring in your heart.

Your betrayals, your disappointments, your longings.

It's etched in the landscape of your face

and bends your spine into a slump with a hump.

I'm not one to step beyond my bounds,

and I don't know you,

but I spend the rest of the night sipping sake

thinking about your beautiful, pained life.

<+>

The Relation of Passing Ships

Two ships pass in the fog.

For a brief radiant moment, they catch a glimpse of each other.

After that, they become invisible to one another

and try fruitlessly to be heard with blaring horns through thick veils.

Onward they drift, carrying fog-like memories, aching from not having been truly seen.

<+>

What A Real Christian Looks Like

My father was a minister.

One day, a drunk-homeless man

wandered into a church service in progress,

hamburger-in-hand,

and sat down in a pew toward the front,

next to all of the "prim-and-proper" ladies in their crisp, white linen clothes.

Some "Christians" today would have dragged him out like it was a Trump rally.

"Get him outta here!" they would say,

not considering the possibility that he was

the spirit of the Christ come to test them.

My father invited him forward and served him Holy Communion.

<+>

Get Real (for Mississippi)

Have I ever told you I worked on a museum once?

I learned things nobody wants to talk about;

like the story of "fancy maid" sex slaves and Southern governors, for a start.

No wonder there is so much rage boiling under the surface of this nation.

We haven't owned the shadow of our history or gotten real yet about who we really are.

<+>

Some Things Never Change: The Lone Wolf Manifesto

When I was but a wee lad, I decided to leave home.

My parents were fighting and I'd had enough of it.

I packed my little suitcase, which was bigger than me, and informed them I was leaving.

I shuffled up the sidewalk into the darkness of night,

one toy and one coat my only possessions.

Unsure of how to feed myself, I came back, of course,

but it hits me like a Rinzai master's fierce Zen striking stick...some feelings never change.

So here I am, a modernista, embedded in suburbia;

a "ninja" practicing the ancient art of concealment and disguises,

all the while, day-by-day, taking up more and more of Musashi's Dokkodo


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Telomere / Filaments / Robert Rich

image: Monument for Miyamoto Musashi, Ganryu Island, Japan

Liner Notes: 

Composed one week before his death, The Dokkodo (獨行道), sometimes rendered as 'The Way of Walking Alone,' 'The Way To Be Followed Alone,' or 'The Lone Road,' is a short work composed by Miyamoto Musashi (Buddhist name: Niten Doraku), a master swordsman, artist, woodworker, philosopher, hermit, and author of The Book of Five Rings, a classic text on swordsmanship and strategy. Written as 21 precepts, the Dokkodo lays out a path of discipline, focus, solitary spiritual practice, and mind-training.

 

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Tender-Hearted Warrior

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Tender-Hearted Warrior

in memory of Bill Scheffel (Western Mountain)


News of your fiery departure reached my tender eyes tonight.

I gasped in utter disbelief.

Tender...eyes...tenderized.

My heart-mind lunged forward as if tied to a great galloping garuda.

What fell from my eyes next I still do not know.

Tears? Sparks? Stars?

I'm left with the question, Bill:

Now, where will you go?

<+>

I light a stick of hinoki incense, earthy and pure.

It reminds me of all of my teachers along this way of ways within the greater Way.

I had studied meditation before.

You taught me how to sit like a warrior.

<+>

Midnight comes and goes like a forest without fireflies.

I pour a large cup of sake

and drift yet again through your 'vertical time yoga'

and all of the excellent films you made about

masters reflecting on the life of your teacher,

conscious dying,

Cambodia,

the troubles down in New Orleans post-Katrina,

and precious memories of your mother,

whom you go to meet.

 

All I can say now is:

May we all craft a life with such heart, tenderness, and attentiveness.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: "Real-Life Mystery" / They Grow Layers of Life Within / Alio Die

Liner Notes:

Bill Scheffel was a poet, artist, filmmaker, and teacher of meditation in the Shambhala tradition. He chose to self-immolate in early July 2018.   

 

 

 

 

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Sidestepping

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Sidestepping

"Every day, priests exhaustively examine the Dharma

and incessantly chant complex sutras.

Prior to that, they should really learn

how to read the love letters

sent by the wind and rain,

the snow and moon.

Who needs the corrupt Buddhism of corpse-like masters?

Me, I've spent three decades alone in the mountains

and solved all of my koans there, 'Living Zen'

among the tall pines and high winds.

--Ikkyu Sojun (a.k.a. Crazy Cloud, 1394-1491), Zen hermit/poet


Golden pedestals of lineage falling.

Waves of regret crash on the shores of non-duality.

Another "teacher" falling and fallen, yet teaching-by-default.

Whole mandalas weeping at omissions, admissions, blame, fault.

 

The dark winds and gluttonous dripping fat of the Setting Sun World

has flowed into the Valley of the Great Eastern Sun again, thick and sickly.

There is anguish, fear, rage, confusion of heart-mind.

The wheel of the Dharma can turn forward or backward in an instant,

but troubled weather systems of human-failing does not defile the original teaching.

 

In this era of unskillful means,

and clownish unveiled shadows dancing,

when even the supposed "leader of leaders" declares:

"grab 'em by the pussy,"

everything is being carried back to the drawing board.

 

Perhaps the time has finally arrived

to sidestep human gurus and lineages of mindless obeyance

and find the Original Teacher of the original teacher

back out in the forest, under a tree that shades your own silent sitting.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: "Kuroda Bushi" / Tessen: Music for Shakuhachi / Cesar Viana

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Samten Bardo

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Samten Bardo

Last night,

I swallowed the last bit of poison from your memory

and vomited up all of the false jewels I'd been holding onto

out of a strange sense of loyalty to you.

 

When the Dawn Road appeared

shimmering through the swaying trees,

I cut the cord with a single breath

and knew I was finally free.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Flooaw / Aventura

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Messages Across Time

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Messages Across Time

ありがとう星女

Memory Echo: Dream Poem Preface

 

I have a relative over on Honshu.

With a 'certain kind of travel,'

it's really just a short distance across the water from here.

 

“A sister from another mother,” as the saying goes.

Or maybe a long-lost brother from another time.

Who knows?

 

Perhaps we are

of some other luminous shape

for which there is no known label yet.

Either way, one does not mistake one's ancient-familiars

or second-guess the stirring echo of ancient codes that have always been.

 

Like shinobi, "hidden ninjas,"

living in villages on distant mountains,

sending hilltop messages across wide moonlit valleys,

our ancestral tongues are different

but somehow, some way,

we speak the same twilight language of forests and memory.

 

On a night when the moon was bright and full,

a dispatch came from her side of the valley.

A question tied to a crow's ink-black wing. 

Have you received a message in a dream?

 

In an instant, a long-forgotten message returned.

A fire was relit.

Now, it glows and grows and burns.


Koyasan: Beacons Being Lit On The Mountain

 

It arrived years ago after a dark night of feeling like giving up.

I contemplated all the old warriors who'd ever opened up their own guts.

I meditated on the practice of offering up one's soul to the passing hazy moon.

I fell asleep in a stupor and woke from a dream just after noon.

 

Through the Great Eye that dwells behind human eyes,

I saw myself moving, carefree,

gliding along like a heron in flight.

Across tree-lined valleys

along rivers of light

down walkways of stone

illuminated by lanterns on either side.

 

It was then that I heard the old instructions again.

The words passed through me

from the voice of a long-dead friend.

 

Your path is not done.

Stay to The Way.

Wander forward through this world on fire.

Stay to The Way.

Practice until you are solid like stone.

Stay to The Way.

Stay to The Way.

Tend your inner light until you become a flame.

Stay to The Way.

Stay to The Way.

Remind others of the Faithful-Light they have within.

Stay to The Way.

Stay to The Way.

Become a wandering stone lantern again.

Stay to The Way.

Stay to The Way.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Ascension of Protection, from Cavern of Sirens / Steve Roach + vidnaObmana

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The Dance In Fallow Seasons

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The Dance In Fallow Seasons

There's something in my spirit that forever aims for the Other Shore.

In my "samurai" life, I never had to draw a sword.

In my life as "fisherman-farmer," I often went hungry.

Yet, in both, I always had something else that sustained me.

 

Courier.

Mountain Guide.

Old Blind Drunk.

Midwife.

The Other Shore was always on my mind.

 

This time around, the Other Shore is the song of opposites.

It arrives as a pattern that goes against the tide of these times.

 

The world accelerates.

I slow down. 

The world becomes loud, angry, cacophonous. 

I become more silent.

Everything marches toward the illusion of hyper-connection.

I pull back and slowly cut ties.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / Pure Land Poetry

sound: "Luminescence" / Particle Horizon / Synphaera Records

 

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