Ripen

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Ripen

"Silence is the mother of sound."

--Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos

<+>

When Resting Seeds Take Root

Another day of sunbursts on this incomprehensible trackway.

The illusion of distance evaporates.

Another phase of introduction to wayward travelers occurs

in the groundless land of no maps.

 

Desert-dwelling wizards between green mountains stir again.

Suizen teachings in the Far North.

Blanket-clad grandmothers in cedar plank houses talk of salmon runs.

Coyote-faced tobacco prophets sit in sunlit caves.

Healers deep in jungles I have yet to meet re-weave the world.

Rinzai caballeros tell me I am one of them now.

Different threads woven into a serape of dreaming.

One thread -- the long-distance view.

 

This still being taught inside dreams is a Blessing Way,

even though my sleeves are wet from sitting over flower-strewn shrines.

The two crows Beauty and Memory visit again, and again.

 

I can still hear her voice out in the garden: 

"Your Heart-Mind-River has known all along, guerrero.

Stay with the river. It is a river of grace.

Give it voice until its own voice makes yours vanish.

When that voice appears, surrender, and ride the current."

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Tutelage

Shapes shifting

Shifting shifting the shapes

Shapes shifting the shifting 

under the watchful eye of The Great Shaper.


There is no landing place on The Way, even when being still;
only tumbling, relentlessly wandering, a crazy cloud.

And what do clouds do but ceaselessly soak up vapors
and release them again and again as rain, wind, and lightning?

The nectars of different spirit lands,

in whose fine-hearted keeping we have earned a home,

put us on notice to become vessels, cauldrons, hollow bones.

Their freely-offered wisdom is squeezed
into the mortar and pestle of the self.
Half the year is spent grinding up seeds of wisdom,
and then, as Traveler,
the other half of the year we are expected to ferment,
to hold,
to embody whatever the result.

The desire for escape is put on hold so the full circuit can be complete;
and then, like orange blossom water cascading through soft air,
the medicine radiates outward from you.

What else is needed but these churning tributaries of learning?
All of this is in service of a future that we feel
but which we are not yet able to see.

This is what it means to work for the spirits.
This is what it means when the Dharma takes root.
This is what it means to be a wayfarer, the Self rising out of the self.

I hear her voice say: Vaya Con Dios, dear,
and one of those pointed warnings she always had for us.

The trick is to stay moist with life.
Take the necessary measures
to prevent the heart from becoming
just another piece of tough leather.

On this path, you become different.
Different to the others (and they'll even tell you so).
Different to yourself from season to season.

But you accepted the invitation, and the path has been defined:

The Ever-Mysterious Road of the Traveler

who journeys all over the world

without ever leaving home.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

image: Casa del Rio de la Gracia, Cerro Gordo, Santa Fe, New Mexico -- the old teaching house of my late teacher

sound: Letters to the Farthest Star, Forrest Fang

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Orenda

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Orenda

orenda (aw-ren-duh), noun:

a supernatural force believed by the Iroquois to be present,

in varying degrees, in all objects or persons, and to be the spiritual force

by which human accomplishment is attained or accounted for.


In my fifth year, I became a friend of the orenda.

In my fifteenth year, the orenda became a friend of me.

In my thirty-eighth year, I lost all hope and vision.

In my forty-eighth year, I regained clear-seeing and precision...

 

which is why the view of our Grandmother is splendid tonight

from the vantage point of the Seven Sisters.

I'm up here, again, wandering like I used to,

blowing across the sky, wondering where we all went wrong.

 

The Original Instructions were so simple.

All was provided for us.

Two-Leggeds breathed the Bright Knowledge

from deep inside their bones,

and knew what it meant to work toward balance.

 

Doorways of moon huts,

dreaming lodges,

and council houses

were oriented to the East

so each new dawning sun

could remind each and every one

the whole point of this earth-walking:

 

the heart-mind

conscious of the movement

of renewal.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

 

sound: Mark Seelig & Sam Rosenthal, Journey to Aktehi

 

 

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The Bouquet of the Last Direction

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The Bouquet of the Last Direction

When the soul becomes unburdened

it's like a new saddle on a fresh horse.

 

Suddenly the trail feels right again,

and the strong horizon line in front of you as you turn

becomes its own form of soothing medicine.

 

Something of the sting and burn of the old poison may linger

but having crossed over from the Shadowlands into new open territory,

one can almost pick up the scent of blooming flowers within.

 

You start to notice all the things you hadn't been

all because you'd been so bound up

with the echoes of losses and hauntings.

 

You know you're ready when ghosts start chanting from the edge of your life:

Traveler! Good Traveler!

Your 'Crying for a Vision' Time is over.

Time to re-inhabit the Human World!

 

Then, the simplest of the ten thousand things

start to reach out to you to welcome you home again.

The Morningstar.

The blue sky with its utter completeness.

The serrated clouds coming over the rising pine-covered hills.

Even the food tastes better in the Land of the Great Eastern Sun.

 

You may find the wandering wild animal of your heart

is somehow more free to travel back through time…

...to pick back up with sources of beauty and power you had put down.

 

And maybe, just maybe,

you’ll see yourself now

through your childhood eyes

and you’ll stand forgiven and realize

the magic you had then never left you;

you just forgot how to listen.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Calexico

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Two Clicks Past Zenith

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Two Clicks Past Zenith


Love comes unseen and unannounced,

with tread as light as snow.

We never see love coming;

we only see it go.

Pearl Owen Gentry (1878-1974), from Evening Red


We met online, as so many do these days -- Facebook. FaceTime. Skype.

A "long distance falling," punctuated by hours of laughter and light.

I think it was the stories that wove our souls together and kept us up late at night.

 

I remember taking a mid-conversation screenshot of her once

thinking in that moment she was the most striking woman I had ever seen.

I don't read people's auras like some of you are able to do,

but when I looked at her...everything gleamed.

 

Hours later, I called that picture back up on the screen.

It was her -- just not in the shape I'd grown accustomed to seeing.

Same background, same black blouse, but the image was like a digital Pandora's box.

Her human face was gone and on her shoulders was the head of a fox. 

 

I'm not sure what the curanderos would think in their caves out from Abiquiu.

To this day, I must admit, what that was I still haven't a clue.

A trick of the light, or kitsune through and through?

 

Eventually, we met in "real time," as they say.

Early Spring at Yosemite.

Winter in Santa Fe.

Each time, joy.

Each time, pain.

Each time, a trial by fire, or so it seemed.

 

It doesn't take much for me to travel back.

Certain things stand out and still have a touch of honey-sweet.

If I really try, I can feel her hand in mine like on that first night we would meet.

 

I recall the quiet adobe bungalow on Canyon Road that greeted us.

The key to the front door was hidden under a Mexican-carved wooden Jesus.

After a sweet kiss and a long embrace,

we soaked our bones in the moon-lit pools of Ten Thousand Waves.

 

We'd laugh when we'd finish each other's sentences

and got tickled when we realized we loved the same Pasqual's green chile recipes.

Our eyes also seemed to be drawn to similar things,

like hawks crossing paths in mid-flight.

I can still see the medicine cross above us in the shimmering New Mexico sky.

 

My face beams when I recall a certain memory strand.

Her fearless form scampering down a mountainside, saké bottle in hand.

I can hear someone asking as you read that last line:

Then, what? Why didn't things work out for ya'll this time?

 

There were, in fact, moments when our time together felt like a road of pure artistry,

but like a sudden curse cast by sorcerers and enemies,

old wounds took us down a path of twisted sophistry.

 

A constant cloud of jealous-fear seemed to hang overhead for her;

and despite my best efforts to reassure, those old demons would not be deterred.  

And since there is never just one side to life, I'll elaborate on my part;

when accused of something that isn't true, something breaks inside my heart.

 

We never fought and there were never harsh words said.

We simply stopped talking and became ghosts to each other instead.

In this cleaning out and putting down,

I can see it all as a necessary teacher now.

To the what was

and the what could have been,

I offer a solemn bow...and move beyond.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

Liner notes: I'm usually a freestyle poet and don't write rhyming poems. In fact, most of the time, I'm not a fan of the form. In the tradition of cowboy poetry, however, my ancestor, the Texas poet Pearl Owen Gentry (1878-1974), wrote everything in rhyme. I can appreciate the form but it's just not usually my cup of tea. That said, the rhyming form that is so much a part of cowboy poetry, Irish poetry, and old English poetry, does enable a satisfying rhythm when dealing with certain themes like humor and grief. So, I leaned into that form for this piece...as a methodology of commemoration, exorcism, and release.

 

To learn about the sonic artistry of Slow Meadow, and their forthcoming November 2017 release, Costero, visit their Bandcamp page.

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The Quiet Map

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The Quiet Map

All poems at Pure Land Poetry are optimized for desktop, with speakers or headphones. Click the white triangle below for sound.

--a birthday poem dedicated to my mother and the medicine work she has done with people (including me) on her earthwalk. she is an expert guide for walking people through birthquakes.

 

I've sensed the Other Side within this world

since childhood days of tender feet kicking through the dirt

but touching it

and being touched by it

has always been fleeting.

 

It explains why I never finish anything.

It explains why the cells in my body

have always been dreaming of leaving.

It explains why I have always failed in matters of love.

I've haven't known, until now, how to surrender or truly bow

or maintain the connection.

 

My spirit has been like the buzzing bee

drawn deeper and deeper into the high meadow

chasing after subtle fragrances bursting forth after rain.

The wandering bee may get the honey by day

but the harshest of hungers sets in after nightfall.

 

Last night, the Pollen Maiden spoke of new life.

You are not the tapestry, she said.

You are not the weaver.

You are but a thread.

With that, something let go in me

and I crossed a great chasm within.

 

I stand in the faint light of a fallow sun

abandoning all the plans I had before arriving.

A scaffold has crumbled 'neath the weight of the unseen.

There are no more divisions, no demarcations left for anything. 

Even my soul's compass has ceased its ancient ache for a new star.

 

That old aimless wandering, of reaching for reference points outside,

has become a soft practice of resting on the quiet map within.

There's nothing else to point to now

but my flute-like bones breathing the wind,

a heart full and stirring with the perfume of the far-away hills.

 

What once was a cold stone

waiting with devotion

for small sips of passing sunlight

pulses with its own fire now

and feels the warmth in everything.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

 

sound: "Celeste", from Blueberry / Jean-Jacques Hertz, Francois Roy, Johar Ali Khan

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Confluence

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Confluence

 

With the slow-dropping blink of the Fox Eye Moon,

I bow low and bury my Zen robes.

Forever an anchor,

like tears for those who have crossed over,

or that grandfather stone I found in the crook of an Ojibway cedar,

or those light-swallowing feathers from that druid cloak offered to a Samhuinn fire,

I honor it all,

release it all,

and turn to face the final direction on this journey of learning,

stripped naked by the season of deep inner-working.

<> <> <> <>

The leaves are turning...up on Yonah Mountain.

Though not fully here,

down in the foothills and flat lands the Autumn Spirit whispers:

You are being prepared.

<> <> <> <>

Despite the darkening of these times,

I still feel love on the move in parts of this great earth.

The way a hound leans in against a knee to say:

I am here. I am traveling with you, cousin.

 

The way the autumn wind blows

thousands of acorns to the forest floor, singing:

I'm already

thinking of shade for you

for when you will be

old men and old women.

 

The way a tendril of tobacco smoke from a pipe

becomes a memory trail to a softer time,

both in front and behind.

 

A raven on a branch groks-groks:

Slow down. Slow down.

Waking, sleeping, focus on dreaming.

 

It feels good to strip off one's summer skin.

With it -- new movement of once-frozen rivers beneath the surface.

May the spirits support you wherever your navigation may lead.

 

As for me,

I have no more words

for this movement back to ordinary reality.

I only know this:

There are no longer the Two Worlds.

There is only the One.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

 

 

sound: Steve Roach, Early Man

 

 

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Descent

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Descent

"There's no death knell

quite like an outdated 'self-told story'

being surrendered."

--Darion Kuma Gracen--

<><><>

It isn't a language we are taught to read

though it is written on everything

everywhere

around us

within.

 

We pretend it isn't there

that it isn't a silent form of communication between us

but no one is shaded

from the light of the open-secret...

no one stands outside

this moving tapestry of rising and twilight...

no one is exempt from the ancient training

of fierce grasping turned letting go.

 

Fluency comes from plumbing the depths --

surrendering to heat, steam, and dream

traveling through the strata of accumulated layers

releasing the hardened 'formations of self'

all...the...way...down.

 

Every tenancy of cramped, unfriendly spaces.

Every 'could have been', regret,

clinging to memories, places, faces.

Every message: I can't.

Every loss. 

Every vacuous distance.

Every jealous slight, wounding from betrayal.

Every wasted moment and uncompleted dream.

All the gleaming scales that make the skin 

before we start shedding and turn within.

 

Nothing can prepare

for the grief that comes

from seeing the years so clearly.

Yet, when else are we honest with ourselves?

When else do we perceive the infinite layers?

How else will we become our own medicine and relinquish our fears?

 

<> <> <> < > <> <>

 

Last night I dreamed of my own heart.

A cramped dying bird behind a cage of ribs.

 

In my hand - an ancestral knife made of prayers and bone.

Carved in the handle - the rune for a year, harvest, inside a Zia sun.*

 

With samurai precision,

I used the knife to separate skin from sternum

sternum from muscle

and cracked open my ribs

like the door of a long-sealed tomb. 

 

With the door open wide, the bird flew free.

A path then appeared that leads into a cave.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

*The Zia sun symbol is sacred to the Zia Pueblo people of New Mexico. Embedded within it are teachings about stages of life, the seasons, the directions, periods of the day, and aspects of the self a person must cultivate for a well-rounded, healthy life. In the 1920s, the symbol was misappropriated without permission from the Zia people as a symbol for the New Mexico state flag. Since that time, a coming to terms has occurred between Zia Pueblo and the State of New Mexico with regard to the free and honorable use of the symbol.

 

 

sound: Steve Roach / Jorge Reyes, "Holy Dirt", from Vine, Bark, & Spore

 

 

 

 

 

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Ascent

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Ascent

On the mountain everything becomes clear.

 

Who and where the true allies always were.

How you were right all along

about staying close to the gentle,

and the gentle-hearted.

 

How the time-tested methods don't betray.

How silence is a healer.

 

How the old maps provide a year of unburdening,

faithfully,

every time.

 

How that tightening below your shoulder blade

is a true barometer

for when someone only sees you

as a way to get their fix.

 

Before the mountain, the foothills.

 

The old Zen way speaks of mountains walking;

how they do that are foothills rising, stretching toward vistas.

Even the foothills are the minds of buddhas-to-be.

 

Before foothills, the forest.

 

Standing sentinels welcome you.

As you step in, their swaying is an embrace like no other.

 

The forest has a strange way

of pulling other people's hooks out of you. 

You can almost hear them drop at your feet

like clanking swords or harpoons.

Then, the lungs fill with sweet air

and you know you've arrived in a realm

beyond the reach of hungry ghosts, sorcerers, Soul-Eaters.

 

Before the forest, the river.

 

Her sweet song puts the mind at ease.

She quiets the senseless chatter

one absorbs from the Grasping World like a thick tar.

 

Herons mindfully walk the shoreline.

Trout jump.

The heart leaps.

Grasshoppers click-click-click away with caution.

Dragonflies click-click-click closer

as if to tempt you with entrance into the dream world.

 

Before the river, the path.

 

Each step an in-breath,

an out-breath,

accepting a standing invitation.

Ambling along, welcoming the animal in you to loosen tight tendons,

a joining-up happens with something unseen you realize your soul has been missing.

 

Path to river

river to forest

forest to foothills

foothills to mountain...

 

as you make your way to the summit,

the pure breeze initiating you,

you comprehend why the ancient apex

is seen the world over as a shrine of renewal.

 

Circumambulation.

Contemplation.

Lamentation.

Purification.

Liberation.

Integration.

Transformation.

 

This is what it means to 'come back to your true body'.

This is what it means 'to cross over the bridge of the self'.

This is what it means to 'become the mountain'.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

 

sound: Robert Rich / Alio Die, Fissures, Hearts of Space

 

 

 

 

 

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Halcón Escucha (Hawk Listening)

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Halcón Escucha (Hawk Listening)

As with all poems at Pure Land Poetry, this one is optimized for viewing on desktop computer (i.e. not mobile devices, phones, or iPads). Click the white-triangle for sound... These are not poems. These are movies for the moving pictures of the mind.


Pure womb of darkness.

Two sparks flash, then a third.

A fourth spark fills the darkness with sudden sun-like brightness.

 

Five candles are lit and placed into lanterns -- one for the center, one in each of the corners.

Above -- a lattice of vines form a roof.

 

Just beyond the open-air lantern-lit platform -- an orchestra of night sounds.

A low rumbling growl -- not menacing; more like a purr of satisfaction.

A jaguar rubs a smooth dark shoulder against rough tree bark.

I think to myself: Thank goodness. He sounds well-fed.

 

Hanging beneath bell-shaped leaves, tree frogs chant in both worlds.

A hand appears in front of me holding an earthen cup with symbols I don't recognize.

I take it and look up into a face that seems ancient yet ever-young.

The same hand then flaps like a wing; motions to me to imbibe.

Beberse todo, beberse todo. Drink up, drink up.

 

A cloud of tobacco smoke fills the air above my head

as bunches of leaves, feathers, dried seed pods

tap my back, my chest, my crown, my limbs.

The singing begins.

All lanterns are extinguished.

I lean back onto the woven mat and settle-in to my "dreaming station."

 

Body sprawled out, I feel utterly alone against the cloak of night.

Am I even human, or just a small bug turned on his back on the floor of the jungle?

 

The face of every one I've ever loved pass in front of my mind's eye.

There have been so many -- each a story of joy, sadness, friendship, disappointment.

A deep breath fills me as if something other than me is now doing the breathing.

I hear prayers and songs being uttered. I get lost in them.

 

I think of my parents: Have I been a good son?

I think of friends: Have I been good to each one?

I think of my job: Am I doing anything worthwhile?

I think of my apartment: Will it turn out to be my cocoon or my coffin?

I think of my late teacher: I wish we could take a walk in the desert again.

I think of different lovers: Why couldn't we find what we were looking for in each other's eyes?

 

I raise my hands in front of my face.

I no longer have skin or bones.

I am nothing but a tightly-bound collection of luminous strands, slowly loosening, separating.

All but one fall to the woven mat beneath me. 

A single flowing strand moves outward into the jungle and carries me along.

The only thing I am sure of is that my heart is still beating,...and that...

 

I am the jungle.

I've never not been the jungle.

I am the stars.

I've never not been the stars.

I see a man fishing.

I have never not been a man.

I see a woman collecting water.

I have never not been a woman.

I see a child chasing a dragonfly.

I have never not been a child.

I have never not been a dragonfly.

I have never not been a river, a jaguar, a frog calling the rain.

 

The single luminous thread that appears to be 'me'

is pulled from deep in the jungle valley into the high hills above.

Suddenly I am in a new body -- brown feathers fluttering in the wind.

Eyes sharp and clear -- the whole world vibrant again.

 

I hear a voice say:

Withdraw all investments from illusion.

The doorway beyond the heart's suffering is open.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Vine, Bark & Spore, Steve Roach & Jorge Reyes

 

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Blue Star Kachina's Strange Cosmic Theatre

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Blue Star Kachina's Strange Cosmic Theatre

Sometimes the body moves through something and takes the soul along for the ride.

Sometimes the spirit lifts up and out-of-the-body -- goes on far away travels, leaving the body behind.

This 'Love Is Stronger Than Death' Curriculum has a high tuition sometimes.


I'm not sure what will be the case this evening.
Too much of the heavy-hearted world of man is on me --
matting and staining the feathers of my Mountain-Dreaming Cloak.

Time to splash cold water on the face
and head up to where I put down a season's worth of accumulated weight.

A pinch of Isleta tobacco to the Four Winds.
To Lady Night Lamp above -- a pour of moonlit saké for safe travels...

and I'm off.

Halfway down the road -- a lightning bolt passes through.

I hear a familiar voice say:
In the Fifth World, new rituals will remind us of our shared human bond

that don't involve tragedy, sacrifice, nightmares, or deceit.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Ruven Nunez, The Holy Fountain

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Singularly Unimpressed, Coyote Predicts the Fall of the Republic of Clowns

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Singularly Unimpressed, Coyote Predicts the Fall of the Republic of Clowns

I was pulled awake from my blue agave dreaming

by a gust of cool air flowing through the screen.

At first, my skin - an independent animal-entity with its own preferences -

stirred suddenly as if to say: You have a visitor.

Then my mind kicked in, with all its strange ways of seeing-and-knowing, and said:

This is what renewal feels like if you seize it.

I didn't.

 

I drifted back into the depths

where all the ghosts, dancing ladies, and old gods gather around a central fire

to tell stories that break all the rules,

crack casting-molds,

and up-end everything with the tip of an ash.

 

 

Coyote puffed on his pipe, smiled, and said: Don't worry. I got this.

 

I say all of this, only to say...

We may be living in the Clown Republic right now,

being run by bozos and spiritual hobos,

but it's a house of cards fashioned on a turtle's back

and come the next good rain, there's going to be a whole lot of shaking going on.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

 

sound: Koichi Sugii

image: Newfoundland-American Arctic explorer Captain Robert Bartlett and local, 1933, Smithsonian. Photograph taken during Arctic expedition for the Invertebrate Zoology Department, Smithsonian 

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Entered Fully, Grief Becomes Honey

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Entered Fully, Grief Becomes Honey

Maybe yours is meant for a deep valley

or perhaps it will be washed clean from your brow at the riverside.

It could be lifted from you by a human embrace

or an unexpected glance standing in line at a busy coffee shop.

 

Sometimes,

with the mystery of the way the soul works,

it can be taken from you in the midst of a dream,

leaving you fresh and child-like with the arrival of morning

as if you didn't have to do a thing.

 

Mine is a hardscrabble road

that leads to the mountaintop

where I lift mine up

to all there is

the way I was taught.

 

But whoever you are, for goodness sake,

please listen to me when I say: Grief has to move.

 

Through you and beyond you, grief seeks a release.

It isn't to be feared.

It is a rare golden dove 

with a temporary roost inside you

all so it can carry

what you need to let go

into the heart of the sun.

 

Once you open and release,

and once it arrives into that fiery embrace,

your renewal is moments away.

 

But if you hold onto it,

grief becomes stored in your bones

and that will be your undoing.

 

Much of the world

is not what it could be

all because

of people

avoiding their grief.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Mountain Above, Mountain Below, from Watermusic, by Remco Helbers


Born into a family of artists, clergy, cowboys, fly-fishermen, and poets, including the late Texas poet Pearl Owen Gentry (Evening Red, Memories, and Hilltops and Hollows), Frank Saizan Owen studied for a decade with Darion Kuma Gracen (doña Río), a New Mexican wilderness guide and Zen wise woman. Inspired by the Chan (Zen)/Daoist poetic tradition, his studies of eco-poetry with the late Jack Collom of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and the wider human lineage of cross-cultural mystical poetry, Owen's poems are shaped by dreams, the seasons, diverse landscapes, Jungian archetypes, forgotten myth-lines in the deeper strata of ancestral DNA, pots of green chile pozole, and occasional sips of tequila and sake. His poems have been published in literary journals with a contemplative and ecological focus, such as Written River: The Journal of Eco-Poetics and The Wayfarer, including The Wayfarer's 5th Anniversary / Autumn 2017 issue. In the Spring of 2017, Owen's first book of poetry, The School of Soft-Attention, was selected as the winner of the 2017 Homebound Publications Poetry PrizeThe School of Soft-Attention will be published by Homebound Publications and available for purchase in September 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

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Young Critter Logic

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Young Critter Logic

When I was a little wolf pup,

I had some unique notions about this rough and tumble world.

Mostly these childhood thoughts involved color, sweetness, light,

and why the world is the way the world is.

You'll have to read these words with the mind of a child.

If you can't do that, then there's no hope for you anyway.

--Frank Saizan Owen


Colors of This Life

I held an old black and white photo in one hand

and a color photo in the other

and decided there must have been 

some unexplainable mystical event

whereby all of Creation finally grew from drab into full color.

I imagined thousands of years of muted grays suddenly transformed into the vibrancy of today

and whatever Great Force had managed to pull all that magic off

must be what everyone around me kept referring to as "God."

Every time I saw a black and white photo, I mumbled to myself:

'That was from the time before.'

 

All Women Are Sweet

One day my mother made me a treat: milk flavored with Strawberry Quick.

In my childhood mind, I was convinced she'd somehow made it from the milk of her own breast.

What an amazing magic trick!

 

A few years later, my nanny, Inez,

made me something similar: milk flavored with chocolate syrup.

 

Right then and there I concluded:

white women are pink and taste like strawberries

dark women are brown and taste like cocoa

but all are sweet in their own way.

I'm still right about that one.

 

Cowboys and Indians

I used to play "Cowboys and Indians."

I would change sides several times a week

until I started imagining them on the same side, working as a team.

I am still a bit of both to this day it seems.

 

Echoes of Soul-Parts Out in Space-Time

I arrived just before a hurricane.

Every day since has felt like a strong wind endlessly moving me.

 

We were always moving when I was a little one

so I learned never to settle, put down roots, or get too attached to anyone.

 

Even today, I wonder what parts of me are still floating out there

left in different places along the way.

 

I imagine my San Antonio soul-part joining hands again

with the parts I left in the Druid Hills;

and, if that happened, what I might actually get done

instead of feeling like a drifter on the run.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

 

 

For more info on the original soundtrack for the film Across The Whipplewash visit the Bandcamp page for Yellowbirds.

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The Work of Cleaning the Stains From Old Glory

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The Work of Cleaning the Stains From Old Glory

 

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"Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians!

I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right

and honorable to use any means under God's heaven

to kill Indians. Kill and scalp all, big and little; 

nits make lice."

--John Chivington, U.S. Army Colonel, Methodist preacher, 1864,

commander of the 675-man Colorado U.S. Volunteer Cavalry

during the Sand Creek Massacre

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"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

--William Faulkner (1897-1962)

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It's been twenty-five years since the skewers were in my chest.

It isn't something I talk much about.

I stood and danced with the warriors of The Real People beneath the Sun Dance tree.

Everyone there had their reasons for being there.

I had two.

A thanksgiving for my life.

And an offering of myself

to clean some of the darkness caused by wasichus.

 

Though I received other gifts along the way,

my mind kept turning to Wounded Knee...

300 Lakota, 200 of them women and children, all in a mass grave.

 

...and Sand Creek...

160 dead Cheyenne and Arapaho; two-thirds of them women and children.

Labeled "belligerents"

even though Chief Black Kettle

flew the American flag

and a white flag of surrender.

They weren't just killed; they were butchered, mutilated, like hamburger.

 

Later in time, Congress and Governors issued formal apologies

but the mind and spirit hasn't changed today.

Sitting in comfortable chairs

covered in hides stripped from buffalo

inheritors of the still-squirming yet never-discussed shadows of American history

receive sanitized, frosty-white spooled-up news streams of disembodied onlooking.

 

Names are uttered at the top of the hour before The Redskins game:

Cannonball.

Dakota Access.

Oceti Sakowin.

Standing Rock.

And the story goes on.

 

500 broken treaties.

The Great White Father taking land again.

Grandmothers and children, eyes filled with tears.

It's why they've been "taking a knee" at Wounded Knee for 127 years.

 

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People are talking about flags again.

This time: Old Glory.

Right on time.

Have you figured it out yet?

There is no 'escape'.

There is no 'exit'

except on the other side of 'through'.

 

There are forces in the land that do not sleep.

There are forces in the human soul that still weep.

There are ghosts in the national psyche

that have not yet been brought to peace or rest.

 

Until the past is lifted up

and talked about openly,

until the past is confessed

and taught to the young freely,

until the past is owned

and we all move through the fog together,

and mourn our parts in it all,

including the un-mourned that's been passed on to us to resolve,

it will go on and on and on.

 

Some will hear this and say,

"But I don't want to have to look.

I don't want to have to see.

Don't burst the bubble of national purity for me.

Let me go back to shopping,

and football, 

and all my other lovely distractions."

 

But if we walk down that road,

we lock future generations in a prison

of memory refractions.

 

Where exactly do you think you were born, traveler?

Did you think you could make a full journey through

without doing some of the work to undo

the darkness done by others who came before you?

We all have to shoulder

some of the deep work

of this Universal Human Job Description.

 

Others before us

tried for over a hundred years

to avoid these conversations,

and the wounds still haven't been redressed.

In fact, new ones are being made every day...

-- another layer on top of ancient hurts

which are punctured again and again

-- every time an unarmed black man is shot in the back

-- every time a defenseless woman dies in a jail cell

-- every time a Cheyenne grandmother takes mace in the face.

 

If we're going to look at the red, white, and blue

and truly honor the blood that has flowed in service of it,

we also have to realize

that none of us will ever be whole

or healed

or free

until we acknowledge

the blood being senselessly spilled under it.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

To learn more about the stunning sound world, KIVA, by Steve Roach, Ron Sunsinger, and Michael Stearns, visit Hearts of Space' KIVA Bandcamp Page

To learn more about Alio Die's recording Aura Seminalis, visit the album's Bandcamp Page here.

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Guests in the Great House of Being

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Guests in the Great House of Being

This is a poem that has three versions. If you are drawn to share one or all of them, feel free to do so. Either copy the URL above and post, or right-click on any of the images below and save to your desktop. Some have chosen to print out the last one to use as a start of their day. As always, the poem is best worked with in full-screen desktop, with headphones or surround-sound speakers.


The first version of the poem, entitled The Guest in the Great House of Being, addresses you, dear reader, as if you have just arrived here on the planet after a long journey to get here. You were sent here from far away. You already know that you were sent here to 'learn love' in the Earth School, but you were also told you have other things to discover and create. 

The words are instructions and simultaneously a call to an adventure known universally in the inward-looking traditions throughout every culture here. The verses are not uttered with an air of condemnation, but rather as an orientation to your new home; an invitation to a way of being however long you choose to be here.

After reading the first poem, you step into a circle of other people: All of us. The poem transforms to The Guests in the Great House of Being. The poem is no longer directed to you as a new arrival, but rather to all of us -- a collective of world citizens taking up very important work for the path ahead.

The final version, Entering the Great House of Being, is offered to you as a tool. Many traditions throughout the world use verses, mantras, contemplations, chants, and affirmations of various kinds as a way of orienting to the new day, each day. You're invited to work with the phrases, saying them out loud, or silently to yourself, exploring how they change your perceptions and experience of yourself and others as you move through the Great House of Being.

-- Frank Saizan Owen, Pure Land Poetry --


The Guest in the Great House of Being.jpg
The Guests in the Great House of Being.jpg
Entering in the Great House of Being.jpg

(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

To explore and purchase OVUM, the newest soundworld of Chronotope Project (composer Jeffrey Ericson Allen), visit the OVUM Bandcamp Page.

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Biológico

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Biológico

Guerrero rode in on a river of dust and light last night.

It had been seventy-two moons since I'd seen him.

 

Wearing a sarape of woven dreams,

words flowed from his mouth as glowing feathers.

 

A cloud of smoke swirled around his head

as he mumbled some prayers under his breath.

 

I guess he knew I'd been contemplating the Bigger Picture --

planet, culture, survival, sustainability.

 

He said he was just 'blowing through'

and only had one thing to say to me.

 

It is shameful how much of everything is being lost

all because people don't know how to manage

their compulsions, fears, and nerve endings.

How rare to find the presence of a True Human Being.

 

With that, I awoke

with a whole new understanding

of the wars that go on,

on the inside,

and out.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: World's Edge, Steve Roach

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The Teachings of Slow Time

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The Teachings of Slow Time

Name or body, which is dearer?

Body or wealth, which is worth more?

Gain or loss, which is more harmful?

Extreme love incurs a great cost.

Vast treasures conclude in heavy loss.

Know sufficiency. It's beyond shame.

Know when to stop, avoiding peril.

That is how to live long.

--Lao Tzu, chapter 44, Tao Te Ching (trans. Hamill)


Morning tales of the first Daoist cowboy

riding west into unmapped territory

has me thinking of warm air turning cool

slow-moving sandstorms rather than blinding ones 

lightning faithfully holding hands with autumn rain.

 

Niúzǎi had his own spoken-lightning.

His silent shuffling off to the west that day

was a pronouncement of 'ain't gonna study war no more.'

Though the western mountains call to me just as fiercely,

I am content to move slowly through the humid cloak of Michiziibi.

 

Cicadas defy the seasons and carry on

with their electric-psychedelic orchestra.

Pulsing waves pass through the brightening air

and I am made all the more aware.

The early autumn heat causes me to slumber like an old lion,

not to be bothered with such trifling things as pride, prides, or hunting.

A gift of Slow Time, my "new religion."

 

And yet, my soul isn't entirely at peace.

When the bright neurons

of my spirit's wandering eyes

twitched awake today,

I felt a disturbance in the Great Tapestry.

I wasn't sure what I was seeing.

Roof beams holding up the cosmos,

or shy beams of the sun

hesitant to fall to earth

because they aren't sure

they will be welcomed properly?


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Dust to Dust, Steve Roach & Roger King

notes: 

Niúzǎi (n'yo'z,eye): Chinese word for "cowboy." A nickname I have for Lao Tzu.

Michiziibi: an Algonquian word meaning "Big River." Root of the name, Mississippi.

 

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Quantum Travel

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Quantum Travel

Elbows on marble

smoke of añejo on the throat

two whirly-gig blondes, bright eyes blinking,

desperately try to get my attention.

I guess they don't realize I'm old enough to be their father.

 

The only thing on my mind is the soft blue smoke of the dark red hills;

soaking in the soft blue water, just up from Horsethief Canyon,

the last time I remember a smile on your face.

The stars were like jewels. So were your eyes.

We drank nigorizake like two crazy clouds that had broken out of prison.

I can't seem to put the memory down.

 

I pull myself back 'into the now' and watch the endless scurry around me.

Wandering eyes glancing

wanna-be princesses prancing

jaw-jutting male peacocks strutting

not realizing they're dining in the poison jungle.

 

I wander home in a trance, pondering:

What is the point of this chaos;

this fast-paced fetishism

this new floating world's religion of freneticism?

 

I close my eyes in this world and open them in another.

I cross paths with Hawkeye in spirit-form.

We're wandering through the canyons out from Bandelier,

somewhere between Sanchez and Hondo.

The Rio Grande is a stone's throw...and so we do.

 

We start skipping stones and talking about the journey of this life.

His regrets. Mine. Wounds. Time.

Two hawks circle above and I think to myself, 'What a perfect day.'

 

I turn and look my father in the face

and find myself thinking how young he looks for his age.

It occurs to me:

The weight of the heartbreaks we carry

is the only aging force there really is.

It's why we meet some people in their nineties

whose spirits are lighter than eiderdown

and some twenty-somethings who already seem old,

like they're carrying inhabited dungeons of banished travelers on the inside.

 

I awake.

It's the first day of autumn

and my first thought of the season

is the work of off-loading useless cargo.

The ground ahead is a mix of rocky and soft

and a bunch of added weight will do nothing

but sink wagons in deep ruts of mud and regret.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

2 Comments

The Heritage of Looking More Closely

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The Heritage of Looking More Closely

“Do you know the legend about cicadas?

They say they are the souls of poets

who cannot keep quiet because,

when they were alive, they never wrote

the poems they wanted to.”

--John Berger, author of About Looking and Ways of Seeing

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The cicadas have been fading in the sunlit world

which makes them all the louder

in that shimmering land on the other side of the veil.

 

Their fateful late-summer clicking and chiming

has given way to a steady thrumming of dreaming, unbinding, and dying.

With the impending turning of the season's great wing toward autumn,

I dreamt my way along the kaleidoscope of heritage.

 

The multitude of tribes flowing through my veins appears restless.

I've always thought of them as...

Scottish fighting English

Irish fighting British

Danish fighting Irish

Huguenots trying to find a place to be

Welsh and Cherokee fighting shoulder to shoulder against Brits and Muskogee

Midwives to U.S. Presidents

Irish diaspora by way of coffin ships

Slave owners Liberators Sheriffs Teachers

An ancient grandmother named Esperanza -- a rose of Andalusia

Headstrong wanderers trudging through rain on the Three Chop Way

 

And I look out at a nation coming apart at the seams,

and now all my ancestors are saying the same thing:

To be fully embodied, fully embrace.

To fully embrace, look more closely.

To look is to see. To see is to be free.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

 

sound: For more information about the soundworlds of AGLAIA, visit the Bandcamp page of Water Inside the Light

image: A picture of some of my ancestors. 

acknowledgements: a nod of thanks to Jeremy Elbert for sharing the wonderful quote by John Berger, and to my father, LaRue Owen, for teaching me an appreciation for history.

 

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Fanta'Say

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Fanta'Say

I've given up trying to understand

how loose molecules

out in a desert

twitching beneath and between grains of sand

can pull on this soul

as if I've always been an orphan

to the place where I am.

 

I wake up in the dawn light

drink coffee

wash off my hide

put on my boots

a coat of armor

a mask

yet another time.

 

But at the end of day, 

it's an unseen set of wings that carry me

over rivers

wide stretches of prairie

until I reach a magenta sky

where I breathe in a breath like a newborn

and exhale the words: 

I'm home.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen

for more info on Steve Roach and Roger King's sonic interpretations of the desert Southwest, visit the Bandcamp page for Dust to Dust

 

 

 

 

 

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