Teachings of the Seasons

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Teachings of the Seasons

Last Poem of the Season (Winter 2018)


 

We think the seasons only happen around us.

This is only half-seeing.

 

When the body steps into the embrace of Spring

don't be surprised if the world within you

has entered the slowing flow of Winter.

Sometimes the inner and outer

move along like birds gliding in different directions.

 

Old ghosts can return.

You may surprise yourself by what you've failed to learn.

You may even discover, like me,

a whole layer of old armor

just under the skin

decaying.

>|<

Last night the wandering scholar Bright Flowing Mountain
paid a visit to my hut of dreams.

I noticed his jade-adorned topknot turning gray
and realized it had been a lifetime since we'd crossed paths.

We spoke of the mystery of cities, poems, and people,
and how each one is like an unfolding puzzle box.

He then asked: "Why are you wearing armor?"

I looked down and much to my dismay
I was dressed for battle just like the old days.

"We Daoists do not armor ourselves against the world," he added.

I shook my head in disbelief.
When I looked back, Bright Flowing Mountain
had vanished into the light of the new day,
and I wept like a child realizing I had lost The Way.

>|<

It was then I heard his voice
speak as if singing an ancient song from the shaded pines:

When the last piece of armor falls, it does not make a loud clang.

It arrives as a soft knowing whimper from somewhere deep inside;
its source: the ancient pain that accompanies
finally seeing just how closed-off you've been.

When the last piece of armor falls,
let go of all the faces of those who harmed you,

all the faces of those for whom you could not truly show up.

This is what the sages call 'cutting cords.'

Go out to the edge of town and drop all of your armor there.
Then you will be able to do what you need to do.
This is what is meant by 'finally arriving...
to the home that was always meant for you.'


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Forrest Fang / Letters To The Farthest Star

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The Door To Heaven Is Closed With Words

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The Door To Heaven Is Closed With Words

Tonight I called upon Raphael.

I'm not even a Catholic.

Raphael! Raphael!

Lend me your healing wings tonight, O Raphael!

 

I felt no brush, no flutter; only the kind of cold when you lose faith again.

I took it as a sign to step into the icy rain.

I hoped it would shock me awake from my bad dream;

but, alas, I was not sleeping.

As the small shards of ice sliced into my bare back,

I realized I had done the foolhardy thing

of leaving my armor at home.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Roy Mattson / Melancholy Moon

 

 

 

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The Way I Approach Prayer in the City

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The Way I Approach Prayer in the City

 

I really don't mean to stare

but this is the way I approach prayer.

 

When people enter the gathering place

- man, woman, elder, child -

I put down my tea

and find myself paying attention

not to their face

not to their shape

but to the back of their heels

and that invisible line

that stretches behind

their present 'standing-in-place' place

into the day they're just arriving from

into their past

all the way back...all the way back...

to that day when they took

their first marvelous, miraculous, eye-sparkling steps.

 

I see them standing there, grinning,

like the child that they were on that day

regardless of the Heavy Spirit they've managed to drag into the cafe.

And I want to reach out

and place my hand on their back

and say: "How did you become so burdened little one?"

 

And sometimes,

even days and days later,

sitting like a mountain

breathing like a forest,

their face will return to me

and I will think about the burdensome weight I saw

in their eyes, their heart, the beleaguered steps of their weary feet

and I will say out loud to the quiet air:

"It shouldn't take an entire lifetime to find what makes your heart light up."

 

Surely it is never too late to grow into the widening gyre of our soul.

Surely it is never too late to remember the Old Way of Seeing

from Immortal Lantern Mountain

which the old guides call Skyward Gaze of Childlike Wonder.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Anugama / Magic Flow

 

 

 

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Proximity

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Proximity

The slope of the roof tells us about it.

The noonday sun shining down on the outer wall does too.

The hay fire in the autumn field is quite talkative about it,

and the dew-dappled pine branch

sings quatrains of cloud whispers in homage to it.

 

Two sisters take a lunch and talk about it

like old philosophers in the mountains.

Lovers in their heart-melting, leg-locked dance

among the twisting sheets call it into being.

 

Hot water.

Yes. The hot water on your face in the morning.

The bouquet of the wind blowing through the peach orchard.

The first (and last) sip of sweetened sake beneath the moon

reveals a remembered, ancient ritual dedicated to it.

 

Women gossiping in a corner -- it is there.

Brothers embracing -- it is there.

A child asking what something means -- and it is there.

 

It is present when you don't want to brave the cold

and when you finally throw back the quilted comforter

and place your feet upon the floor.

 

It is there.

It is there.

It is always here.

 

Present in our collective victories

and our personal losses.

It cannot be named.

It cannot be named.

But it is here, and it is here that we must live for it.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Ben Leinbach / The Spirit of Yoga

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At the Edge of the Setting-Sun World

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At the Edge of the Setting-Sun World

In the Setting-Sun World
the food is dripping with fat
and burns the roof of your mouth.

In the Setting-Sun World
people drink themselves into a stupor
until they forget where and who they are.

Though I gave up such fare
and customs of violence against the self long ago,
I have been no better in some years.

Like an assassin sent undercover
required to assume the dress and tongue
of a province not his own

for years I wandered between days, nights, and shadows
uncertain if anything would be waiting
when I stepped across the boundary of each.

But today...

Today I laid down in the sun, shirtless,
and thought to myself:
'No one has held my face
or warmed my heart like this in years.'

And then, there at the roof-edge, Raven,
the one who tried to steal the sun that day,
gave something back to me that was once taken away.

And I could see again
with the Hidden Eye behind the eyes
that the Great Eastern Sun 

had been placed back inside my heart again.

It is not a rare forged sword
hammered and folded twenty times
that finally cuts through
the cocoon woven from fears.

It is a kind word
perhaps from one
who knew the same wound
that first drove you inward.

May you meet such a one, if one is needed.
May your cocoon be split open with a sword so sharp

its light brushing-by can only be taken for kindness and care.

And if you drink in the new nectars of light
that pour in on your Liberation Day,
don't plant a flag in that ground and say:
"This is it! I found The Way!"

Take a witness who sees your heart as precious.

Tie a simple prayer flag to the branch of a hidden tree,

that no one will ever see, and give quiet thanks.

 

Then, re-enter the troubled world of the Setting-Sun mind

and be just like Raven, reminding people of the Great Sun inside themselves.


What greater faith is there than 'Just Being'?


 

LINER NOTE: In the Shambhala traditions (a pre-Buddhist animistic tradition that influenced Tibetan Buddhism and which holds a vision of sacred warriorship and uplifted, enlightened society), the images of the Setting-Sun and the Great Eastern Sun are pivotal.  The Setting-Sun World is any attitude, thought or action that leads one to degraded behavior. It is a diminished, calloused, and sarcastic view. It is addiction run amok. It is lazy slouching into obsessiveness that doesn't aspire to a greater vision of life and living. The Great Eastern Sun represents a vision of wakefulness, a daily practice of orienting oneself to an archetype of the "tender-hearted warrior"; a sacred warrior who conquers the world not through violence or aggression but through gentleness, courage, and self-knowledge. "The way of the Great Eastern Sun is based on seeing that there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in this world, which is the innate wakefulness of human beings."--Chogyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Waning Crescent / Scenes from a Ghost Train / Forrest Fang

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Hikari no Chikara

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Hikari no Chikara

"Anyone who plots to harm the innocence of others

has a special hell realm waiting for their soul someday.

The manipulation of sorcery is real. Sorcerers are real.

They may feast on the energy of others now, 

but the lower bardos of cursed-desire await them in the end."

doña Río (Kuma-sensei)


I don't want to live on a constant war-footing.

I've led whole lives like that...my sword always an arm's length away.

 

I don't want to live on a constant war-footing.

My unwavering desire to protect your innocence from harm

doesn't want that for you either.

Who can enjoy the cherry blossoms that way?

 

I don't want to live on a constant war-footing

but if we're honest about it,

really and truly honest about it,

there is a darkness in this world

that would take your light if it could,

just as it's always been.

 

I don't want to live on a constant war-footing

but if we're honest about it,

really and truly honest about it,

there is a darkness in some men's souls.

They learn sweet words,

craft their allurements,

practice their warlock's dance into the late hours.

They plot elaborate mesh-like traps;

study the terrain, perfect the hunt,

delivering smooth "sensitive" lines

to make you think they are an ally

when, all the while, they are students of "cornering."

 

Then, like a tendon snapping in a snare, they pounce,

and they feed, feed, feed

all because they're empty and lonely.

And if it's not you, it's someone else;

and that's how you know the Warlock's Dance

because, in truth, it could be any warm body.  

 

I don't want to live on a constant war-footing

but if we're honest about it,

really and truly honest about it,

there is a darkness in this world

that would consume your light if it could.

If yours was ever wrested away

and you wrestled it back one day,

you know of what I speak.

 

I don't want to live on a constant war-footing

but I am now strangely calm on this eve of battle.

It won't be the first time you and I have stared Soul-Eaters in the eye

and sung the ancient Taming Demons Chant from the mountains we once knew.


(c) 2018 Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Robert Rich, What We Left Behind

 

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The Original Invitation

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The Original Invitation

There's honey dripping from the moon tonight.

A golden tear fell on my cheek from high above.
Now I feel every lover, loving; every exile yearning.

I feel all the ones who never arrived into someone's waiting arms,

and all the ones who were waiting.
I feel all the ones who've become an orphan, and those who've lost a child.

There's honey dripping from the moon tonight
from the branches of the moon
from butter lamps
from the smiling glow in people's eyes.

Do you remember accepting the original invitation?
It's all coming back to me now.

The dragging anchor hooked deep
into the ocean floor
and the Great Shaper's lighthouse beacon
guided your wandering spirit ashore.
It was then and there that you saw
the invitation was already yours.

You slowly unfurled the curling brown paper that read:

You are hereby invited
to move through this holy land.
Your travels here will be
two parts blessing, one part curse.
The blessing is that you will feel
with a full and open heart
the inner world of the travelers you encounter.
The curse is that you will feel
with a full and open heart
the inner world of the travelers you encounter.


Do you remember thinking:
"Well, maybe I'll just try it on for size for a while"?

Did you realize there would be no end to it

once you donned this luminous cloak;
that its length would be like a glowing fisherman's net 

that covers the entire sea;

that this hard-won expansiveness
would leave you paralyzed with love and agony?

When we eat at this feast table
it changes us forever
and there's no going back
to that impoverished neighborhood
of famished grasping-after
for all that we never had,
for all that was never ours to begin with.

When we dine at this feast table
it changes us forever,
reveals our unbridled kinship
with everyone, everything,
and there's only stepping forward now,
embracing what we always had,
saying yes to the loving and yearning
that was always ours to begin with.

There's honey dripping from the moon tonight.

A golden tear fell on my cheek from high above.
Now I feel every lover, loving; every exile yearning.

I feel all the ones who never arrived into someones waiting arms,

and all the ones who were waiting.
I feel all the ones who've become an orphan, and those who've lost a child.


There's honey dripping from the moon tonight;
from the branches of the moon
from butter lamps
from the smiling glow in people's eyes.

No matter how often the healing rain soothes this ancient sting,
the original invitation brings us back

to what we're all really doing here
with these turning of days.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry

sound: Acacia / Tree of Life / Loren Nerell & Mark Seelig

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Traipsing Past

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Traipsing Past

When you first fell from the stars there was a place for you.

Out there in the burnished wheat fields.

Under the wing of a man who knew the workings of a farm.

Watching all the kids leave to pitch six dimes on a counter to see Burt Lancaster in Apache.

 

The last thing on your mind was losing ground or hiding.

You entered the orbit of this world as a fireball arriving.

You jumped through the hoops.

You followed all the rules.

Yet, much to your dismay, there seems to be a trick of time taking place.

 

The hours flirt with you and seem to drag on like small eternities;

while the days seem to scurry by

like horses breaking out of a corral

making a final, breathless gallop to faraway hills

that have never known saddle, stirrup, rein, or fenceline.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: New Moon At Forbidden Mesa / The Desert Collection, Vol. One / Steve Roach

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apertura

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apertura

The day it happens is not a day you plan for.

If it was planned, it was contrived.

A watched pot never boils.

 

There you are

ambling along

minding your own business

when suddenly the road falls out from under you.

You tumble. 

You reach for handholds in vain.

You may even call out to passing crows for instructions.

 

On the way down you think:

This is it! This is how I go out!

There's no coming back from this!

And, of course, you're correct.

Nothing resembling your former self will remain.

It's like a bone picked clean of its marrow.

The last clump of wheat in an autumn field

meeting a freshly sharpened scythe.

 

When it happens, 

if it happens for real,

you're brought back down to the level of the earthly.

Your heart aches in ways you didn't think possible.

You're sure your next breath is your last

but then The-Mystery-Behind-All-This has the last laugh.

 

Then and there you're finally brought to that oft-spoke precipice;

the one where countless others have heaved up old lives,

and you realize, with two sets of freshly cleaned eyes,

that you have met what the ancients call 'a Clear-Mirror.'

 

Graves of the past become wombs.

The simplest of words start healing wounds.

The one before you becomes a teacher

in how to put things down, and how to grow.

 

And just about the moment you start to utter a word of rejoice,

your own soul pipes-up to chide you:

"...as if you ever had any choice."


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: 28th Night / Melancholy Moon / Roy Mattson

 

 

 

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The Stirring Humidity of Not Returning to the Old Lives

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The Stirring Humidity of Not Returning to the Old Lives

The whole continent is frozen. 

I'm not feeling the cold. 

A humidity is rising within again, thawing long frozen places.

Hidden villages where I source my true citizenship

are stirring again with their morning activities.

Allies I cannot see are carrying lanterns, accompanying me.

Even they don't want to be called anything anymore

except for...co-walker.

 

As I cross over from the dark half of the year to the light,

I remember something and feel a clutching talon release behind my ribs.

Last night I dreamed that I was a ghost

sitting at a table playing cards for my soul.

I didn't know whether to bet or to fold

and even now it seems to be my curse.

Games long held in place are drawing to a close.

Tapestries long woven are being unstitched. 

Cords from old lives have been cut and their memories fade.

The Heart-Eye is becoming clear again.

I even heard my own soul whisper to itself in the dawn's rising light:

Traveler, O Traveler,

have you seen

what a trap

waiting is?

Life isn't meant

to be put on layaway.*


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

*with a deep nod of gratitude to one I once traveled with for reminding me of this notion.

sound: "End of the River" / CINEMATIC / Erik Wollo

 

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The Nourishing Fire

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The Nourishing Fire

"You know when you know."

--doña Río

I am above the clouds again
in that luminous realm
where crazy clouds go
to be reminded of the Ensouled Vastness.

Far below this emerald peak,
the red dust of the strained world swirls.

In the Province of Forgetting,
the people assemble for strange rituals
of blood and soul-letting.

I'll be there soon enough, again;
but, until then, I am content
to sit like a mountain
and contemplate this
great mystery of mysteries:

How some roads,
despite their beauty
their vistas
their treasure-in-wait,
are not ours for the traveling

while in other corners of the province
two beacon stars that have
ached their way across the cosmos
have finally found within the other
a nourishing fire.
______________________________________
© 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: "Seven Coronas" / Letters to the Farthest Star, Forrest Fang

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Love Will Defeat You

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Love Will Defeat You

At first, you will think you have your act together.

You have, of course, invested in it for years.

You'll assume you are solid.
Battle-tested, you'll assume you can take anything.

Then, you meet the soul
that breaks open the hard husk
you had come to think of as 'you.'

 

That first gust
feels like the day
you were pulled into the cold world
from the safe cocoon
of your mother's womb.

There is no going back
and nothing, and no one,
can prepare you for the
constant tender state that will follow.

Something of The Sacred Other
is inside you now
and even if you wanted to
there is no re-weaving
the light-limiting husk
from which you have come.

 

Now, when they are far from you,
you will learn the same kind of worry
parents have for their children's safety.

Now, with others' eyes on them,
others' comments in their ear
beyond your own range,
some days you will wonder
if you are enough.

Now, you will be stretched beyond
the limited territory
you had mistaken for a life.

You will develop a thirst
for the wider terrain of your
deeper, better, truer, braver,
more enlivened self

and just about the time
you think you have found
solid ground again,
another wave will come
and upend your boat.

This is when,
tumbling downward into the deep,
you remember priestess Pythia's oracle for you:

Love will defeat you.
Embrace defeat.


(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry

sound: Aura Seminalis - Part I, Alio Die

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