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



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 /

sound: Forrest Fang / Letters To The Farthest Star