Dream Dokusan


Dream Dokusan

I was gearing up for a new season of poetry.

It's a bit like being ridden by something you cannot see.

In my case, a haunting image of a life where I "arrived" and had "made" it.

Some haunting image of wandering in the mountains, carefree like a drifting cloud.

But then I saw my teacher in the Dreamtime again, firmly nestled in the Pure Land.

It went a little something like this.


Student: I feel such an utter and absolute sense of disillusionment.

Teacher: Celebrate. To be without illusions is the point.

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

sound: Forrest Fang / "Departure" from FOLKLORE


The Poverty From Which We Suffer


The Poverty From Which We Suffer

Another season.

Like sleeping snakes, betrayals of old

are still lodged deep in my right shoulder.

I walk around half-expecting it to happen all over again.


Some mornings the left shoulder hangs like a frozen wing.

Ever hear a sternum crack like a lobster's back?

Mornings like that and I think of astronauts

upon their re-entry to the earth plane.

It's more pleasing than my own scurrying back

from dreams of twisted metal wrapped around a sacrificial tree.


I swing my legs over the bedside. 

Feet touch the floor. 

My left ankle trembles at the weight.

I think: "I will never run again."


Nearly 50 years here in the Earth School.

I'm still in 1st Grade it seems.

Still trying to keep up with the juxtaposition

of my lizard brain, my leonine appetite,

and the other parts of my neurocircuitry

that know - beyond a shadow of a doubt -

that something more is to be had of this life.


"You should be further along," I hear a voice say.

"You should be out of debt by now."

"You should have mastered something."

"You should have made a name for yourself."

"Why do you keep flailing away in the dead of night;

don't you know more life is behind than in front of you?"


I stumble to the low-table and read some Han-shan Te-ch'ing by lamplight.

I look up at the approaching dawn and think:

'Perhaps this will be the season when I finally come home to myself.'

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

sound: from Alio Die, They Grow Layers of Life Within






Rest, Saboteur


Rest, Saboteur

Peering past sharpened edges

eyes gaze out from a second-story window

at the hard-edged world beyond the known demarcation.

Words flow forth like a keening song: 

Too much. Too fast. Too fierce. Too hot. Too cold. Too dark. Too heavy.

The anthem of past innocence lost rings out yet again.


As if Mara's army of hungry ghosts were stampeding in again,

the cowering animal of the wounded-self hunkers down and braces for the onslaught.

Erect the battlements! Build out the fortifications!

Gather your swords around you to guard this circle of defense!


Then, it happens. 

In the still-dark-quiet of a Ch'an blue night, the swords melt,

become tributaries of tears quenching a long thirsty life.


Battlements drop. Fortifications fade.

Another Lone Sitting One takes up

the Sword of Heart-Mind and cuts everything away.

Ancient sentiments flowing like a river beneath the blue mountains

reveal the only thing left to say:

Rest, O Ego of Endless Fretting.

Rest, O Ego of Incessant Worry.

Rest, O Fearful Saboteur.

Smooth out your sharpened, hardened edges

and the whole world becomes a soft Pure Land again.

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

sound: Oxycanta / Winter Blooms


It Arrives As A Sunburst In the Forest


It Arrives As A Sunburst In the Forest

"People often ask me, 'What is Shugendo?'

And I reply, 'Shugendo is the philosophy of

putting yourself in nature, and

reflecting on what you feel.'"

--Master Hoshino-Sendatsu, 13th generation yamabushi priest

I don't quite know the full science of it yet.

Perhaps you've already been tracking it.

Consider sharing your thorough notes with all of us later.

For now, I bend low under the canopy

surrendering myself to the science of renewal

found in the old tree-sitting religion.


The science, of course, always begins with an inquiry;

a problem, a hypothesis, a quest, a deep need to make sense

how paths crumble, how towers topple, how things go sideways.


For me, it started with a season of daggers flying through my aura.

What ol' Chaucer says in the old Merchant's Tale is true: "For love is blind."

Here's to the return of Clear-Sight.


I've been leaking spirit-energy in my wake for weeks.

I get images of an old life as a samurai, knocked from my horse,

bleeding from armor that looked like a riddled door or a seeping sieve.


In the here and now, however,

a holy centering place

high above the city

plugged and smoothed my wounds.

Kannon's grace flows through birdsong and leaf-bloom.


People these days are going on and on

about "forest bathing" as if it's something new.

I love that, but sometimes it's beyond a pleasant stroll;

sometimes an actual triage of deep forest healing is required.


In the end, every bit of it

is just what The Great Physician ordered;

the steady, quiet-piercing,

the demarcation,

the departure,

the healing-up.


There's no doubting when you're finally on new ground. 

A buoyancy returns. 

A fortitude.

A gleam in the eyes that had started to fade.

A return of dedication to vows you had made.


And so, may everyone who may be needing to

release, release, and release some more

until the flow of your indigo tears run dry in the river

that is the past you needed to remember but will not revisit.

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

sound: Max Corbacho / Splendid Labyrinths / "Wave of Reflection"








The Turning Ground isn't a place.

It is a moment.

Though your lifetime~daytime charlatan dance has kept you showing up,

the heart-mind knows when you're in new terrain.


And the seeking?

The seeking falls away because you know 'it' can't be found.


Credentials, accolades; meaningless smoke to the True Person of No Rank.

Anchors of the past - no more weight.

Present-day tendrils no longer weave you in to this mortal coil.

You've even off-loaded what once resembled "future dreams."


Though the long running thread of filial piety keeps you close to the village for now,

observing your practice of hashmarking your days and nights behind the courtyard wall,

you know the time is coming when,

once and for all,

you will step across that invisible line and don the Wandering Steam Body.

It's the one that becomes part of the jungle.

It's the one that becomes more elemental than human.

It's the one that lets the Woven-In Life

slough off the bodily form like an old robe.

It's the one that surrenders to decades of anonymity and discovery

and decides to live, breathe, and walk the poems rather than write them.

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

sound: Steve Roach / CORE / "Indigo Yearning"



Rounding of the Roads


Rounding of the Roads

Some roads take it out of you.

Some roads restore you.

Some roads lead away from that which would have taken your light.

Some roads lead directly into the light-restoring silence.

It can take a long time of meandering and travel to learn which road is for you;

and, even then, only the Fool of Roads will try to convince you there is only one road.

There are many roads that can suit a person, each with a season and a lesson,

with gates of stepping through and stepping beyond that lead to still other roads.

Get rid of the harsh voice that holds any road you've walked against you.

Hold your eyes up to the horizon and say:

I am an Explorer of the Ten Thousand Roads.

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

sound: Forrest Fang / Letters to the Farthest Star / Burnt Offerings (ambient remix)





I had thought about growing old with her;
to become one of those old guys you see
sporting a garden hat and an indigo bandana.
Her man.
Her 'old man,' I would've thought of myself.

I would've written poems
counted dragonflies
caught trout
helped her with planting, harvesting.
I would've napped some days like an old lion.

But, as a dear, long-ago myokonin - a true Pure Land faithful - put it to me once over tea: 

"Nothing works without true-entrusting. True-entrusting is a two-way street."

Now I am here, in this dark cave, 
in a cave-dark time it seems,
surrendering an old life, opening to a new life of deep-listening and mountain austerity;
cutting-loose, cutting off, cutting-through,
stumbling into and out of the greatest cosmic joke there is.
Turns out: 
The self that held such visions of harvest was, in the end, always the silly punchline.

How could I hold a grudge? What exactly would hold it?

How could I even write a poem now referring to a "self"?

I'm just a quiet ghost now borrowing this skin bag for a final fleeting journey through.

Like a moth to a flame, all self-power has been snuffed-out in the dark by Other-Power

and the only poem I can ever write again as part of the silent faithful is namu-amida-butsu.


Whether a complex system of bestowed practices, or a single black brushstroke on rough paper, it's all there. The Dharma: Reality-as-it-is. It doesn't hold back. Our life, whether in harmony or in shambles, always tells the absolute truth.

In all cases, our suffering undoes us. It undoes all obscurations. It is inescapable, and only ever slightly delayed by the degree of investiture in fortification of the self.

The only way beyond it: 
Let go. 
Forget the self.

The only way beyond the self: 
Allow the self to be unstitched.

The only way to be unstitched:
Surrender to the tides and high winds
of the Dharma of Suffering.

Allow the forces of Other-Power
to overcome the pure fallacy of self-power.
Therein, for the first time, we feel that something tangible beyond the finite self has heard our cries woven in among the cries of the rest of the world.

Liner Notes: 

Mishirabe is an ancient Pure Land Buddhist practice of going without food, water, and sleep for a number of days, usually in a dark place such as a cave.

Namu-Amida-Butsu: known as the nembutsu, it is a mantric phrase used either as a spoken recitation or silent contemplation in the Pure Land traditions of China (namo-amito-fo) and Japan. One translation is: "I take refuge in the Buddha of Infinite Life."

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

sound: "The Ghost In Me" / Terra Ambient (the late Jeff Kowal) / Wanderlust


Everyone Has A First Love


Everyone Has A First Love

--a poem in honor of the Spirit of Nature

Everyone has a first love.

For some, it's themselves.
Stylish selfies, life portrayals.

For others, an addiction of numbing.

For others, money.

For still others, it's battle.
At least that's a form of connection, right?

As I take the hermit road once and for all,
I return to my first love.
Her perfume lures me back to the cloud-laced hills.

She is resolute.
Gracious in her receiving.
Soft in her embrace.

Though she challenges me to be better day to day,
she accepts me when I fail; points me back to the way of The Way,
and has never - not once  - doubted my fidelity to her
or my lifelong commitment to her Beauty Way.

Her inner light, her curves, her endless stories, intoxicate me.

On moonlit nights, she is my companion.
We trade poems.

In the dark phases of the month,
she leaves me and meets me in dream.

There is blame and names on the wind tonight.
It is of no mind to me.
This heart-mind knows it isn't sidestepping. It is deep-diving.

After being met by those
whose idea of "togetherness"
was always a sparring ground, 
I will stay with my first love;
the one who first accepted me years ago
into the way of the forest-priest.

There is no loyalty like this one.
There is no challenge like this one.
There is no instruction like this one.
There is no inspiration like this one.
There is no love like this one.

The fragrance of mountain cherry blossoms envelop me.
A soft breeze through the pines lifts my spirit.
I gaze skyward to the Great Tea Ladle above.
Even relatives among the Seven Sisters approve of this union.

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

sound: Imee Ooi / Pure Land Mantra & Namo Amitabha Sutra / Amitabha Sutra


After the Burning


After the Burning

Fire! Fire! We're all on fire! Burning with desire,

burning with hatred, burning with craving.

The eye is on fire with lust and greed. 

The mouth is on fire with anger and false speech.

Extinguish the fires of delusion and be free. Be free.

The Adittapariyaya Sutra (The Fire Sermon, Pali Canon,

Third Discourse of Shakyamuni Buddha)

In heavy heart times
the sweet air of Spring mountains
is a healing salve.

Overhead lattice of dark spruce and pink dogwoods
against the soft twlight sky
reminds us of our own renewal
and eventual branching out.

Though we all spin in the small churn of caged narrative,
in the end it all fades into the embrace of the Greater Story.

In the Pure Land there are no enemies;
only weary, wounded fools stumbling along, ever-arriving, 

ever-relying on the Great Compassion into which we are all already woven.

When the smoke finally clears from doused fires of rage and passion,
there is only the dawn star, the lark of the morning, the song of liberation
whispering to us across the water from the Other Shore.
(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Robert Rich & Alio Die / Fissures


Return of the Rice Gods


Return of the Rice Gods

I walked toward the setting sun's horizon tonight with questions in my heart.

At the six mile mark, I turned around with no answers in heart-mind.

I began the long walk home in the dark, a feeling of defeat hanging over me like a dead man's aura. 

I inserted earbuds and picked back up with Zukav's The Seat of the Soul. 

I paced my feet to the rhythm of his voice and tried to find The Way again.

'I used to know this. I used to radiate this. What a horrid student I have been,' I thought.

A true "Worst Horse"...to use a Zen term.


As the quantum soul map was unfurled, like fragile paper in the delicate air,

I heard how "personalities" from our other lives, still connected to our soul,

can try to heal their karma through our present-day circumstances.


My samurai-self immediately appeared in my mind: raw survival -- fight or flight.

A life as a worker in the Varanasi charnel grounds came next.

Then, the wounded child of this life appeared.

Beaten with thorn-switches.

Thrown like a sack of potatoes against a wall for wetting the bed one Saturday morning.

Being left behind at a vulnerable time.


Then the face of my old-man-self showed up and I felt the tears begin to stream.


It was a life when our whole village grew lazy

and stopped holding each other in prayer.

It was a life when our whole village grew lazy

and stopped praying to the spirits of the land that held us.

We took the mountains for granted. The rivers that flowed down from them.

And the valley. And the rice. And each season's new batch of sake.


As soon as we let go of the shimmering blue thread of life, a slow rot set in.


One sweltering August day, laying back on my haunches, for there was no rice to harvest,

I sipped the last swig of sake I had secretly hoarded from the village storehouse.

I was convinced beyond all shadow of doubts that it was the end. 

Why wouldn't it be?

The Spirit of the Valley had retreated.

For yet another year she had withheld the harvest.

When the Spirit of the Valley retreats, the rice gods cannot do their part.


And then it happened. 

A small, one-legged warbler landed on a nearby branch and began to sing.

Namu-Namu Chirp-Chirp.

Namu-Namu Chirp-Chirp.

Namu-Namu Amida Butsu.

Namu-Namu Chirp-Chirp.


I sat bolt upright with a jolt. 

I gazed out at the valley as if for the first time.

I saw the mountains as 'The Mothers' again.

I saw the barren rice fields and knew they were empty because we hadn't prayed; we hadn't nurtured them.

I looked out at my fellow villagers and felt the accumulation of years of grudges like a thick sludge because we had ceased looking upon one another as bodhisattvas and future-buddhas.

I ran to a small boarded up shack that once served as a shrine and shattered the planks into splinters.

I threw open the doors and grabbed a handbell.

'Ding ding ding ding. 

Ding ding ding ding.'

I rang the bell as if my life depended upon it

because I knew the entire life of our village depended upon it.


Thinking there was a fire, the people came running

in from the fields,

in from the forest where some were foraging,

some from their bedrolls.


When pressed for an explanation for what was happening, I barked:

"Don't you see? Don't you see? If we don't approach each other with prayer in our hearts, it is a road that leads directly to hell realms! Everything must be prayer. Every word must be prayer. Every act must be prayer. Planting must be prayer. Harvesting must be prayer. Tending wounds must be prayer. Everything must be the nembutsu."

Liner notes: The nembutsu is the mantric prayer of the Pure Land tradition. It is an expression of true-entrusting. It consists of seven syllables: namu amida butsu. Some Pure Land adherents believe its daily recitation ensures rebirth in a Pure Land of joy following this life. Other Pure Land adherents hold that its recitation is a way of bringing the peace and harmony of the Pure Land into this reality. Still other Pure Land adherents suggest we are already living within the Pure Land now but do not perceive it. 

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

sound: Roy Mattson / "Water Maze" / Endless River








Slow Thaw Flow


Slow Thaw Flow

Enough circuits around the Sun
and you don't need the arc of another full turn
to see when something isn't going to work.

There is no blame in that anywhere in the Three Worlds.

No amulets or spells can dispel
someone else's ghosts or hauntings.

Realizing that is called wisdom.

Though you may clamor
and even raise your voice in protest,
all your protestations are useless.

When The Sight sees The Seen
The Road That Would Have Been falls away
and any protestations you yell into the dark at that point
is just you delaying your grieving.


Celebrate what can be celebrated.

There was, in fact, a softness that drew life toward life.

Such moments are not in vain in the larger tide of Being.

Celebrate what can be celebrated.

Release in love.

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

sound: David Darling / "Sojourn" / 8-String Religion





Despite all efforts, it can happen in any season.

The young know it.

The old people sometimes still speak of it.

The passing of certain moons may even produce fissures or a tumult that resemble it.

And sometimes, sometimes,

it even causes the great music to fall silent

and for some poets and travelers to reach that point on the road

where there simply are no more words.

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

sound: Roy Mattson / Melancholy Moon

Liner notes: Tako-tsubo is a Japanese term meaning "octopus pot," whose shape appears like a heart undergoing cardiomyopathy. The term was adopted by a Japanese physician to refer to what has otherwise come to be known as "broken-heart syndrome."





Beneath the soft breeze,

Spring lanterns lightly tremble on branch and stream

foreshadowing a season of certain change.


If, like me, you find yourself returning...

returning again from the Land of Thorns and Shadows,

take solace in knowing that even the eight million gods

have been waiting quietly for you, healing salves in hand.


You'll find them in the hot water of your morning shower.

The amber glow in days of sun

the cool blue-gray light on days with rain.

Even the objects in your home, suffuse with the pulse of story,

are vibrant in their leaning to make a reconnection with you.


The wooden spoon an old timer carved for you once

to ensure that you'd have a "stirring life."

The tapestry woven by grandmothers you will never meet

but who were "praying you into" their weaving nonetheless.

The wooden statue of Amida, Kannon.

The earthen bowl shaped by your mother's hands.

The fruit, filling the bowl, that you don't remember buying

because you've been operating on autopilot for weeks.


Anything with its place that reminds you of yours.

These presences are your midwife now.


Though far from the Other Shore myself,

once again I recognize the fragrance of the Pure Land in my midnight teacup.

With another sip of the bouquet of mountain-and-rivers becoming,

I welcome you back, O Stream-Enterer, Returner, Traveler, Awakener.

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

sound: Roy Mattson / "28th Night" / Melancholy Moon


Call It What You Will


Call It What You Will

I step out the door
and gaze east at the
dream-heavy clouds.

At my back,
without looking,
I feel the Thunderers
will pay a visit tonight;
mountain gods incarnate as sound.

Their offering: Purification.

My feet-on-earth
feel the quickening Spring pulse;
green spirits returning
in meadow
on branch
at shoreline
along flowered lane and budding path

bending light
leaning toward the Sun
and human shoulders passing by.

These unseen tributaries of renewal
are known differently for their gifts.
If I were Iroquois: orenda would flow from my lips.
If I were Algonquian: manitou.
If I were Yoruban, I would say 'an orisha of nature had spoken to me.'

As spiritual orphan,
exiled from those from whom I hail, 
I can only reach deep
into languages I don't speak;
to even older spiritual ancestors
who wash their hands
clap three times
and pay homage to the realm of kami.

The only replacement it would seem:
remain silent
ponder the earth's flowing numen
and realize the dialogue
is with an enlivening force
that precedes all words and names.
May The Force Be With You.
(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Robert Rich / "Profligate Earth" / What We Left Behind