from an evolving collection Temazcal: The Steam House Chronicles

There's a river — quiet, flowing, sparkling, clear.
Felt-unseen — it has always been here.
It flows beneath everything.
It flows through everything.

— doña Rìo (a.k.a Dao-Sentiment River)

He was one of those stuffy professorial types;

so tight, if he ate coal he’d shit diamonds.

He wanted to know “my lineage.”

He wanted to know “who my teachers were” and “my teacher’s teachers.”

He wanted to know “by what authority” did I speak.

You don’t look like a Zen guy, he said, pointing to my cowboy boots.

I contemplated his line of inquiry for a moment

and imagined Bodhidharma or Suzuki Shosan grabbing him by his bowtie.

My lineage is Dust in the Wind Zen, my friend.

I follow the Original Cowboy (Laozi) as best I can.

My teacher was Lady River, who followed The River, and guided people to The River.

Now, she meditates inside the Big Dipper.

Her teacher was a mysterious man named don Juan Alejandro from Guerrero.

I never met him. He’s nothing but ashes now, at the bottom of Sumidero Canyon.

I don’t speak by any authority but my own. I am a poet, after all. We don’t follow rules.

To use a spelling proffered by William Least-Heat Moon,

I am a product of this beloved North American Erth.

As for Zen, which Zen are we talking about exactly?

There's cooking-Zen





bird watching-Zen

flower and tree identification-Zen

wildcrafting-and-foraging Zen

meditating on trout and heron while fly-fishing Zen.


tea-drinking Zen

saké-drinking Zen

tequila-sipping Zen


fry bread and campfire coffee-Zen

blackstrap molasses cowboy beans-Zen

roasting green chiles and tortilla-making Zen.


thousands in one sangha-Zen

there’s no-distractions solitary living-Zen

there’s watching people in the city-Zen

there’s making love and basking in the afterglow-Zen.


black ink on brush-Zen

flute-blowing Zen

sword and bow-drawing Zen

routing bandits with a walking staff-Zen

sweating prayers in a steam house-Zen.



poem-making Zen

poem-receiving Zen

dreaming in the silence-Zen

wind-riding to the sound of a drumbeat-Zen.



sitting like a mountain-Zen


breathing like a forest-Zen.

There’s even throwing-away-the-word-Zen Zen….

where, every step of the way,

the Wayfarer brushes off the red dust of this mad world

off-gasses weighty residues and accumulated toxic vapors

and returns to the Pristine Heart-Mind of Silence

that is a child of the river flowing through it all.

Which Zen would you like to discuss?

(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen /

sound: The Current Below / Cavern of Sirens / Steve Roach + Vidna Obmana