Classmates

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Classmates

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

They’ve all moved on from their “human suits” —

a term The Teacher used

for these temporary shells we call bodies.

The other “warriors” in our circle,

compañeros,

are now gone.


We cut our teeth on the “energy exercises.”

A “curriculum” of practices

from multiple tributaries of culture, tradition, places of spirit.

Agave, copal, earth-dreaming, hillwalking, koji, music, sitting like a mountain, temazcal…

sitting in stone chambers…sweating our prayers.


With proper eyes and feet,

anything can be a doorway.

With a Heart-Earth-Attuned Ear,

the wind, birdsong, cicadas, waterfalls,

ice cracking on floorboards, a familiar’s voice —

all can become The Great Vehicle.


This is why when thunder echoed off the mountains,

or I heard The Teacher whisper her tobacco prayers into the forest,

I was suddenly in two worlds

listening to the holy music that binds everything together.


This is why, tonight,

with the high wind of winter in the pines,

I hear the well-wishing of my dearly missed classmates on The Other Side.

They’re telling us: You don’t need to take-in the poison of these times to be an antidote.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

image: “Joshua Tree” / by Roya Ann Miller

sound: “Her Fading Image” / The Fata Morgana Dream / Forrest Fang



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Instead

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Instead

— for brother Scott (1970-2007)

Tonight…I’m not just slouching.
I’m slumping.

My mind scampers across pine needles and ice —
along great rivers that still sing,
to the year before our gentle brother, Scott, left us…on a riverbank.


He couldn't bear the weight of modernity.
Dolphins and whales being slaughtered in Japan.
Coyotes poisoned in Arizona deserts
becoming white bones —
their own poisoned tendons poisoning mice, ravens, eagles, crows.

He’d grimace at the thought of modern-day hunters
killing mothers and wolf pups and bear cubs
deep in dens of sleepy hibernation —
all thanks to the stroke of a madman’s pen.

Sometimes I still see him in dream

on a far off hill.

He is walking away.

He turns around but doesn't see me.

Yet, I can see his eyes

and they are still gleaming with curiosity.


I wish I could tell him that I've lost faith too

but the turquoise sky

and anticipating this year's cicada song

keeps me woven-in somehow.


Every May, in early May, I lift a pint to him.

It marks a memory.

Two brothers walking.

Me: Smoking an American Spirit, back when I smoked.

Him: Strumming strings, lifting his voice to the trees and sky, back when he sang.


O, how my brother loved this earth.

O, how he wished he had the means

to show everyone

the Interwoven Tapestry of Light

that he saw.


Some say he took his own life.

To this day, I don’t think so.

I think he died of a broken heart for his Mother.

I think he gave up living with a broken heart

and decided to join the shining world

on the other side of the veil

instead.

Instead.

Instead.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: A Field of Night / The Unfolding / Chequerboard



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Alloy

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Alloy

Final poem of a forthcoming collection, Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

“You are the mash-up

of what you let into your life.”

Austin Kleon, author of Keep Going and Steal Like An Artist

>|<

“All learning requires tuition.”

LaRue Owen, Sr.

>|<

These minutes turn as pages in a great book.

Hours become dogeared reminders.

These months have been gates over a path.

Years…tutelage.

Having felt the direct touch of The Rainmaker,

this heart-mind is now a fish out of water.

Falling from a net that has held me all this time

into the bottom of a boat I already know is sinking,

I now dream in the language of rivers surrendering to oceans.


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Disciple: Basho's Persistence

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Disciple: Basho's Persistence

from a forthcoming collection, Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

It is not an insistence.

Walkers of The Way

are not heavy-handed like that.

Given to holy observation,

where is the eye pulled?

To what empties out the self

and leaves treasures deposited there.

Given to holy idleness,

how does the heart become content?

Apprenticing to the Four Seasons.

Given to solitary wandering,

how does one learn authentic companionship?


A bird flutters in the silent darkness of branches.

The hazy moon appears to hold her breath.

The teacher answers:

What accompaniment!



(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

image: Joe Hu

sound: Visionquest / Wanderlust / Terra Ambient (the late Jeff Kowal, 1972-2016)

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Tymbal

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Tymbal

from an evolving collection, Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

I. CLEAR-SEEING


I am chasing a new placid order.

Behind a gray wall,

faint thunder in the distance,

this heart is no longer defeated from grieving.

I had been drinking from a two-handled cup:

preciousness…and…absence.

Until now, I was angry about it all.

I rebelled against this inner-knowing

even to the point of slowly unstitching myself.

If loss is built-in to all of this, I thought, why invest?

It is what has kept me from ever loving fully.


But I did something this morning I can never take back.

I drank from the cup of no handles.

I swallowed the moon while gazing at my mother’s face across the breakfast table.

My heart exploded and became the rooting ground of clear-seeing.

This medicine is not grandiose.

It is looking into such a face and feeling-with-full-knowing

it could be for the last time.

This seeing is not grasping.

It is feeling future grief swimming through your own bloodstream.

It is feeling a future infection coursing through your own lymphatic rivers

and being at peace with your own departure.

This embrace of our own departure is not madness.

It is the great and terrible reminder;

as much as we try to erect immovable walls and fortresses,

we are part of nature,

and our own death ensures we honor the pact

we made to the ancient membership.


>|<


II. THE DREAM

The dream begins the same way every time.

I am standing at the cliff edge — the last of my people.

Hail is pelting me in the face.

I no longer want to draw breath.

I no longer want to walk the river’s edge.


Though the day is crisp, and sunlight drips down onto everything,

all light has left my world and I cannot possibly remain.

I feel the warm faces of everyone I have ever loved

beckoning to me from the other side of an invisible curtain.

The memory of their eyes and smiles flutter past like wings.

In a final act of terrible loneliness, I throw the blanket from my shoulders.

My feet leave the precipice.

The bag of bones I had called a “self” tumbles downward —

an offering to wolves and vultures.

My spirit remains.

My spirit remains.

There is no extra breath to take.

I become the wind.

As if pulling thread from the hem of a great blanket,

I uncoil from everything I once was.

My grief turns into joy.

My wailing agony from separation turns into a chant of release.

I fly into an invisible embrace.


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Placement of the Night Lance

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Placement of the Night Lance

from Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

There are innumerable doorways.

The Great Presence draws near in each of them.

Offering yourself like a bundle of prayer feathers up on Thunder Mountain.

The all-seeing medicine of crescent moon and waterbird.

The lash, the moradas, the long walk of Los Penitentes.

Following in the footsteps of Prajna-Distance,

one can set the body — with all its divinity and imperfections — out into the moonlight

and allow the violent heat of the mad world’s kitchen to be cooled within you.

Some kind of leaving is asked of you,

even if it’s only for an evening

becoming a sky-raft rider,

tracing with your finger the points of light

in your skull full of stars.

>|<

When we set out on a journey, we don't plan to be changed.

In truth, we really have no control over the stars under which we will travel.

We cannot predict all of the detours and losses

or when long-sealed bundles of memory may be opened again.

We cannot foresee the testing places along the way

or that moment when herds of wild horses may emerge

galloping forth from a seeker’s upturned mouth

in the form of beseeching songs.

We could never have scried

that in the middle of a late-winter night

some of us would throw-off our human shapes

and become Traveling Wolf Eyes padding down the path again.

Like a sudden flow of blood caused by the puncture of a boar’s tusk,

decades of stowed-away memories poured out of me.

Faces and travels.

Journeys behind the buckskin curtain.

Personal sacrifices made.

Unspoken alliances and dedications.

Names I no longer wear.

Getting caught in the crossfire and running for cover.

It wasn’t until this strange memory-bloodletting was complete

that I realized I’ve been carrying weight.

The weight of others.

Fear.

Grief from lost connections.

Soul-parts of others I took on without knowing it.

Condemnations that were not mine to carry.

My heart fully-drained like a hot blister,

I heard a voice say over the sound of burning cedar:

Wolves don’t make very good pack-mules.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: East Kiva: Call in the Midnight Water / KIVA / Steve Roach, Michael Stearns, Ron Sunsinger

image: Peyote Meeting, Pinon, AZ / John Middelkoop

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Solar Relief

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Solar Relief

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

29.4241° N, 98.4936° W


I was birthed into the world in Biloxi

right about the time Hurricane Camille

was due to make landfall in ‘69.

My mother says the doctors

were talking about the World Series

and the moon landing.



I don’t remember Biloxi.

San Antonio, however,

is when and where ‘I’ truly ‘arrived’.

This is when and where

this soul of mine

began taking copious notes.

I, of course,

could never have known

we would trade-in hurricanes for scorpions.

One of my first memories is of crawling.

Being an August sun-baby, I loved basking in the warmth of the sidewalk.

My mother insisted, however, that I stay in the grass

so I wouldn’t scratch my knees up.

Little did she know, that grass stung!

It stung, and tickled, and “bit” at my bare legs like small fangs.

Immediately after placing me in the grass,

over and over and over again, I would navigate back

to that smooth gray sidewalk

with its sun-captured heat

radiating upward like a tortilla oven.

Divine bliss!

But, then it happened.

Over and over and over again,

two…great…unseen hands

would descend from the heavens above,

lift me up like a sack of green chiles,

and place my ass right back in the grass.

I’ve been doing battle with irritation ever since.

I was born in Biloxi

but my spirit

didn’t really enter my body

until San Antonio.

…and like the Rio San Antonio

that flows down through Goliad

and merges with the Rio Guadalupe,

the rest of my life has been a flowing

and a merging

a merging

and a meandering

a meandering

and a hunting after

that solar relief

that Original Soothing Medicine-Heat

I once felt on my tender knees.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

image: excerpt, Ambient Desert / Desert Wind (artist unknown)

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Casita in the Universe Next Door

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Casita in the Universe Next Door

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

Like those small sepia-toned offerings left by fleeing late-summer cicadas,

increasingly of its own volition, my spirit, too, flies the coop.

It leaves an empty shell behind on its various night travels.

Wind-like, and yearning, I think it has outgrown this existence.

Last night, I spent another handful of hours tossing and turning.

Face pressed into a pillow filled with desert sage,

eventually this mind gave way

to my spirit’s preferred form of wandering and living.

The feathered parts of me, talons and all,

lifted up and out and traveled to a charming house nestled below red cliffs.

Upon my return, I awoke with a new light-filled understanding.

Weeks upon weeks had gone by.

I had been aching and wondering.

Have I ‘gotten sideways’ with myself?

Then I snapped out of it
— our culture's gift: the trance of self doubt —
and realized I was perfectly in the flow
of my way within the Way;
it's just that I had reached
a whole new level of mourning
about the way the world has become.

It doesn’t matter what happens

to ‘the clay’ of this body anymore.

I’ve made a home in a casita

in the universe next door.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Vision 1 / Persistent Visions / Byron Metcalf + Mark Seelig

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Your Ride-Along

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Your Ride-Along

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

36.3200° N, 106.4838° W

(Northeast of Arroyo del Yeso,

near Ghost Ranch, New Mexico)


You ever met a ghost?

I have.

Plenty of ‘em.

That’s not so much a big deal.

They’re everywhere, actually.

The big deal

is when one of ‘em

ends up being you.


>|<

I was standing there

minding my own business

out there in Peyote Land

enjoying the flickering stars

the sound of crickets

the crackling glow of the fire…

…and up walked my self.

Stepped right out of the shadows,

and said:

“I need you to look at everything

I’ve been holding for you all these years.”

>|<

This kinda thing happens from time to time,

especially out there where ‘people’ aren’t just people

where ‘animals’ are people

where ‘people’ are animals.

It happens in different ways to different people

and I don’t care who you are,

you never get used to it.

It’s exactly the way Juan Ramon Jimenez says it is.

You know his poem? “I Am Not I”?

I am not I. I am this one walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit, and whom at other times I forget…

He goes on with the poem and lays it all out for us.

There’s never been a clearer map.

>|<

If you want to know what’s really going on here…

if you want to know why we’re all

walking around haunted

in pain

doubting ourselves

killing ourselves

wearing ourselves down,

it’s to catch a glimpse

of the beauty that’s riding along with us.

If you want to know what’s really going on here…

how there’s a great unseen something

that holds all our disappointments and fears…

if you want to know what’s really going on here…

how we have the same blood

the same stardust bones

how we breathe the same air

but we’re so afraid to bare our souls…


then study

that poem

for a year.

Every

day

for

a

year.

Walk with it.

Sit with it.

Sleep with it.

Drink with it.

Dream with it.

Talk about it

with people

you trust your soul with.

If you step through the gate of that poem,

and keep going,

eventually

you will be brought

to the edge

...and it’s there

at the edge

that you meet

your ride-along.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: A Skein for Skin / Tactile Ground / Robert Rich
image: @fastturtle / Robert Murray

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Tendril

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Tendril

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

—in honor of Mary Oliver (1935-2019), written on the day of her death

You reminded us
how to humble ourselves
before the Great Mother again

to lay down with the deer
in the rain-dampened pines.

You taught us
how to have our weariness lifted by soft renewals
and the caked blood-red dust
washed clean from our eyes
through a flowing green devotion.

Through simple ways
human ways
natural ways,
you gave us a mischievous glance
a knowing nod
and permission

to love what we love
to ache for what we ache
to remain steadfast in our wonderment.

Like the haunting call
of a mourning dove
a rutting buck deep in the wood

curious tiny fingers
gliding astonished
over rainbow scales

a handful of dark soil
reminding something ancient within us
of the promise of seeds and seasons

we were all made
all the better
by you.

In our sudden and terrible orphanhood today,
may we tend the fragile tendril
placed so softly in our keeping.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: The Sentience of Touch / Tactile Ground / Robert Rich

image: Claudia van Zyl

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Nepenthe

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Nepenthe

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

36.2218° N, 121.7593° W

Then Helen, daughter of Zeus, took other counsel.

Straightaway she cast into the wine they were drinking

a medicine to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forth

forgetfulness of every ailment to the soul.

Odyssey, Book 4, Homer


I know it may seem strange to speak of flourishing

in this windswept time of trouble

but now is precisely the time

to have a conversation

about our allegiance to cultivation.

 

Hold your heart-shaped hand into the wind.

Ask yourself, with your comrades as witness:

"In this time of brittle cracking,

am I being as soft as I can

with the wounded creature of myself?

Am I being as soft as I can

with my fellow neighbors in this burning house?"

 

Surround yourself with Clear-Mirrors —

those who will call you out if you delude yourself;

those who will tug on your sleeve

and pull you back toward Life

if you seek the fruitless way of senseless martyrdom.

 

Every great being started off with the same seed-center as you.

 

The heaven-striving cedar.

The blue-eyed monk who brought Zen to China.

The girl with the curls at the lemonade stand.

The 90 year old kyudo grandmother.

The one lost, out on the road tonight,

trying to find the flame of their Nepenthe.

The one by the hospital bed 

guiding souls over to the other side as we speak.

 

I know it may seem strange

to speak of the fruit of practice and loving

in this time of famine and burning,

but if we are ever to ripen, together,

we have to join heart-minds

and conjure the proper weather

for actual growth and becoming tender.

 

What does the wisdom of your Winter Body

have to teach the longing of your Summer Body?

What can your Lotus Body

offer freely

to your Pain Body?


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Farewell / Vacant

image: Obon / Miya Ando

2 Comments

Entered Fully, Grief Becomes Honey

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Entered Fully, Grief Becomes Honey

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

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 by the spirit of a bear.

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 people are holding on to an ancient grief.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Mountain Above, Mountain Below / Watermusic / Remco Helbers

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Exilio

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Exilio

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

It is akin to misplacing your keys

your wallet

your dreams.

It is similar to visiting a long-familiar haunt —

that beloved market of kind faces and friends

you had woven into the tapestry of your days

and suddenly finding them gone

and all the aisles changed.

It’s like the faint memories of your younger days

when you would drink, and drink, and wake

in locations of great uncertainty.

I’m thinking of that first heart-pained vaquero

who’d fallen so in love with a patch of ground

who’d grown intimate with every wash and arroyo;

who was a Disciple of the Breeze

on a first name basis with red wolves, magpies, chickadees

who heard the first pounding hammers of men

the first blaring horn of the train

and knew instantly

a whole way of life had just come to an end.

The end of silence has arrived, he said. The end of silence.

If you find yourself in the territory of exiles,

with your citizenship temporarily revoked in the land of dreams,

surrender.

You cannot push the river or control the weather.

This is when you must rely on the old refrain:

Trust in the horse that is your soul.

She knows the way.

Let go of the reins.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: El Morro / The Black Light / Calexico

image: Rex Pickar

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The Shimmer at the Back of the World

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The Shimmer at the Back of the World

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

36°0553 N 105°5622 W

(Pecos Wilderness Area, New Mexico)

You and I were on horseback in a sunlit arroyo.
We weren't "lost" because Travelers are always at home in the great expanse
but somehow, some way, we misplaced the trail we were on
and storm clouds were gathering on the western horizon.

You pulled your long mane into a top knot and made offerings to the Four Winds.
A splash of water from a canteen.
A pinch of blue cornmeal, tobacco from an Arikara Ree twist.
Two fingers of your homemade pemmican you always made for the trail.

In a language I didn't understand, you asked for directions
from what you always used to call The Great Flow of What Is.

Two hawks circled above, and out of nowhere,
skittering onto the rocks nearby,
a Western Whiptail lizard appeared looking like a rainbow.

As if it were a posted notice from the Inner Landscape Transit Authority,
it faced the North, then East, then South, then West.
Then, as if it had never been there, it vanished into the shadows again.

"What'd it say?" I asked.
You smiled and started humming Dos Arbolitos.
I smiled and was reminded
of my childhood crush on Linda Ronstadt.

You told me the time had arrived for us to take different trails.
You said to keep honoring the life-giving blend
we had come to affectionately call “Green Chile Cowboy Zen.”

The last words I would ever hear in your voice:

Keep sitting like a mountain,
breathing like a forest, flowing like a river.
Keep riding the wind.
Keep dreaming, keep believing.
Rest when you need to, but keep moving.
Life is in love with movement.
When in doubt, turn to the buddha-nature of Nature herself.
Mother Earth offers us all the lessons we need
including those about freezing, thawing, and flowing.
Start to tell stories.
Disappear into them.
This is where the magic is.
This is how you will find your way
to the shimmer at the back of the world.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Rain and Creosote / Dust to Dust / Steve Roach + Roger King

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Ensueño de Los Viajeros

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Ensueño de Los Viajeros

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

35.6870° N, 105.9378° W

There are mornings when a Traveler returns
from the great lattice of catacombs
that link the invisible provinces together

and though the returned-traveler
is present in skin, blood, and bones,
they may need a while to find their words.

They may even be unable to give voice to what has been seen
because something of the perfume of the places they've been remains.

A trace of smoke left in the hair, a spice on the tongue,
the juice of berries staining fingertips, the fragrance of some unknown flower,
something of the spirit of place becomes forever embedded
within the rainbow-body of the Traveler.

It is night now.
I am swept up in one of my long reveries again.
Parked in front of a local cantina,
under no volition of my own
I have been sitting quietly for hours
being pulled along.

Eventually I snap out of it.
My present-moment eyes and ears
register the nearby sights and sounds.
An illuminated storefront.
A sun dress the color of faded salmon star lilies
stands headless in a window box.
A shaded balcony.
A slate-blue sky.
Magenta clouds beyond.

I realize, regardless of where I am
regardless of what my ears are hearing
what my eyes are seeing,
my heart-mind has been off again
New Mexico Dreaming.

My spirit is haunted.
Her skies at sunset. Her sloping hills.
Her piñon perfume. Her narrow lanes.
Her unparalleled mountain and desert authenticity.

But it's night,
and tonight I am in Mississippi
and sad Mexican ballads
are flowing from speakers shaped like river rocks
hidden at the edge of manicured bushes.


(c) 2019 / Frank La Rue Owen / purelandpoetry.com / Ensueño de Los Viajeros (Span., reverie of travelers)

sound: Danza bruja / Viaje de Colores / Felix Manye



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Alpenglow

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Alpenglow

from a forthcoming collection (April 2020) entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

Become the cold rain

and the rain ceases to be cold.

Become betrayal’s rage

and a trapdoor opens

onto the grief you’re hiding there.

Become the well-attended despair

and depression starts to release

because you’ve given its voice

a hallowed space.

Become the anxiety

and it reveals itself

as the intelligent awareness

of your inverted bravery.

Become the fear

then surrender

to becoming larger than it,

cascading gently

into your dormant fearlessness.


Become the longing for a lover

and you realize there is only The One

and never really has been an ‘Other’.

Become the space of the chasm

and there is no place

where you are not home.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Luminescence / Particle Horizon / Ascendant

Inspired by the Dharma talk “Suffering and Empowerment” by the late Zen master John Daido Loori (1931-2009).

Be the barrier. When you are the barrier,

there isn’t any barrier. When you are the barrier

with the whole body and mind, it fills the universe.

There is nothing outside of it. If it’s pain, be the pain.

Fear?…be the barrier. Dissolve into the situation you are in.

Be the anger. Be the fear. Be the barrier.

It’s possible to work with your fear. It’s possible to work with your pain.

It’s possible to work with your anger. It’s not something that happens to you.

It’s something that you do that makes it happen. The only reason there is a barrier

is because we’ve created it. Un-create it, and it’s no longer a barrier.

— John Daido Loori, Zen master (1931-2009)

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When Owls and Ravens Dream of People Traveling

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When Owls and Ravens Dream of People Traveling

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon


First, you start with your own navel —

the place that once connected you

to your own living mother;

and her, and your grandmother,

to all of Time’s grandmothers.

Your navel —

long known to be an entrance to whole worlds

waiting inside you.

Your navel —

a doorway, a passage, a sipapu.

Though school failed to impart this map

or way of traveling to you

these worlds within are like adjacent counties

to whole other worlds beyond you.

So, lay yourself down...and enter.

The Great Eye of your mind's eye

sparked awake like a glowing ember —

enter the cave-like corridor

that carries you into the interior.

Like entrance to any other mountain, forest, or desert valley,

quietly receive the terrain however it presents itself to you.

Travel —

with your swiveling 360-degree visioning-eye about you.

Travel through your navel to the very center of you;

into the cave-like chamber

that is a passage between the worlds that are available to you.

Moving, moving, slowly ambling along,

until the passageway opens up

and you encounter the light of day

or the shimmer of moonlight and stars

beaming down from your own inner sky.

Travel.

It may come as a great surprise to you

to learn you have a lush jungle inside of you;

or a misty mountain valley with a river flowing through,

lined with trees bejeweled with Spanish moss and dew.

But there it is.

There it is.

Here it is.

Your inner-eyes don't deceive you.

A landscape as real

as any terrain outside of you

stands at the ready

to teach, heal, and welcome you.

The next order of business

in this ancient form of traveling

is to send out a call for a guide

to give you a tour around the place.

Only you will know

who or what the guide will be

but typically you will know them

when you sense their heart and see their face.

Just as you would with any doctor,

counselor, plumber, or trout-fishing guide,

interview them to your heart's content

to make sure their way of traveling aligns.

Some general pointers

from across different cultures

for your ongoing consideration.

If at all possible, avoid spiders, scorpions, or jackals.

They aren’t very helpful and may even

leave a nasty bite or sting on you.

Snails, though they be wise in their own ways,

will make any traveling around painfully slow.

But stop for the occasional conversation with them.

Snails taught a lot to poets Issa and Bashō.

Exercise caution with fox-women, coyotes,

and redheads bearing daggers in dark capes.

Stories abound of trickery, spells, close calls, and escapes.

My own method of travel once I've entered the great frontier inside?

I ride a horse named Memory — a bond of multiple lives.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Ghost Train / Dust to Dust / Steve Roach + Roger King


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In Absentia

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In Absentia

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

If you send your spirit out,

even from down here in the lowlands

fresh mountain air can fill your lungs.

You don't have to move an inch

to hear the water cascading over the falls.

East toward the Sun.

North toward the Moon.

Silent Interior.

Shaded Path.

Mountain Lake.

Chickadees delivering long talks

on the nature of existence.

The spirit of the high hills

carve away what is no longer needed.

The craggy ridgeline path itself

polishes your soul's piles of troubled rubble

into small handfuls of precious gold.

Though you are alone, you are accompanied.

Something ancient yet familiar draws near.

You swear you hear a voice on the breeze say:

Be grateful for what you have.

Do not long for what you do not.

Herein lies contentment.


(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: Dunes / The Unfolding / Chequerboard


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con-fuddy-rut

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con-fuddy-rut

from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon


con: /kän/, verb: to persuade (someone) to do or believe something, typically by use of deception; noun: an instance of deceiving or tricking someone; prefix: used with certain words to convey a notion of with, together (e.g.: confederacy, converge, confluence, congregate, congregation, convene)

fuddy: /fə-dē'/ adjective: old-fashioned, conservative; dull (related to fuddy-duddy; British origin)

rut: /rət/ noun: a long deep track made by the repeated passage of wheels; a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change; an annual period of sexual activity in deer and some other mammals, during which males fight each other for access to females.


I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war,

but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to

obliterate the marks of civil strife, and to commit

to oblivion the feelings it engendered.

from Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (1874)


Face it.
It's the 21st-century dammit…


and if you're still Confederate-minded
then you’re really like a wounded horse 
dragging a bloody broken stump behind ya.

And if you're Confederate-minded
then you're hobbled, 
stuck in the past,
crippled by a mythology of what happened around here.
An old dog
with a trap closed-down 
over your skull, your snout, your eyes. 
Confederate-minded = Confederate-blinded.

And if you're Confederate-blinded
then without even really knowing how or why
the evolution of your heart and mind 
is hindered, frozen, stuck.

You're stuck. You’re stuck.
You're stuck in a con-fuddy-rut.
A con-fuddy-rut. 

You're stuck.
You're stuck in a con-fuddy-rut.
A con-fuddy-rut.

While the rest of us are moving forward,
you're stuck in a con-fuddy-rut.

While the rest of us move forward,
— descendants of scalawags
— descendants of slaves in the field
— descendants of Sons of the Confederacy 
who actually heeded General Lee;
who stowed away the marks of strife
and moved into a new era 
where everyone leaves everyone be…
you're stuck.
You're stuck in a con-fuddy-rut.

And the real problem with that
is you've gone and put 
your own self in chains

and the rest of us, 
free as can be,
are moving forward
into a brighter future, ya see…

despite what paltry excuse you use

to keep an echo

of the old flag

flying over the rest of us.


As a native Mississippian, naturally I grew up around the Confederate flag…and under the current state flag.

It would be later on in years when I would see how the symbol had become weaponized. It was then, looking through old museum photographs, that I put 2 and 2 together and realized the emblem had experienced a kind of symbolic second-coming. It was used in the 40s, 50s, and 60s as a rallying symbol of white supremacy, resistance to desegregation, and violence toward blacks seeking equal treatment under the law.

And, to the present-day, an echo of that same symbol is held over us on the state flag as a corner saltire reminder (a “salt-teared reminder”?) of a brutal and bloody past, and — let’s not pretend — an ongoing psychological message of coercion. That’s what symbols do. That’s what that symbol meant during the Civil Rights era. That’s what that symbol meant when Dylann Roof invoked its weaponized form again and then gunned down nine innocent people in their South Carolina house of worship.

Defenders of the Confederate flag, and apologists for keeping the Confederate saltire on the Mississippi state flag, are quick to suggest that it is merely a symbol of “Southern pride” or “heritage.” As politely as I can put it: Bullshit. The first two lines of the Mississippi Declaration of Secession make the point painfully clear what this consciousness was: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” And, summarily, poor whites went to war and died by the thousands to help maintain a lifestyle of decadence for rich, fat-cat plantation owners, while their own wives and children were assaulted and robbed by Confederate banditry at home.

Civil War aside, defending the ongoing appearance of the salt-teared saltire on the Mississippi state flag omits the overwhelming historical evidence of the emblem being hoisted again and again in the late 1900s and utilized as a rallying banner of hate, coercion, domestic terrorism, and black voter suppression.

As a native Mississippian, as a descendant of both Confederate officers and Union-loyal emancipationists…as a descendant of a Reconstruction-era law enforcement officer who was violently maimed by Confederate-sympathizers…as a descendant of United Methodist ministers…my own contemporary view is simple. It is time for a new state flag.

Symbols hold power. We live under such symbols and living under such symbols has implications. It sets both a tone for those living under them and sends a message to those beyond our borders of the true nature and consciousness of our dwelling place.

The Confederate flag, and the current Mississippi state flag that maintains an echo of the former, should be placed in a museum and accompanied with the proper historical context in the form of well-rounded storytelling. However, neither should be hoisted as a banner in any manner above citizens of Mississippi’s present because of what these symbols have come to mean…because they’ve never represented us all.

To represent the bright future of Mississippi, and the full populace of our Mississippi citizenry, a new state flag, a new symbol representing unity (or, at the very least, harmony) should be raised in its stead.

The frontrunner replacement under consideration is the Stennis Flag. Created by accomplished artist Laurin Stennis, granddaughter of late Senator John C. Stennis (for whom the Stennis Space Center is named on the Mississippi Gulf Coast), the Stennis flag is one of history, hope, and hospitality. I am wholeheartedly for it. — Frank LaRue Owen, Mississippi poet

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

sound: Follow The Doe / Caleb R.K. Williams





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