Veil

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Veil

The blue-green spirit of late summer is fading.

The amber glow of autumn is drawing near.

Soon, something unseen will clutch at our collarbones and say:

You who are world-weary…walk with me.


Not far from here

down a winding road

is a crossing-over place.

When your feet shuffle through the veil,

the heaviness of these times skitters away

like lizards

like years

like one’s own wits

when too much time is spent

in the glass-and-metal world.


When you can’t keep up anymore, it’s a good place to go

to surrender to the seamless flow

where heart-mind and landscape remember their ancient oneness.


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


sound: Spirit Passage / Desert Inbetween / Steve Roach + Brian Parnham




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Nest of Bones

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Nest of Bones

your entire life

is locked inside your sleep.

from The Changing Room, poem: “Hypnosis”

Zhai Yongming (1955 - )

>|<


I remember now.

This heart-mind-river has picked up the cobalt-blue thread again.

A trace-line of what-once-was

twirling around the fingers of an open hand.

I tie the invisible cord around my neck

and step out under the hazy moon.

I’m a newborn, smiling, as if I’ve never seen one.

>|<

In the dream, old woman Bright-Clarity Mountain

gives a teaching about the push-and-pull of excess.

Things were simple then.

We were all somehow fortified.

Each season-turn, our assembly was made afresh, ebullient.

The feel of course cloth on skin kept us honest.

The smoky tea we shared on the Day of First Snow - grateful.

Invisible temple hidden by branches - not an ounce of gold.

Rust and rain.

Thunder behind the clouds.

Walls of chipped stone.

Small shelves for candlelight.

Three books, two bowls, one teacup.

A brush. An inkstone. Months of silence.

Patchwork stitched upon patchwork stitched upon stitched patchwork.

Ours was the tattered regalia of the mountain faithful.

She once said every season has its lesson.

She once said some seasons can take too much from us.

When this happens, we were to keep in mind

that even mountain dragons sometimes must go deep

into the dark earthen night to find renewal.

>\<

Later, after waking,

I went through boxes of old notes and memories

looking for some lost quote I hadn’t memorized.

I wept.

A penned note from a grandfather’s hand.

Pictures of a grandmother on her last day here.

A book of recipes written out one-by-one by a former lover.

How is it

that we can all come-and-go

and never really

ever know

the other?

>/<

The sweet fragrance of rain-dampened earth

flows through the screen.

Heart-mind leaps.

>|<

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

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


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The Honey-Sweet Return

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The Honey-Sweet Return

a cool breeze blows through

the wide open sliding door —

Aki no Kami

>|<

Aki no Kami draws near.

Last night in dream, I watched her

as she brushed her jet-black hair.

Soon, she will unpack

her autumn bundle

for all to see.

Steam rising from a dawn tea cup.

Slow-turning leaves.

>|<


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

sound: Woodland Alcoves / Robert Davies

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Bone-Deep

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Bone-Deep

Adrift in the ocean of samsara.

Whirling sounds of summer.

Cicadas.

Electric sitars in the pines.

People's air conditioners.

All summer, I haven't turned-on mine.

Steam drives the dharma of what's real bone-deep.

Summer - purification.

Autumn - heart-mind clarification.

Winter - Dharma fermentation.

Spring - rejuvenation.

And 'round and 'round we go.


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

sound: Evenings of Wander / Mesmer / Roy Mattson

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Bounceback and Relagatio

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Bounceback and Relagatio

This is not a bright golden banner waving against a turquoise sky.

This is not a climbing
ninety feet up a desert mountain
hoping that reaching the vista
will seal unions
in the eyes of ancestors and stars.

This is a burial of a human heart
so it can become one
with earth powers again.

This is a place-setting for two
that will only be used by one.

This is a cutting-open of a long-held dream bundle
to let all the unlived dreams fly on.

My skull rests in the valley
of the Mother of the Dao again.
Thank you, O human teachers,
who have ever instructed me
in the way of great disappointment.
Perhaps this is what the old ones meant by tutelage-by-soul friend.


Other Shore?
A paradise to aim for?
There is no "enlightenment."

There is only in-lighten-ment...
and letting-go mind
and moving on
and taking the quiet road
into the land of clear-eyed maturity.


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

sound: Chahar Mezrab Abu Ata by Hossein Alizadeh / Oud: Negar Bouban

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Two Worlds One

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Two Worlds One

Waking up in the morning

I vow with all beings

to be ready for sparks of the Dharma

from flowers or children or birds.

- Robert Dairyu Chotan Aitken Roshi, Zen Vows for Daily Life -


One world - a great engine that never sleeps.

Surface-grasping.

Fighting for keeps.

Glimmer-world,

marching on,

oblivious.

 

The other world says:

On rain-days, cease all red dust commerce.

Listen to Dharma talks by hidden frogs.

Take your lessons for the next season

from heron wing-tips touching water.

 

Deal only

in the currency

of thunder-knowing incense

and mountain-dragon tea.

Then, the science of liberation is unveiled.

The ever-arising self-obsessed self

vanishes.

The dust of the striving world

that has settled on your love-starved skin

is suddenly washed away.


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

sound: John Vorus / Night Sounds / Foot of the Crow

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Origin

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Origin

"The practice of Zen has no secret,

except standing on the verge of life and death."

-- Takeda Shingen, samurai, Zen man (1521-1573)

 

"Where does your poetry come from?" she asked.

 

An innocent enough question

but to answer is akin to holding up a mirror to the sun.

To tell the origins of a poet's verse

requires a full accounting of what they've burned away

and given up.

 

I am mid-stream in the journey of this life.

Fewer years ahead than behind.

Thus, new terrain.

The only words that remain are after a thorough stripping away.

At the very least, it's but a pattern in the turning water

from one who has largely sidestepped the world.

 

Aspirations for wealth and fame --

eliminated a long time ago.

The allure of Mara's daughters.

An evaporated mirage, leaning on the old formula

of the Earth-Touching Mudra.

I'll stick to the Way of Tea in the mountains.

 

This poet is not a poet first.

I am a piece of old bark falling off the World Tree.

As with all wayfarers who have stepped into the Watercourse Way,

there is no home or place of arrival for the likes of me.

Now you know what we Followers of the Way mean

when we say "wanderers" and "crazy clouds."

 

Like the samurai of old, we embrace the void.

We're already living inside the light-body that leaves this mortal coil.

We breathe this truth with every step and our eyes tell no lies about it.

How to live with such bone-deep knowing day to day?

This is how some of us are brought to the shores of poetry.


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

sound-source: Chado / Muichi Motsu / Maneki Neko

 

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anámnisi

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anámnisi

The morning after loss will mostly be a wordless one.

Words aren't really needed.

If a word is said at all, we already knew them.

If a word is said at all, we were already breathing them,

bathing in the atmosphere of what any collection of words might intend.

 

The morning after loss will be a wordless one.

A deafening silence will envelop us.

A quiet that is a thunderous loneliness

and a healing, binding agent simultaneously.

 

The morning after loss will be a wordless one.

The invisible tendrils of our highest intention,

the great tapestry that holds us all together,

a life and lives remembered,

will rise up and be known despite our differences.

 

This spirit that makes itself known at such a time

asks nothing of us but the humility of recognition

and how...

O goodness how...

we might actually be changed by such a thing.


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

sound: Meeting Face to Face / What We Left Behind / Robert Rich

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Never Underestimate Your Sources of Nourishment

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Never Underestimate Your Sources of Nourishment

There is a tyranny to this world that seeks to muzzle you.

It is a cult of uniformity

and it grows more uncomfortable by the day

with the thought of you loving yourself.

 

Throw off the invisible restraints!

Go dance in a meadow at dawn!

Make time every day to listen to the Dharma found in Bird-Speech-Wisdom!

Embody the old animal forms of tiger, dragon, and crane

that Bodhidharma taught the bandit-weary monks of Shaolin.

You, too, could fly like a graceful egret o'er the enemy

and plant a well-placed kick in the name of all our freedom!

 

Who knows where all this Puritanical rigidity started...

but down here in the Southern flatlands

I get the image of a stuffy old white man

who's uncomfortable with black women

and men who wear flowers

and poets in indigo shibori headwraps.

 

If you choose to hold your tongue

or to fall-in-step with the 'Not-See' Party

no one can really blame you.

Everyone is living behind enemy lines these days.

But, remember what Whitman said...as in 'Walt'.

"Cheer up slaves, and horrify foreign despots..."

 

I would add --

domestic despots, too,

even if they're in your own bed,

under your roof,

or sitting in The White House.

 

The rucksack revolution of crazy clouds and Zen lunatics is still going on!

The real ones don't build temples that the "Evangies" can burn down.

We're a slow-growing virus that have seeped into every corner of this land.

We're like those old shinobi ninjas

that dwell in the dark

plotting against the enemy

trading secrets

 

only...

we plot against the infected Western mind

and our secret twilight currency

is laughter

and

poetry.


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

sound: Kushimoto-Bushi / Koichi Sugii

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Adrift In The Province of Thirsty Skeptics

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Adrift In The Province of Thirsty Skeptics

--in preparation for the Strawberry Moon


"Drinking with a Hermit Friend in the Mountains"

Together, we drink: two mountain flowers, opening.

A cup, a cup, and then, to begin again at the beginning, another cup!

I'm drunk, would sleep...you'd better go.

Tomorrow, come again, with your lute, if you will.

--from Bright Moon, White Clouds: Selected Poems of Li Po (701-762) [Seaton translation]


heart

Let's don't make it complicated.

It's as simple as taking this sip beneath this very moon.

Leave it at that.

 

Don't seek definitions beyond This-Right-Here.

Seeking to apprehend only leads to apprehension.

There is no true understanding by adding more layers on.

Take a sip.

Allow yourself to be embraced by the idleness of the flowing green world.

Feel the dignity of a thousand years of warrior-poets rising within you.

Sit upon the Platform of the Clouds.

Feel the Poet's Dreaming Body entering its final summer activation.

That is the natural beauty waiting in this Warm Harmony Dojo.

 

mind

I look at your face.

It's twisting like a rotten melon.

There! You see it?! Your monkey-mind is chasing its own tail again.

Incessant! Relentless! Categorization! Labeling! 

Trying to squeeze all of this into a small pillbox you can carry around.

You could be a dragon wandering in the cloud-kissed mountains.

Ha!

Instead you've become like a rare beetle

stopped in its tracks

numbered and labeled

pinned through the back.

 

river

I know you want a thorough explanation.

I know you want a travel guide to the Great Infinite.

I know you want to dine on sweetness without getting into any of the bitterness.

The only solution is to throw yourself naked into the abyss.

The belonging you're seeking is a form of homelessness.

We're all orphans. 

Escape the orphanage.

Step onto The Way.

Take back up your original title at birth.

Vagabond.

Whirlwind.

Crazy Cloud.


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

sound: Gazing at the Moon / Sleeping Lotus / Li Xiangting

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fuga

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fuga

Regardless of what the calendar says,

the new year,

as in your new year,

can begin at any time.

 

It may descend like a soft rain

or rise up as a boulder-knocking wave.

 

When I was a young man,

I required intensity.

I was a lion, a storm,

lightning on the mountain.

 

Now, I am a leaf - slow-turning copper, red.

Now I am a soundless heron gliding over water at dawn.

An amber dragonfly navigating the forest.

A silent cloud curling backward like resting feathers

against a forgotten valley’s treeline.

 

Regardless of what the calendar says,

the new year,

as in your new year,

can begin at any time.

 

Like the Man of the North Road says,

the main thing being asked of you

is to be a good companion of the seasons.

 

Is it the season of kimonos falling open -

the Season of the Red Thread?

Is it the Season of Rain Turning to Ice?

Is it the Season of Golden Light Dancing on the Tips of Pine Needles?

Or, have you been dropped into a chasm of doubt

and you no longer see a living world beyond your own dark cloud?


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

sound: Real-Life Mystery / They Grow Layers of Life Within / Alio Die

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Engawa

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Engawa

"The obvious is usually profoundly significant."
--Edward O. Wilson

I. Open-Eyed Dreaming

I sat with a passing Traveler tonight.

As the old ones say, 'you know one when you see one.'

One whose pain-body provides a steady discernment.

 

We peeled away iron masks and armor

and, like Li Po and Santoka before us,

drank pitchers of the nectar

that moves wayfarers quickly to the heart-mind of things.

 

Amidst this time’s invisible churning flames,

we spoke of time's passage…

the fear of leaping...

the difference between love and control…

the shadow side of chivalry.

 

We spoke openly of the two worlds;

the many kinds of unseen ones that travel back and forth…

...and those that live in-between.

 

It is good to compare notes with others who know

there are quiet secrets in the heart of the ten-thousand things.

 

It is good to compare notes with others who know

part of the reason we are all here

is to peel away the layers of the onion-like self,

to travel closer and closer toward what is most real.

 

II. Closed-Eyed Waking

 

After the midnight hour,

I tumbled into my solitary slumber;

closing eyes in this world, opening them in another.

I entered through the shining gate

that leads to my life on the other side of the veil.

 

The days are much, much longer over there.

It starts with the sound of morning crows waking me,

and ends with dragonflies guiding me deeper

into the valley beneath the sun-setting hills.

 

A fellow wayfarer-in-spirit form

waits for me at the trailhead, usually in summer yukata.

 

III. Engawa

This time, they invited me to walk with them,

to sit on the low-porch engawa

alongside the courtyard in their house of dreams.

 

We sipped some of that special saké they have over there

that helps one remember rather than forget.

We talked about our respective stages of blooming;

how we've moved on from human teachers...

how we're learning directly from the kami themselves.

 

We discussed the Five Marks of the Lantern-Lit Mind on this nameless way within The Way:

Creating A Spirited Place:

A humble paradise for the senses.

 

Withdrawing From the World of Grasping:

Accepting the invitation of solitude.

 

Recognizing Sacred Connections:

Weaving past and present, embracing and letting go of each passing moment.

 

Embodying Simplicity:

A life of no excess. Not a thing out of place. Not another thing needed.

 

Opening to the Wisdom (and Healing) Beneath and Within Reality:

We can re-Source at any time.

 

Back on this side of the veil,

"Red Shield" - my 4 a.m. feathered friend -

pierced the dark pre-dawn silence with his usual callback.

I awoke with a start and a sudden thought:

 

I am really nothing more

than an old saké barrel

that's been storing memories for a decade.

In the next season,

when the leaves turn red

and the last cicada has droned its holy forest song,

I will crack open the lid of this barrel

and a moonlit river of story will flow all winter long.


 

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

sound: Morning Mist / Muichi Motsu / Maneki Neko

Liner Notes:

engawa: a Japanese veranda

kami: the spirits; can be elements of landscape, forces of nature, as well as beings.

yukata: summer cotton robe

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The Great Alliance

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The Great Alliance

"One of the things that always alerts me

that I’ve fallen in love with something

is that I don’t tell it what it is.

I don’t put it in an easy category.

I simply pay attention to it. I behold it."

--Martin Shaw, mythologist


When did we stop hearing the songs from the inside of things?

The ones we heard at 3, 4, 6, and 9 -- collecting tadpoles, walking the fence line.

The ones that reached out through the haze of late morning

when the Great Mother's warm hand

fell softly on our shoulders

in the form of sunlight.

 

O, how we trusted our affinities then

and needed so much less.

We knew we were perfectly knit

from some ancient flow

that wove together the light of stars...

fireflies...

the luminous glow in a grandmother's eyes.

Like a growing mandala of memory,

some are being guided there again

and realizing there-is-here, then-is-now.

 

No time has passed.

The ghostly beat of an owl wing in the middle of the night.

The smell of autumn spices simmering at dawn.

The small tap of a teacup coming to rest on a table at 4 a.m.

The simplest of occurrences become a switch back to a doorway of communion.

 

I still hear the hiss of the heater;

smell its strangely-comforting sulfur tones.

The tick-tick-tick of expanding metal

as if some unseen entity were tapping out a rhythm

from long-forgotten hearth songs.

A roundtable.

Stories.

Food.

The sudden pop of pine sap in the fireplace.

Laughter.

 

Space-time is an illusion.

So is the notion of finite bodies.

It's why, whenever I see you, I ask: "How's your world?"

because I know

we carry infinite worlds inside of us

and in one of them

a great spinning star-flung song

is trying to wake us up again

to the Great Alliance that binds us.


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

sound: Dilating Moon / Mesmer / Roy Mattson

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Die Before Your Body Does

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Die Before Your Body Does

There may come a day
when the weathered bridge
beneath your feet
splinters apart
halfway through your crossing over.

You'll lose sight
of the familiar footholds and handholds
because they're no longer there.

You'll tumble.
You'll tumble.
Maybe you're even tumbling now
through the shattered boards and beams
that once faithfully held you up.

Maybe it was the departing of a person.
A parent. A friend. A lover.

Maybe it was a betrayal.
A friend. A lover. A spiritual teacher.

Maybe it is a role you once performed
that is no longer needed
because the click-click-click of time
has clicked on by
and left you standing by the roadside.

Perhaps there's a label you once wore
like a badge of honor, 
a medal earned,
that has been torn from your invisible garments
by high winds and shifting tides;
by the crumbling tumult of severances
and choices that were not yours to make.

Lover
Disciple
Husband
Wife
Mother of small children
Daughter
Son
Embodiment of once-generative artistry
Needed
Competent
Innocence
The funny one
The spiritual one
The happy one

You know who you were.

Say goodbye. 
Don't look back,
lest you become a pillar of salt.

Stand,
fresh and nameless,
facing the void
like an open wound.

Put on the crisp, bright robe of purification.
Fall to the waters of the river below.
Push past the bridge fragments
and surrender to the flow.

Do not seek a 'geographical cure'
for there really is nowhere else to go.

Though words of comfort
and shoulders to lean on
can steady you
in the sparse moments,
this is your journey
and yours alone.

You may feel the need
to seek out distractions.

Distract yourself to your heart's content.
Just realize
in the infinite mirages of forgetfulness
everything there will eventually prove empty and tasteless.

Push away the old rituals of "self-soothing";
the ones that don't actually soothe at all
but numb the deep-wisdom-knowing of your ancient neurocircuitry.

Swim

Swim
Swim
Stretch
Reach

Expand Your Lungs
Gasp for the Living Force of Air
as if you were a drowning saint.

Swim
Swim

Stretch

Reach

 

Until you reach 

until you reach

the Other Shore

that has always been waiting for you.


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

sound: Moment's Notice / Second Nature / Steve Roach + Robert Logan

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