udumbara: a flower in Buddhist iconography said to bloom every three thousand years. As a symbol, it expresses how each being — sentient and insentient — is profoundly rare against the backdrop of the world’s unfolding.

in honor of holy conversation with brothers

Su Tung-p’o was enlightened through the sound of a babbling brook.

It took him years to understand. It took him years for his heart-mind to see.

One day, his mentor Chao-chio gave a talk. The talk went over Su Tung-p’o’s head.

But, as the saying goes: “The Dharma is often dark to the mind

but luminous to the heart.”

Months later, Su Tung-p’o visited a forested mountain retreat.

In the middle of the night, he heard a flowing stream in the darkness.

The husk concealing his True Heart cracked open

and words flowed forth along with tears:

“The sound of the river is the Buddha’s tongue

freely offering all sentient beings the flowing Dharma.

Mountains are the body of the Buddha in which we may find refuge.

Since last night, I have started to write poems thousands of times,

but how will I ever explain to others what my heart has seen?”


“Without a degree of submission,

healing, ironically, cannot enter.”

— Martin Shaw —


At season’s end, cicadas fall like hail.

Their song is done for another cycle.

I understand such sudden silence.

Now the rains come

washing clean the autumn-mountain parts of me.

Summer is meant to be paradise.

A soft release into languid heat.

Ripe fruit on tongues.

Ripe tongues on bare skin.

Humans remembering we are spiral-flung stars

through buoyancy


gentle telepathy

unplanned telemetry —

a kind of deep celebration of the measure of our days

through evening feasts wherein we join in

with the cosmic conversation taking place

in the high branches around us.

The truth is,

despite the sutras being sung from the pine tassels above,

my summer was a shrine of grief.

The only thing greater than my own deafness

was my immovability.

I do not speak of pity-parties here.

I was holding a vigil

while the children laughed, and ran, and played.

I raged and grieved for all that has passed…is passing…will pass.

In so doing, I stepped off the mountain of ten-thousand steps

and glided like a blue swan into a great valley below.

Don’t look for these places in the outer world just yet.

I cannot fully point to the inward map either.

We love the image of the chrysalis, the transformed butterfly.

We forget we don’t reach that doorway

without completely cooking in our own juices

until there’s nothing left.

Don’t look for these places in the outer world just yet.

I cannot fully point to the inward map either.

I only know this:

In that great valley

in that great, beautiful valley

that is both far, far away and ever close-at-hand

there is nourishment to be found

for this pain-drenched world.

I only know this

because I come

freshly washed from it.

(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / Pure Land Poetry

sound: Shine Like A Star / Moonglow / Igneous Flame