Cowboy Poetry and Music and More at the BAR-D Ranch

South Dakota
About John Pappas




Mandala of the Great Plains

I spent ten summers alone exploring the mandala of the Great Plains
The sutra of dried river-beds and abandoned cabins
The chants of fence-posts and the poetry of carrion-crows.

Impermanent in appearance but immutable in essence,
I worked in lands littered with the garbage
   tossed away
      by generations.
Nothing left but the notations of past shamans;
    long dead stares of rancher monks;
    remnants of old hermits and remains of rock huts;
    dharma transmission from mind to mind,
          from rock to rock
                   from valley to valley.
The Bodhi-Mind of the prairie.

Flakes left by generations of ancient craft and error unearthed in one cloudburst;
torrents dig deep ruts and flowed into a valley of sage.
Silence broken by sound becoming silence again after days alone.

Water flows over shattered clay pigeons
     old pottery
         blue glass
    and        beer cans.
Dried, dusky-white bones of indiscriminate cattle and bison,
      tan remnants of older beasts
specters haunt the sand,
ghosts float in the rocks.

Sacred gaps are filled with the energy and intensity 
     of ants
slow and meticulous stupa builders
     smooth pebbles 
   seed husks
fragments of teeth 
a glass bead on an anthill

Moments of revelry when coyotes met from the six directions;
Sacrificed a rabbit, took my boots in offering and ran off, yipping.  
The night punctuated with the mantra of a screech owl, cut off abruptly by the rebellion of nightjars –
      the Ikkyu of Aves. 
We mimic the irreverence and trade the nervous glances of lost children.

no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind; no sight, no sound,
no smell, no taste, no touch.
no object of mind; no realm of sight,

No roof. 
No hall. 
No pages. 

We used to read fields and grass, 
           sh*t and scent,
             harsh winds 
                 blowing snow. 

Now we read books and pretend it is the sound of nature.

We are off the reservation.

© 2011, John Pappas
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


About John Pappas:

I am a Zen Buddhist practitioner from the humble stretches of the South Jersey lowlands who is now an expatriate to the Great Plains of South Dakota—Buddhist Purgatory. I am a mediator, writer, folk poet, librarian hobgoblin, occasional scientist, father of two little dakinis and a steady burner of birch logs.




 What's New | Poems | Search

 Features | Events  

The BAR-D Roundup | Cowboy Poetry Week

Poetry Submissions 

Subscribe | Newsletter | Contact Us

  Join Us!


Authors retain copyright to their work; obtain an author's
permission before using a poem in any form. is a project of the Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry, Inc., a Federal and California tax-exempt non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.  

Site copyright information