Urthona - A Journal of Buddhism and the Arts

Cowboy Zen – a unique poetic sequence by Mary McCray

On Mon, 26 April, 2021 - 10:24
Ratnagarbha's picture

Cowboy Meditation Primer – poetry sequence by Mary McCray

(Taster  from Urthona issue 35 ‘American Zen’)

A unique sequence of poems in which the hard lives and gritty adventures of cowboys on the trails of 19th Century New Mexico are combined with Buddhist Wisdom.

It’s 1870s New Mexico. A heartbroken city journalist has joined a cattle drive in order to learn how to be a real cowboy. He meets a cattle company traveling up the Goodnight Loving Trail in New Mexico Territory. Not only do the cowboys give Silas a very real western adventure, they offer him a spiritual journey in which each of his companions has something to teach him, but perhaps most importantly so does the landscape itself:

There are no mountains here, just low murmuring hills
to climb, go around
or sink into like rain.

There are no rivers here, just dry ditch and crevice to come upon slow
and quiet like wind.

The way is all sky,
big blue and skew-whiff white, empty of everything
you have ever tried to give it.

The protagonist is, Silas Cole III, a burnt-out writer in search of new dreams. He finds camaraderie in the company of the mysterious Coyote, the quiet cook, and the gambling cowboys who teach him to reel in his soul as well as the herd they drive. As they drive the cattle Silas is immersed in the powerful, sun etched landscape of New Mexico with its vast plains of dry grass, dry water courses and amazing rock formations. It is an endless journey, where as much is lost as found. As Silas warns us at at the beginning of his story:

…before you learn how to rope a cow, cook beans and the cake of a cornbread over fire, before you learn how to ford a river,

how to cross over, be warned. This story is mine and only mine and never really was mine.
This is the way.

I am only one man of the found and lost unraveling and unraveling
his baskets of truth.

Read much more of this remarkable sequence in Urthona issue 35:


More about issue 35 ‘American Zen’ at www.urthona.com

You can buy ‘Cowboy Meditation Primer’ from Mary McCray’s website:


Also on Mary’s site you can download a fascinating travel guide the the areas of New Mexico and Texas where the sequence is set and discover more about the gritty history of the cattle trails and the people who worked them.

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