Cowboy Zen

New Mexico plains – photo by Sheri McGee

Cowboy Meditation Primer – poetry sequence by Mary McCray

(Taster  from Urthona issue 35 ‘American Zen’ – order from Urthona Shop above)

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 real thing photograph by Brian Perkes

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. 

New Mexico landscape – photo by Jon Rapp

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

More about issue 35 ‘American Zen’ at

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. 

Mary McCray has published several books of poetry and a prose exploration of the current cultural problems around establishing oneself as a writer ‘Writing in the Age of Narcissism’. She was a Silver Award Winner in the 2018 Nautilis Book Awards. She is the author of the poetry collection ‘Why Photographers Commit Suicide’ and the co-author of ’St. Lou Haiku’. Her poems have appeared in Ape Culture, El Portal, Phoebe–The Journal of Gender and Cultural Critiques, The South Carolina Review, The Wisconsin Review, Switched-on Gutenberg, Literal Latte, Natural Bridge, Tintern Abbey, Eye Dialect, Mudfish and Hilltop Press in West Yorkshire, England.  

Her essays have been published in Book/Mark, Ape Culture and Hermenaut, The Journal of Heady Philosophy. 

Mary is also the creator of her alter-ego, zine, blog and resource site for Cher Scholar. She was also co-editor of the award winning pop culture zine Ape Culture.

Mary McCray photo by Stephanie Howard

Published by urthonamag

Essays on art, consciousness and radical transformation, with an East West perspective

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