My Skin Your Skin Body Electric

belatane2My body is in an open relationship
with sun and grass,
the wind, the mud.

My marrow the mountains
my skin your skin
my belly the beast
my fertile fingertips the fern

Roll your palms slowly across mine
and feel the turning of the season within you.

On you.

With you.

I am Abundance spoken through the wild syllables of the flesh.

No false beat will keep me from you,
touching forever bodies electric.

-Ryan Van Lenning


I celebrate #SunbatheNudeWithWhitmanMonday. He was one of the all-time Great Affirmers of body, senses, and sensuality. As we enter the midpoint between spring and summer, I am feeling my raw, organic body and senses opening up with the earth.


“O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are poems…these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the soul.”

8 Hours

peregrinWe put in a full year
on our first day

Already spinning ourselves
through the four seasons

Two hours for each season
and I’m ready for summer again

but I’ve learned to put my wings
to the wind of each shield

I’m not a fast creature
and am used to spinning slowing

But Peregrine is the fastest animal on the planet
and wears a second set of eyelids

So his eyes don’t dry out
as he descends to punch his prey

But I only have one set
and wonder if my eyes can sustain the velocity

The force of it turns my eyes inside out
and the things I’m seeing

aren’t meant for my eyes alone

Strange Birds

bird shorelineThey are strange birds
perched on the shoreline

these heavy poets chirping lightly
for whom squares will not do.

They are in it for the curves only.

The shoreline keeps shape-shifting—
that is the key to the rest

The shoreline is a sentinel against forgetting
and if you don’t understand the shoreline
how can you understand the human heart?
they say.

So they perch on the Pacific
and purchase peaceful poems
with their spindrift ears

Sometimes they fall on their head
listening to the vast subterranean love-beats

Building things

For the hawk within, stone towers
for the multitudes within, stone benches
for the child within, feather ships

Between dinner and desert
a drop from the great voyage
drips on a napkin

And still we clean our chins with it

Scribbling scribbling

on the black island
in the storm
in the crowd
on the sea
in the trenches of a world asunder
in the mines
from the glowburn night
on the backs of whales

the music wafts in from every direction
and the notes are untranslatable

Yet we hunger for syllables of understanding

How curious that flower-soft verse
is sometimes harder than granite…

and holds us up
like a fat bird on the ocean gale

Chirp chirp for us you strange birds
with sounds carved from rocks and flesh
and all the slight angles
of our ancient dispositions

Chirp your inimitable chirp
you strange birds

Chirp chirp and make our flesh
cha cha with goosebumps

-Ryan Van Lenning

Dedicated to Pablo Neruda and Robinson Jeffers. I was inspired in part by a Bay Area Book Festival session on the life and poetry of Neruda that I attended yesterday. The line, ‘How curious that flower-soft verse is sometimes harder than granite…’ is adapted from Jeffers’s Harder Than Granite.


The Old Beauty Born of the Pulse

IMG_0645Do you believe in liberation?

Think about it hard.

No, don’t think at all. What shape do the lips of your fourth stomach make?

How you answer determines which direction
the face of your slippery heart turns
when the birds wake you from slumber

You don’t have to choose between the sky
and the dirt.

The green was built from sunlight for you.

Raven sits on the tree-top telling the other birds
and ground creatures when the stranger is approaching.

But the red-shouldered hawk above
cuts an arc of light
with his invisible scythe
catching the currents
telling the world there are no strangers

He IS the stranger to whom nothing is strange.

Those feathers that tickle your heart in the morning
are the same feathers that poke your eye out
when the black spot descends on your back
and the great scream is liberated from your warm body

They are the same feathers
you dip in the ink to write your life

They are the same feathers
that adorns the wild wings
of a surprised world
the ones it borrow to be the new beauty
which is the old beauty
born of the pulse.

The pulse in that fourth stomach of yours.

The World is Leaking Circles

plumThe world is leaking circles.

Again—It never stopped.

At dawn you find yourself filling with juice

and your flesh will have to expand.

It’s tight in there.

So deliciously tight it hurts with pleasure.

The edges want to feel the kiss of the wind

and be eaten by the winged ones.

This is the order of things: Death. Sun. Juice. Circle. Life.

That is a story for the mind.

First fruit whispers: Start where you are

Stretch into the circle
the Big Juice is trying to be through you.

That is a story for the soul.

I Was a Dream You Had Under the Moon

moontreeI’m just a dream you had

A night your soul spent with the trees
playing under the moon

I was the creek falling through you
so you could feel your own flow

I became night so you could share your darkness
and say the big secrets out loud

and not merely have them echo on the canyon walls


I was the uprooted tree in the shape
of a falcon’s talon
for you to be caught and released

you slipped right between them

Oh, how good that felt—
was all over your face

I was the path
for you to go ahead on

With eyes of night
I became the path ahead
to protect you from the Predator

I was the fallen redwood needle
growing from the middle
as my hands danced with yours
dancing with me being the needle

The old does not always fall away
before the new appears

I became the moon
and showed you half my face
so you could see your own

the half you want the world to see
is the half the world needs

The other half will be another dream.

Not of me
But in being more you by dreaming me.
By dreaming me seeing you.

Me holding you. You holding yourself.

That feeling, a playful poem in the dirt.

That is all within you.

Don’t ask why or interpret it.

I’m what your soul is trying to be in the world.

I’m your blind-spot being seen.

I will come out and play as your dream
whenever you need it.

That is what I do.

Until you find me in the bottom of your bones
as your truest image

When you don’t need to dream me anymore
you will wake up and find me gone.

Astonished, you will turn over
and embrace the love
that’s always been there.