We are traitors
to the regime

handing over the old pillars
because we’ve no use for them anymore

our allegiances shifted with the last fire
and we find homes in the slippery places
the magnificent momentary jiggles

blown down slope, stepping sideways all
meandered and mixed up

like goofy warrior balls-of-yarn
awkwardly entangled
knotted in all the right places

birthing designs it’s not yet appropriate
to wrap our pretty poor heads around

It’s not that we want new roads
it’s that we’re getting lost as a cartographical fetish
popping up unknown terrains
like vomiting russulas after a grand rain

We can’t stop hearing
the pleas of please let me breathe

the sound of glaciers calving, the cracks
are where we slide in

present to the last hundred centuries
and the campfire songs
ten leagues down the road

collaborating with worlds
wanting to kick back

as it forges new grammaring
all grit and gerundial

who wants to join after all
you know what happens to traitors



I’m not going to speak
of shiny hope today.

It has troubled us for too long
tripping us up the stairs
leaving the bruises that stick around.

It is understandable why
we want to jump over truth
straight to hope and its quick rewards.

After all, we purchased it
in the shadow of our striving.

But it is not surprising
it has no legs
and collapses
as soon as it gets out of bed.

We can’t get to the other side
of things
without touching the ground.


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Do the gods of earth a favor
and empty yourself of all things
for a change.

It’s the only way to stop
feeding the emptiness.

The true things will begin arriving.

If grief and all its cousins
should arrive

embrace them
like long-lost loved ones.

It may feel at first
they are trying to suffocate you
in your sleep—
but it is really the wake-up call.

They’ve waited such a long time
to feel your warm chest.


Will we stumble?

Or will we have learned
to truly trust
in our own breathe
and the dirt under our feet?

Will we have to practice
how to say hello?

In the darkness
that we say we don’t want

all the beautiful things await.



Start crawling.

Mix the kernel of your truth—
that improbable spark
in the vastness—

with the clay of where you live,
deep with dreams.

It is your own dawn
looking earth in the face
saying, “I remember you”

a longing long in seed form
worth a watering.


The buried minks are rising
from the troughs of the culled

despite how many we kill
or however much we put underground

the fissures keep forming
the dead cannot be quelled

kindling inquiries
it is bad manners to neglect

Perhaps the era of turning away
is turning away

old strategies of escape
are escaping

So when the sirens sound
and doubts surround

If the calm comfortables
come calling

Don’t let them seduce you
into forgetting how to be human

How to see what emerges from the cracks
with your own eyes and say hello

Don’t let it quail away
your aching treasures

Carry your altar with you
as a testimony

So that when people see you
they recognize a dancing mountain

a soil-sprouted smile
a flowing tributary in you

and can trust, sighing the deep sigh
knowing they can lay their armor down

a real conversation might emerge
between you, mooning over

which things need to be buried
and which need to be excavated

and whether we shall become Zombies
or Ones Who See the Dawn Together



To bear it is intolerable
this sacred wound no one talks about

The one that shakes the body
writhing with entombed remembrances
when no one is looking

I won’t talk about it if you don’t—
I don’t want to hurt
so spiritually in front of anyone

It makes sense that the forgetting
is necessary
and a genius freneticism
colludes to hide it

How many masks mask it?

Righteousness and a lever of power
will not cure it
and it will not even help to win

The village center lying beneath
the tangled knot is watered with tears
and knows not winning

Despite the longings, the sound of splitting
has not reached its end
and will echo through
what used to be called years—
Time isn’t what it used to be

Old pressures proclaim their independence
and follow their own trajectory

A Star has claimed them
and requires fulfillment—
Infections will enact stunning memories,
symptoms will proliferate
incontinental divides will reveal
an all-wrenching deepening

until the soil erupts
and we can smell again
with a thirst for humility and wild water

Until what is, is marked
and put in the circle

Until we stop imprisoning our We-ness
inside the dark tower of the human
exiling our sweetest intimacies

Until we relinquish the one story
and see the unseen power
in not being seen in the wrong room

Until we understand
this cannot be understood
by a strategy of conquest

Only then will the third thing spring
from the forest duff of us

like the fruit of an underground network
of invisibilities

Even now and now
in the middle of a root-red autumn night

clouds conspire and begin precipitating
a lawless wondering:

What could possibly bring us back
but a ripe and relentless
geo-mystical cracking?


Threshold of a Season

So you’ve come to the threshold of a season

Take a cue from Sister Aspen
and lay all your old answers down

You’ve received an invitation from darkness
to winter well

and the cave comes calling.

Enter the cave with a child’s heart
and a warrior’s wound

Asking all the impossible questions
impervious to troublesome answers

Fatten yourself up with them
and curl up for a mountain’s rest

You will find that winter
was waiting for you as well
and needs your warmth

The fire around which the season turns
dances in your belly

The company you keep
will become the soil of spring

The dreams you cook together
will become the tulip’s tip

For now, it is enough to know
that the cave is equally your home

within which so much lives.

-Ryan Van Lenning


I’m calling in a small group of Co-Spelunkers of Wondering into the Cave to slow down and dive deep into the caverns of our Whole Self and Season in order to discover what emerges in the fruitful darkness.

WITHIN THE CAVE SOMETHING PULSES is a 6-week interactive experience leading up to the Winter Solstice & into the new year to sink into the Big Silence where we can hear ourselves—not the voice of society, not the voices of family and friends, but our own Sovereign Voice and Inner Guide.



Since the descent has commenced
and We be sliding so slick into the Unlit rift
with raincoats and bully frogs
why not build our rafts of cacophonous confusion
and chthonic confederacies
and then with our heartache headlamp
place our wild-bullet-proof-amphibious-wisdom
and favorite fears between the bookends of slave ships
and monumental justice
because we’ve become (insert deep drums here)
so exquisitely fat with curiosity and courage
we’ve invited experimental arrows over for dancing
to pierce the folds of skin where we are not looking
in order to feel the hidden artesian well of things
getting us all giddy-up to blast rainbow graffiti
on the walls of our questions
and while some say that a party
for the dead and dying is not appropriate
it might be time for inappropriate celebrations
and monstrous migrations
opening ever-more fantastic rifts
revealing our dark-faced Minotaurs
with whom we will eventually fall in love.