Call Me By My Name Ornate

caddisflyFrom the outside
I may look like a clumsy tumbling acrobat
dragged across the bottom of things
by lawless currents

but those gold flakes you see
the ones woven through my back—
those I found in the basement
of life

where the shed skin
of mighty mountains
and delicious detritus live
awaiting their new forms in me

I spiral pink granite
and coil chips obsidian
around myself
and make a home of it

call me by my name ornate
or not at all
my cave is cast-off
sedimental sentiment

plucking lucky earth
vulnerable to the elements
and resurrected in me
as Goldworthy-worthy art

until the sun pops
my feathery wings
and I carve a mansion
among the clouds

sipping ambrosial air
like a poet and his words
drunk on draughts of light
and buzz madly like a riot


Of Wind and Water

IMG_2122It’s surprising how little gets
done without them—
just try dancing without the dark blood
of the earth
coming up through your bones
as red sea water

or the rivers of wind
warmed by the sun
snaking through you

The wind carries its own center
with it across the miles
adding a ring with each breath

it is always en route
sparking conversations
with skin and scale
leaf and litter

When you think you’ve arrived
ask the wind and the water

When you know you haven’t arrived
and the labyrinth seems too big
ask the wind and the water

they are the peacekeeper
and the destroyer
he life-giver and the blood of the big body
the crack in the bell
the crack in the ego

The weight and the lack of it
draw them through the endless cycle

to ask where it begins
misses the point

not the hydrogen
nor oxygen
but the bond that brings
the thousand forms

the kind of bond you want
when you want to have a dialogue
about the shape of things
when you want to bring soul to the world

when you want introduce the sea to the mountain
to offer parts of yourself
you haven’t seen in years
to the parts you haven’t even met

the parts of yourself
you thought were a virus
so you fought them off
like a valiant, but confused soldier

thinking that it’s best to be safe
you forgot that nothing is outside
the circle

thinking for a moment you were
not the same center as the wind
you forgot the thundering imperative
of your audacious bodies

all of them
and the free bond that breathes you
in and out
in and out
carries its own center
at the edge of things

Lean Into the Wind – 10 Mountain Haiku

mountainLean into the wind
from atop granite ridge, but—
don’t fall on your face

Mountain scurriers
stealing my stuff at midnight—
have fun with my knife!

Even Neruda
didn’t write a lovely ode
about caddisflies

There is a reason
you don’t drink from waterfalls
hanging upside down

Model wearing furs
posing for a photo shoot—
a marmot beauty

Walking off-trail
under blue Sierra skies—
pounds of bear scat

Sleeping back to back
in the freezing mountain air
we survive the night

At ten thousand feet
the June sun is closer and
cities don’t exist

He’s just a rodent
but looks so fashionable
in my old white sock

These granite pack rats
grabbing every loose thing
up on mouse mountain


shadowWith extravagant hooves
I walk outside
even the perimeter
pounding the pavement again
until I find the free dirt

The world’s a hot and heavy
aching anchor today
and the throbbing soles of my feet
just want to feel something real

So I hang a thumb out to the world
until a free syllable catches a ride
on a wild-eyed word
with barely a hitch

A few go by, but one slows
and rolls down its tinted windows
and with a voice so suave, says
“Jump in the back of my 4×4 metaphor,
I’ll take you up the hill.”

I hop on, feeling the wind flow
through my long curly verse

Soon I’m free of the desert city
where gravity and noise rule
like bloodthirsty despots
colonizing every last paragraph
of the world
and weigh upon me
like a colossal cologne

There is no gravity up in the wind
Up where language matters
Up where a phrase on the breeze
is more meaningful than whole libraries
in the valley haze—
Up here I’m an aurated acrobat.

Up here I can dance like flea.

-Ryan Van Lenning

Awake to Wings – Eight Spring Haiku

lake2At morning and dusk
scooping up their breakfast bugs—
these madcap martins

At the water’s edge
a family of seven ducks—
bedtime is at nine

Playing hide and seek
the kids roam from shore to shore
yelling for their dog

Silhouetted lake
has spring swallows dancing to
ukulele songs

Blue wings, white bellies—
thrill-seeker aerialists
enjoy the sunset

June on the water
swallows and shadows swaying
in the evening breeze

Wood rat scurries in
picking up after picnics
at the city lake

Schedule for the month:
mallards morning exercise
I awake to wings


IMG_2210The sign says they’re decoys
not real ducks—
but when I hear a rustling sound
that pulls me from my slumber
I open my eyes and all I see
are the flurried wings of two ducks over me.

So life-like!

We are on summer schedule now
and mechanical mallards moving
over me are my alarm clock

They seem so real to me—
When one approaches
clucking with curiosity
and tilts her head to find the meaning of my words,
“You’re so beautiful. Are you two a couple?”
I hope she didn’t think I was hitting on her.

It’s just I don’t know much
about the mating habits of birds,
especially fake ducks like these decoys.

And they’re not the only fakes on the lake—
On one end a very convincing squirrel
climbed through a fake wild plum tree
onto an imposter willow tree
overhanging its mirrored reflection
in the very life-like water
and on the other end
a very realistic-looking man sat
playing an instrument.

They didn’t do as good a job
with him though
because they forgot to put shoes on him
and he seemed to be shaped in a very unnatural posture—
reclining and relaxed–
different than the quickly moving real flesh and blood
humans who don’t get entangled
by all these decoys.

But I’ve never seen such realistic re-creations
of bats and swallows
dare-deviling at dusk
at the invisible insect buffet.

Their painted white bellies
and blue wings
were as good as the real thing.

Well done, parks district!

And when they put out the white egret
soaring so suavely across the face of the water
and it landed on a log at the edge
I forgot it was just a robotic device.

I was so utterly convinced
that I was taken aback
by its beauty
and goosebumps crawled
up and down my body—
That’s how real it seemed.