Rave on Bold Scratchers

4738B572-1D75-4D72-9FA0-FF2916907EC8Stretching out towards the world
pouring into them
trying to capture the
endless bouquets of beauty and pain

scratching black and white shapes
and florid brushstrokes
on our canvasses
conjuring melodies
like raving magicians

all the while
knowing they’re mere clouds
blowing through
like transient guests on vacation.

Like everything.

One day we’ll sit with the final sunset
with only the merest scratch
in the sand remaining
and even that will be
reclaimed by the great sea
at midnight–
just as we will be.

Yet still we stretch and scratch.

We are alive.

Stretch big and rave on bold scratchers.


Rock Beats Scissors

rock beats scissorsI’m going camping and I’m bringing…
a sudden death

I carried with me two broken kidneys (1.2%)
and a bit of heart disease (26.9%)

Scissors beats paper and paper beats rock
rock beats scissors and cancer beats all (37.3%)

Hopscotch and jump rope
with chronic respiratory disease (4.7%)

I played leapfrog with stroke (4.0%)
and kissed her in the dark
I had a little accident (3.0%)
a fire from a spark

I’m going camping and bringing truth or dare
and miss my home in Georgia
I miss my lovely hair

Red rover, red rover, send diabetes (3.8%) right over

A little game of musical chairs
a bashful game of a liver I fear
has chronic liver cirrhosis tears (2.4%)

If not the body, then the soul
the brain has a mind that can’t be controlled
I went camping and split mine in two (schizophrenia 1.2%)
now which one is me, which one is you?

I’m going camping and made a marvelous leap
I killed myself and became a lion asleep (suicide 1.2%)

What time is it Mr. Wolf?
It’s time to play, it’s time to die
It’s time to wonder, wonder why

Tag, you’re it

No Excuse For It

52820D30-1E15-4797-A81E-806BAFE4CB88for e.e. cummings, without whom never would I but then again

…and, and, and…

(It being the land of the fallen
alder leaves and ever spruce
no less the 10th moon lit
I found no excuse for it.

Why sun fog fire log
crashing green
bright grey
waves and all the yelling I’m alive

Whoever said spring springs more than this here fine young fall?
a rotting black cormorant
crystal teeth and undulations
from all corners of her

!love is a blooming, love is a supernova, leaks like water!

I’m mindful of the seasons
yet my mind knows no
reason for it
let alone an argument

unless it be:
pour and pour, speak all at once
build it up, tear it down
we, who shall be all of you
spray your everything through everything

—->My “worldview” consists of…
and so forth and so on,
how feeble against the facts
when meanwhile
feathers are disappearing into the sand<——-

*They’ve got big brains at the institute
studying the sea lions as we speak
and whales tick tock on the tidal pools
we’ll get a chart
how many microplastics per…

preserve the coast
protect the forest
pickle it
tack ’em up on the wall
get to know ’em*

Sure, sure, we wish ’em luck.
Oh, How it eats them alive–
these brave and powerful ones.

We’ve got Deep Time on our side.**

Fine print–so fine they forget to print:

No one knows how
the monarchs get from there to there
whales and butterflies may share their secrets with one another, but
why oh why would they tell us?

death love death love
in no particular order
same cloud)

…and, and, and…



**whose side?

With a Single Leaf

19C17CE2-C876-45B6-988E-DF18F0B4C8D1With a single yellow leaf

the giant powers of decline
are inaugurated

falling right through the bottom
of summer, wide as life
deep as death

Sink your ear into its runaway veins
that old hungry bell is booming
and pulling its great green garments up

Can you hear it echoing off the walls
of your luscious huts?

How it pulls the world with
unalterable desire
into the momentous night?

How it circles the seasons around it
with well-shaped gravity?

It signals that the great wolf time
is on the hunt
in the shape of a maple leaf–
the color of death
golden and singing
its eternal song

On My 86th Birthday

sea sunsetWhen I sit in the evening light
There are no cakes or candles

But a round pile of blueberries
From the two bushes that survived the winter

Bless the center of the cedar table
We made together at the dawn of our path

The size of marbles!
You would say

Now, looking out the stone-framed window
From my bed that faces the widening sea

My blood runs bright with memories
Of all the journeys

It’s the ones I didn’t take that weigh
Heavy upon me and clot me up

More difficult than the ones
Where I came out the other side

I wish I would have greeted the dawn more
And jumped in the water

Without thought of who would see
My ordinary naked body

I didn’t call my folks
Or tell my friends I loved them enough

To the women – did I thank you enough?
A hundred times I thank you

This word enough—how it changes
Its shape on my lips through the years

With each falling leaf I thank you
That we could help each other grow

The better rings of our trees; I’m sorry—
Our wounds sometimes caused more pain

I hope you had rich, colorful lives
That love hugged you in the final moments

Sometimes I hurt you
Sometimes I hurt myself

Sometimes I didn’t know how to connect
Or find the words

I built this room with my own hands
With stones from the creek

That we used to dip our feet in
Through all the seasons

Meeting months of sunsets
With sweat and peace and the tenderness

But now, I no longer need this room
So I give it to you and you

And hope you enjoy
It as much as I have

If my legs were alive,
I’d jump like my 8-year old self

In a pile of leaves
The colors of an autumn blast

Yes, I still dream of running
But I’m content with the dream I authored

Not unproud
Yet humbled

Still, the questions pour through me:
Did I explore the sparks?

Did I follow my curiosity
and lean into all the fears?

Did I share my gifts
and open more than I closed?

And if my eyes weren’t now masked like midnight
I’d look into the ox daisy of your eyes

I’d study the tiny hairs on your arm
How the light makes of them a forest

Delicate in the slant of the dipping sun
One last time

And not think of the words pomegranate
Or violet or any far-flung hue

But touch is still my finest tool
So place your long-loved hand in mine

Let us embrace
And feel the final fading

Of the warmth
Behind the darkening waves

The Wound and Not the Story of the Wound

desert2From that high place
it appeared a lake

pinkish-white and round with promise
a beautiful mark on the land
walled in by red rock
and a giant sky

It asserted itself on me
drew me like a fish fishing
the man thrashing

You’d think a part of me
would know about mirages
in the desert

But I needed to touch
the wound
and not the story of the wound

So I began the descent
with no dragons or wizards
or helpers other than lizards

and my sole companions:
Death and all my loves

we said the unspoken things
that needed to find a purchase
in the open air
so it could float on up
and meet the sun

Too far, too far.
No, go the distance.

Which powers in me were having this debate?

I climbed down
sliding over sandstone
through shadows and stories
found and gave forgiveness
empty of stomach, full of purpose

Too late to turn back now
I must touch the wound
not the story of the wound

Arriving at noon
my thirst stretched out like dune devils

the sun hovered
an inch from my forehead
like a rune foretelling
troubling things

My feet found cracked mud.

It was no lake. It was not pink
but white like skeleton–
Dry evidence of the gash.

The only water came from my face
forced by the realization:

the stories, my god
how much I’d wasted with stories
of the wound
and not the wound itself.

I blessed it with the final tear.

Dry and new, I turned
towards the arduous ascent
with swollen tongue, swollen heart

with my companions:
Death and all my loves,
including myself

-Ryan Van Lenning

Note: The phrasing of the title of this poem is influenced by Wallace Stevens’s Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself and Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into the Wreck:
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth