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




Pour tradition into these tendril moments
Letting them climb up
the bean pole of you

In this vast experiment
of remembering

Welcoming every conceivable
crescent mood, slivered and slow

with no aim but to edge out more and more
for the whole ceremony
and celebration

Thank you thank you
Deliverer of Death

The bow of a thousand radiant moons to you
Doorway to Spring

Thank you for taking us home

Showing us where life was lost
and loss let life

When we, errant wanderers,
who once begged for seats
at the table of belonging

finally unflex our fingers
hoarding the moon

finally relinquish all proving
and sat down, bewildered
and blessed.


86B398AB-649B-4BB8-87EA-7B72DFD27ED8Entering the era of decay, the quiet
and sometimes raucous
breaking down and going under

Without which, no glorious spring
no unblemished blossom
Certainly no sunworthy fruit
or feast will come

Reciting the rotten motto
to earn the bright bloom

not from proofs and propitiations
but from the dirty truth—
the soil of your next self
must be amended with death

I’m sorry, I didn’t ask for this
Intimacy; the rules were here
when I arrived

So throw the year’s dead and dying on the heap
spelling compost in your blood
and invoke all your worms

whispering the vows: I

will not turn up my nose
at fungi
will not condescend to bacteria
will not avert my eyes
from the bloody beak in the remains
and the black beetles of me
in their delicious decomposition

I owe them all this poem
my life

Life Partner

walk with deathWhat does it mean to walk with death?

You can walk with death
as an act of the imagination
having conversations with love
on the way to the death lodge

don’t think it’s not there
just because you made it up

You can walk with death
an uninvited guest
climbing hand over fist
with a closed throat
up the mountain

You can make of yourself an apprentice
at the feet of that brutal, beloved teacher
learning lessons sorely needed

For how can you really be here
saying hello to each blessed moment
without a goodbye
somewhere on the tongue?

This is how to pray, it says,
my first and only lesson.

Fall lives in the spring seed.

Finally, you can walk with death
as life’s partner
hand in hand, allied
like a ripe citizen of the earth

with, if not praise, then respect
holding it gently to one’s heart

Praise will come later
when the heart swells beyond measure

for this one who arrives at every hour
or any hour

So do not be surprised
by its walking onto the scene
with an beguiling smile

For is that not the way
of each bright new petal
and every astonishing sunset
taking your breath away?

Taking all breaths away
so there may be a new?

—Ryan Van Lenning

You can get my books RE-MEMBERING: Poems of Earth & Soul, and High-Cooing Through the Seasons: Haiku From the Forest through your local bookstore, on Amazon or Indiebound, Link in bio. My book of mystical poems, Silence Begins Here, and book of love and erotic poetry, Wild Rose Hips, will be out later this year. Follow me @ryanreturntotheearth for ecosensual mythopoetic inspiration and @wildnatureheartfor my heart-centered nature connection & 1-on-1 inner/outer wilderness work.


9BBF065E-12E0-4736-83E1-FACACDF62DFADeath isn’t something to lose sleep over

Come on in, she said,
the silent temple of the night is open

Consider soil and wind
questions worth probing
forever without end

How can I matriculate in a school like this?

No matter. Are you thirsty?

Green your mind and let me pour
the old songs into you

Your stone vessel is cracking effulgent—
Let its pearls stream out into the sky

Cut away the confused ones and drown
yourself in purpose
that one smooth thing
body bending with the beetles
becoming some ancient newness


1AC220ED-E13D-4C93-9C41-2D9E2A1B0D16If it’s not you with one foot out
the door of the moment
It’s the moment ever fleeing itself
afraid of it’s own center

How we disappear when we disappear ourselves—we live nowhere
fleeing all the time. Never arriving
until Midnight
when old hair and petals become dirt
and fragrances fade even if
they never found a nose

How so many of the species of our love don’t make the endangered list until after they’ve gone extinct

How the infant wants whatever it can’t have
and rejects what’s right in front of it.

The last touch before the doings of the day
And it’s always the last touch
says the sun sliding into the sea

Even the thought-we-knews and all the familiar hearts so soon take leave
and memory walks around like a ghost
Stirring up the scattered wind once in a while

How even now, when spring barges in with its thousand clarion calls
and comings-out
one hears the sound of leaves dropping
on the other side
all the goings-under

No, we don’t want to hear it.

How everything is perpetual departure
but we, the fragile ones, we live
for the tender intervals
thin as new feathers

And perhaps if we’re lucky,
if we show up, we can bring
one bright and real caress
to the thing


(The title is taken from
a line in Rilke’s French poem Les Roses)