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)

Bookends and In Between

40620D97-85B2-4BB4-900D-4A967B2426F7The bookends of your life
and in between
that one hovering tear
waiting to burn its way
to the surface
all these years

Those lips from which issued
what surprising tulips
what jagged rocks

Those holy hungers
in between
the prelude and the snapping shut

Those reconstructed memories
and silent demolition of darkest nights
but forgetting nothing

The bookends of your life—
Bright unknowing yowl on one side
A quiet familiar yielding on the other


D96319A6-859F-4E3A-A50E-8E3CCB41EDB9“Why does it all go away?”
Butterfly asks, perching on my shoulder
as I read the shortest day
in my Meadow.

I say ‘the butterfly’ asks this.

An abrupt question for a sunny solstice and I have no answer for her.

Unreason for the season.

What is the grass?

The books are loud
the small voices clamor
but the god is quiet
as he decays the day
breathing the Pacific flourish
in deepest lungs.

We’ve had a standing ren·dez·vous
the last three days
getting to know each other—
me, Butterfly, and the god
like long separated Rain from Earth, we much to discuss.

I don’t know if we are retrospecting or forecasting
then realize it is neither—
we dwell at the bottom
of the present
from which the What booms

We sit tickling each other’s
delicious undulations
of nuanced joy
and dread, until…
a wind sweeps through Eucalyptus’s hair
and moves the god to admit
in a winter-scented accent:

“I torture myself to discover myself.”

Oh, what a syrupy loneliness
issues from this sincere divinity

Then, from behind the Laurel curtain
a vision of the self-hanged god
beams from black hole to sea storm
from solstice to my eyes
to the wings of Butterfly
posing as a silently floating pyramid of Original Dust
an ancient winged Atom
taking a gorgeous belly
full of orchestral oxygen:

“I pour myself into shattered intervals,
become Time twisted,
and Time wears a Janus face:

Art, the Unfurling,
to the one side
and Death, seed of wisdom,
to the other—
the twin visages
of suffering sacred mirror,
Holy Companion.”

I say ‘the god’ says all these things.

Everything at my feet is decay:
all the Petals have sunk their heads for the season

Yet a moment ago the fingers of the red Walnut
strung the Tree house with brightest lights

But now a black mush
fickle Fern rotting mess
fall of Sparrow rules

And diving Beetles in debris
carry off cartwheels
to too cruel song sung
by crushed buried erotic nut
in the Squirrel pantry.

The Light is fading too fast.

Butterfly and I chase
the low winter Sun,
the warmth, the Flower, the Fruit, the Sweet,
but can’t quite catch it, can’t quite eat.

“Tomorrow’s the Day of Promise,” she says.

“Just as Today.”