I Was a Dream You Had Under the Moon

moontreeI’m just a dream you had

A night your soul spent with the trees
playing under the moon

I was the creek falling through you
so you could feel your own flow

I became night so you could share your darkness
and say the big secrets out loud

and not merely have them echo on the canyon walls


I was the uprooted tree in the shape
of a falcon’s talon
for you to be caught and released

you slipped right between them

Oh, how good that felt—
was all over your face

I was the path
for you to go ahead on

With eyes of night
I became the path ahead
to protect you from the Predator

I was the fallen redwood needle
growing from the middle
as my hands danced with yours
dancing with me being the needle

The old does not always fall away
before the new appears

I became the moon
and showed you half my face
so you could see your own

the half you want the world to see
is the half the world needs

The other half will be another dream.

Not of me
But in being more you by dreaming me.
By dreaming me seeing you.

Me holding you. You holding yourself.

That feeling, a playful poem in the dirt.

That is all within you.

Don’t ask why or interpret it.

I’m what your soul is trying to be in the world.

I’m your blind-spot being seen.

I will come out and play as your dream
whenever you need it.

That is what I do.

Until you find me in the bottom of your bones
as your truest image

When you don’t need to dream me anymore
you will wake up and find me gone.

Astonished, you will turn over
and embrace the love
that’s always been there.


Dream a Constellation Together

IMG_8833Tell me, do they have lavender sunsets
in the land where you live?

Was there a river in your childhood
that flows through your dreams?

Shall we fight over which river is better
and who owns the sun?

Or shall we tell stories
around the fire

and balance our souls along the banks
while the day is pulling her shades down

and the stars that no one knows
begin to dot our mutual horizon?

Perhaps someday we will dream
a constellation together

and it will matter not
whether I call it the Great Blue Heron

or you call it the Giant Spruce
or our sister calls it the Goddess Ostara

for in that day,
the sun will shine on us both

and the stars will guide our nights
filled with better tales

What the Whole World is Trying to Be

creek reflection2With this hand I touched
the skin of a madam madrone
silky red winter blush
bending springward
through the fog

And with this hand
I reached into the water
cold with the taste of seasons
and scooped the mud
that had waited all year
to feel my face

A lavender whistle
petaled into me
like a feather
from an unseen canopy

and as the bright syllables of the dawn
uttered themselves
deliciously into my ear

someone who had my hands
became a mud person
unlocking an image within

The great tree awoke
remembering a dream:

that it had been a man
standing on the banks of a creek
one hand on a madrone
the other full of mud

and wondered at having five-twigged
hands and moving so quickly
from rock to rock

Then, shaking this strange image
from its limbs
got up and stretched, saying,

“I am what the whole world is trying to be”

and washed its face
in the morning mist

—Ryan Van Lenning, Forest Poet

Something Draws You Out

FullSizeRender(1)The poem you live inside of
is not much different
than a walk in the forest—

Something draws you out

Perhaps you know what
or perhaps you do not

But there you are

one foot in front of the other,
drawn forward
like a migrating buffalo
across the continent
of your butterfly soul

syllable after syllable
wrangled wordward
and woodward

watching, you catch a glimpse
of something flying
from out of the corner
of your self

the way the magnolia lives
as a scent on the wind

and you make it a part
of your body

the way a true poem lives
beyond the borders
of the words

and the moon moves among
the branches
as a mysterious midnight dancer

Something in you knows
the true walk is happening
between each step

like the creek’s echoes
rushing beyond its banks
to join the promenade
among the shadows.

To find who cast them
is one reason you left your house
to walk in the first place.

The other reasons only you know
and the world is waiting to hear.

But the slower the pace,
the more the walk
the slower the pace
the more the poem

stepping into you
with each fall
of your foot

and the moment between each
a wintry space is born
from the same place as the wind
where no one knows

O, mind, if winter comes
can the spring
in your steps be
not far behind?

Suddenly, you’ve ‘taken’ a walk
with each springy footfall
having no choice
but to speak its blossoms

You’ve reached the end of the winter
poem you’ve been hearing
and the trail ends

You forget the midnight cold
because now summer is a dream
on the lips of your feet

creating a new trail
with each new dreamprint

You could interpret a walk
asking, ‘what does it mean?’

but it’s a question asked backwards
up the hill

If the meaning could be told,
why, just stay at home
and let the forest be

Your feet will be innocent
and happy.

But you must know
your poem will find other ways
of being heard.

It has taken you.
The walk.
The poem.

The seasons spin you
and a conversation has begun.

-Ryan Van Lenning

Solstice Ren·dez·vous With Butterfly

butterfly2“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:
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 through Eucalyptus’s hair

sweeps 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

from black hole

to sea storm
to solstice

to my eyes
to the wings of Butterfly

a silently floating pyramid of Original Dust
ancient winged Atom

takes a gorgeous belly
full of orchestral oxygen:

“I pour myself into shattered interval,
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

a minute 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
dive of Beetles in debris

carry off cartwheels
to too cruel song sung

by crushed buried erotic nut
in the Squirrel pantry

the Light is fading

Butterfly and I chase
the low winter Sun, the warmth

the Flower, the Fruit
the Sweet, but can’t quite catch it

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

“There’s no reason for us to believe
the Sun will not abandon the Earth,” I reply.

“Other than that everyday
the Dawn is delivered on time,” she says, crooked smile.

“Look, the Worms come in battalions,
dancing. There may be no Return.

The underbelly is winking electric.
The sun is setting.

Perhaps THIS is the last day,”
I sing a cold Melody.

I say it is I that sings this.

She has a warmer lyric:
“I’m stocked wing to wing

with thick Desire,
though Desire’s end be Death’s friend.

In my last place, the lights went out,
and I don’t remember

what came before. Only Blackness and then
Something dissolved in me–some torture sublime.

Then, the New Dream.”
“What’s the New Dream?” someone said.

Without a word, and with smiling wings
in Orange delight

Butterfly performed a one-Woman play
for me and the god

in the dusky Meadow
and the god knew himself

it was just enough
no more, no less

to redeem the final Day
and the longest Night

whether or not
the Sun returns

Note: the line “I torture myself to know myself” is from a Robinson Jeffers poem called At the Birth of an Age [vision of the self-hanged God). Here’s a longer passage from the poem: ‘Whatever electron or atom or flesh or star or universe cries to me,
Or endures in shut silence: it is my cry, my silence; I am the
nerve, I am the agony,
I am the endurance. I torture myself
To discover myself; trying with a little or extreme experiment
each nerve and fibril, all forms
Of being, of life, of cold substance; all motions and netted com-
plications of event,
All poisons of desire, love, hatred, joy, partial peace, partial vi-
sion. Discovery is deep and endless,
Each moment of being is new.’)


Once I Cursed the Dawn

sunrise-1513732_1280Once I cursed the dawn
—waking wickedly—
for stealing
my dreams away

Once I praised the dawn
—sighing smilingly—
for chasing my nightmares away

Then, one dawn
I awoke without a whisper
nor curse or praise
dripping from my lips
But sat sittingly
setting three cups out
on the BigDreamTable
for my guests, invitingly

Now, I awaken wingédly
tasting tea with the dawn
and the dreams
and the nightmares —all of a piece
with me and my sittingness—
strangely entangled
upon a morning
met morningly:

closed mouth
open hands