The Hand That Got Away

28163785-1D80-4A42-810E-D3CA07C4C2ADWhen I awoke on the riverbank
I saw my hand once again fast asleep
on the egret’s wings

These things happen from time to time–
the best thing to do
is keep an even pace of breath

Don’t focus too sharply
but rather glide a soft gaze
across the surface of things and let it be

Somewhere downstream of the day
your hand will eventually shake the dreams
from its fingertips

It will take its waking slowly
gently stretch and remember
then begin making its way up river again

To meet you for evening dinner
with all the other parts
that got carried away

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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 Push and Pull of the Thing

DC36226D-220D-419F-8012-6190468FCCF9What do you do when above all
It’s the rhythm uncooked, the rush of the raw
The moon-kissed river within and thawed
Most precious, unbolted and brightly awed
Original blood pulsed and odd?

When even if you owned nothing at all
Nothing else under silvered skies
But the sink of the sun, the startling rise
When the push and pull of the thing was the all?

And the goldupongold, the unlikely prize
wealth beyond dreams deferred or dried
not festered or stunk or sunk with a load
but light as a feather, finely floating
like a film on the water finally flowing?

What do you do but swim and ride
waggling and wagging and wild-eyed?

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