It Nearly Floats Away

F01BF34E-F969-4699-B7FD-B653047C7DDDFrom the moon
the unfolded blue and white petaled blossoms
sink into the dark beyond
as quiet as a butterfly.

No cries are audible,
none at all.

The moon—
in its sovereign cold
safe from heat
of hatred daily burning
into flesh and hearts—is calm.

There are no flesh or hearts on the moon
and no fires can be seen.

The only war here is the homesickness for the war.

On the moon that familiar knot is weightless—you know the one.

It nearly floats away
to join the symphony of stars.

So in August’s drowsy simmer
in a moon-muffled world
one can almost pretend…

There must be a reason the moon sticks around.


Smoke on the Word of the Wind

BB065677-D7DB-4771-808D-A4E11015F1BCFor the California fire victims, wish I could do something more…

Even here on the edge
I taste smoke on the word of the wind
carrying loss across the land
spelled with terrible syllables

A wicked whipping
sharp as Kali’s tongue
licks her lips
hungry for more—
devouring homes of teachers and deer
burning lungs and livelihoods
stinging eyes and hearts

Feels like all we can do sometimes
is worry with the evening sun—
that other great fire—
drifting behind pale hazy skies
with a California-sized knot
hot as death in our chest

and with the gulls, fly our hope—
that thing with feathers—
that a world on fire
soon finds soothing skies
and softer syllables find their way
on the word of the wind



new sparks are everywhere
if one is not asleep

that was never the question

the world is nothing but sparks
from a certain perspective
specks forming clouds of infinite variety
or doled out like El Nino
shedding raindrops

can’t catch them all
yet none are wasted

but still, choices:

which ones are for the tinder?
(easily combustible)
which ones are for the magic trick?
(flashy and mysterious)
which ones are for the fireworks?
(pretty colors and a big bang)
which ones are for the kindling?
(a flame to play and read with)
which ones are for the fire?
(providing heat, light, beauty, and intensity)

which ones are for the glowing embers
once the fire dies down,
yet keeps you warm
through chilly winter nights?

which ones are for the fire
around which friends sing songs
and shoot the shit
but also share secrets
and themselves?

which ones are for the fire
’round which
lovers’ bodies are kept warm
and hearts kept even warmer?

Which ones are for the fire
’round which
plans for future fires
are formed?

which ones will be the ashes
that fly away on the quiet wind
and are forgotten

and which are to remember warmly
with the eye of our heart

when in the end
darkness comes calling
and all the sparks have sparked?

Ashes on the Soles of Their Feet

footstepsUncivilized love baked beauty
into the skin of the already wounded

every now again they find ashes
on the soles of their feet
“Where was it again that we walked?”

and a trace of delightful magnetic storms
stirring ungulate electric
flickers in the night as deaf dreams

before again lurching through alleys
with fitful lanterns

she had blown the whistle
and he arrived with a rainbow wand
insufficiently attired

and as they ran past the tourist desk
with peals of mad and happy notes
laughing under tornado skies

they spit sparks
until the house split

and burned down
with a roar that fed
the night sky like a beast

eating the last of its young
before turning its teeth
on itself

but where they walked
no one can tell

everything is gone

and only their feet have memories

Where I Get the News

palm tree “It is difficult to get the news from poems,
yet men die miserably every day,
for lack of what is found there.”
– William Carlos Williams (from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower)

I get all my news from the fire that burns
at the edge of the dark, the place where I learn

I turn on the program, ‘The Scent of the Wind’
and listen to all of the news that it sends

The roots and the leaves and the bark of the trees
have taught me how to be silent and free

The messages come from the river that flows
deserving all credit for all that I know

Consulting the spectrum of all of the hues
the network of colors where I get all the news

I get the reports from invisible threads
connecting the cores of the living and dead

I get all my news from the stone on the ground
from whom I’ve received any wisdom I’ve found

I get all my news from the fire that burns
at the edge of the dark, the place where I learn.

-Ryan Van Lenning

Firemen and Freedom Fighters

fire__black_and_white_by_colleen721By the time the firemen arrived
it was already dark

The fire within had barely begun

When they threatened to ax the door down
behind which I thought I was hiding

I believed them
and froze in terror

but limbs like ice kept melting
and they wouldn’t do what they were born to do—
kick or flee

No one really knows what happened
that night out of time

—all the minds went into exile
black because they weren’t meant to
contain such big things
overflowing like the floods
along the Skunk River that year

Things end up breaking
with a thunderous white pain
the size of a summer storm

So my little brother, light and fast as a hummingbird
flew through the window
to unlock things
to let me out or let them in
to let the firemen fight the real fires
in the bedrooms of their hearts

A retired nurse somewhere probably remembers
what happened next:

A white room
a white rage
behind the tall door
of dissociation

official white uniforms
with white recommendations

white hot primordial screams
shaking white buildings

a fire so fierce
they thought they might have to call the firemen again

Then black.

A cage.
A locked door.
A red-eyed camera.

This is not my home.

But even white prison walls can become family
with enough time
and no choice.

I will abandon myself

I didn’t say out loud.

The doors we love.
The doors we hate.

I never got past level two.

The key was buried that night.

Some guy broke out by smashing the door down and the fire alarms went off.

He was my first real teacher—

a freedom fighter.