THE TREASURE AT THE BOTTOM OF EACH BREATH

E0E26F40-2DE9-4E88-942E-A78BA7926612

The old way of holding things
sank into the sea
with the diving god

and sprouted dawnwings
as an owl flying out of one hand

gentle dawnfingers
caressing the earth with the other

with my mycelium strung between
finding nutrients in every thing
for the Fruiting Body of the HeartKing

I barely had a chance to say goodbye
to the old way

Before the way to say goodbye
became the treasure
at the bottom of each breath and day
the bottom of each moment’s play

Which was also how to pray hello
and mean it

like one of the great lovers
of the world

Without fists or fortresses
and only a cosmos to call home

—Ryan Van Lenning

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

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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.

FRECKLE

5FF9E469-C635-40F6-BE55-5F9800761CAAI want the slightest freckle to fall
off the smile-side of the season’s face

To land on me with a new breeze
blowing through
like a queen of love
sovereign of the land

One I only recognize after
it has turned the corner on itself
onto the next affair

I’d grin in recognition,
knowing that from its soft brown kiss
I’d gather mountains of meaning
and make a home

Then my eyes would widen,
as I laughed from inside
my fifth bone, I’d slow
my endless doings
that try to reserve a place
at the table of belonging

knowing a freckle is just a freckle.

Yet not less than a freckle.

Knowing I’d worship its art,
it’s soft beauty
that will fade with the invisible current.

Knowing the mottled-leaf of me
too will drop

And like you, autumn,
I’d take my turn

Tell the Truth About the Season

B400FC0F-011D-4760-9E60-DCDA3352B1DAIt is important to tell the truth
about the season.

You can try to live summer in the winter
or morning at midnight under the full moon
but eventually, the season is revealed.

It’s Fall.
The world takes a deeper breath
and a sacred pause.

It’s raining yellow alder leaves
they’ve slipped on their autumn coats overnight
dropping yesterday
to the ground like an old story
that no longer makes sense.

They know when to let go
offering the best of their beauty
as gifts to the land
and the next season,
each leaf an invitation
to follow our own turning.

It’s Fall.

The world takes a deeper breath
and a sacred pause
to peer backward and forward
a moment of transition.

We will harvest the things that can be harvested.

But we know the things that must fall
must fall
for the new ground to be prepared
with the composted remains
of what no longer serves.

It’s Fall.
Can we finally tell the truth about the season?

In the midst of the big race,
the world takes a deeper breath
and a sacred pause
while the leaves of the empire fall
out of our hair.

You know of which empire I speak—
the one whose summer’s shoulders
brought great gifts:
all bright
and fast and furious
and juicy and sexy and convenient.

And more. It always brought more.

Whether the more was what we needed
or not.

But it promised too much
and took too much
and now the Great Unraveling has arrived.

There will be a buttoning up.

A shrinking of the shining afternoon.

A shedding.

It’s a moment to tell the truth about.

Perhaps we fear winter
because we don’t yet see
what new spring awaits

but press your ear to the ground
of your being
and you will hear:

seeds of the new dream
already planted
in the soil of our gentle, beating hearts
seeds of belonging
planted in Deep Time.

And we acknowledge finally
there’s no way to spring
but through the lengthening dark and cold
and wet and unknowing.

Let’s tell the truth: it’s Fall.

The world takes a deeper breath
and a sacred pause
and if we allow it,
so do we.

The Waves Know It

Summer pulled itself out
from under me
and slunk out to sea

slowly or suddenly
depending on whether
I showed up or not

When I belong to the moment
rather than the moment belonging to me
nothing is lost

though everything’s a shapeshifter
and I’ve been sitting with the waves
asking about the turning of the tide
of life

finding I have more in common
with the bright green sea lettuce
than I ever knew
and with the rotting algae
than I ever wanted

Let me break it down for you,
the sand bugs said.

What would it mean, the sea asked,
what would it mean to roll over
the surface of things
and roll back out again?

To keep coming back?

To touch and not take
the boulders, proud sentinels of the coast
or the love that happened to grace your shores?

There’s a moon inside everyone
according to that improbable creature Rumi
and the waves know it
but why don’t I?

I never did hear the moon complain
of its imperfect reflection
on the bay

nor the water complain
of the moon constant changing

It’s not that I wished for an easier world
it’s that I get into things
like a mussel
a barnacle of love
fastening myself to rocks called dreams

when all I really want, (I lie)
is to wave
(I lie)

to tell the truth of it.

I want to be here. I want it all.

But I can’t seem to float like kombu:
the storm comes
the storm never happened.

I want to be the barnacle,
the sun and the moon,
the wave and all the tidbit poemlets on the playa.

I dare to be and I am
what the land and sea
agree to be in me.

I wanted to be here. I wanted it all.

With a Single Leaf

With a single yellow leaf
the giant powers of decline
are inaugurated

falling right through the bottom
of summer, wide as life
deep as death

Sink your ear into its runaway veins
that old hungry bell is booming
and pulling its great green garments up

Can you hear it echoing off the walls
of your luscious huts?

How it pulls the world with
unalterable desire
into the momentous night?

How it circles the seasons around it
with well-shaped gravity?

It signals that the great wolf time
is on the hunt
in the shape of a tree’s homemade gift–
the color of life and death
golden and singing
its eternal song