How To Disappear Into the River

ED3EB96A-5C81-4996-AF32-893A06A7DF43I don’t wanna see the river
I don’t wanna even tell you about it

I wanna drink myself so far into it
I stop making sense
because I breathe it
from the inside out
sucking down the mountaintop
and spitting into the sea

squeaking like a swallow
until a flock of rocks falls
out of my banks
and something in me hears the shoreline giggle—

did she mean to touch up against me like that?

Catch the light, carry the wind
test the world’s ear

rewrite the land
with my side-winding snake of a thousand hearts

not delicate, but deluge
not going somewhere new
but creating somewhere new

Growing the fish and fisherwoman
the poet pelican otter man
inside my river womb
Abraq ad habra

Swim in me—
I’ll drown you safely
to the other side

I chant river forever forever
not to show off for the water birds
though yes that too
but because I’m full
and overflowing

I sing wet my wild
singing yet the while
Forever foriver
Singing river river

Until these wicked words
in the slow of deep July
and I with them
into the flow

-Ryan Van Lenning


How Would You Ever Meet?

7C03E005-3F06-4650-BC65-0F8B671599C8Be honest
If you couldn’t tell where the tip of the feather ended
and the skin of your eye began
it wouldn’t be a river
and you wouldn’t be a man
and these words wouldn’t be a fish swimming between you two
and you wouldn’t feel the pelican pulling you into the ripples
so how would you ever meet?

Call Me By My Name Ornate

caddisflyFrom the outside
I may look like a clumsy tumbling acrobat
dragged across the bottom of things
by lawless currents

but those gold flakes you see
the ones woven through my back—
those I found in the basement
of life

where the shed skin
of mighty mountains
and delicious detritus live
awaiting their new forms in me

I spiral pink granite
and coil chips obsidian
around myself
and make a home of it

call me by my name ornate
or not at all
my cave is cast-off
sedimental sentiment

plucking lucky earth
vulnerable to the elements
and resurrected in me
as Goldworthy-worthy art

until the sun pops
my feathery wings
and I carve a mansion
among the clouds

sipping ambrosial air
like a poet and his words
drunk on draughts of light
and buzz madly like a riot

A Question Asked Backwards


is the bright grey utterance on the wind
an explanation point in your gut
when you find out how
the world speaks

whether throwing pebbles across the room
and taking our marbles home
or shining light through your pores

the world is uttering it too


is the unspoken syllable
when the room shudders
white thunder

or the shape of your lips
when it’s too good
to be true


makes you grab her collar
to shake the answers out

but nothing said
could quench the aching crack
running down the middle


echoes from your canyon
when all the symbols
are too aligned

but it is, it is.

What then of why?

Is it really the why that brings you out to play?

and why do you play?
is a question asked backwards

it is
and there is no play in why
It is, it is.

There may be only one answer
and it’s not a word

but a direction your heart
faces when the day finally begins

Ship of Remembering


shipHave you ever forgotten?

The keys. The number. The lists.

Where the well was?
The body of your dream or the dream of your dream?

That image in your bones
or direction of your ship?

If you remember that you have forgotten,
you’re nearly there.

But if you have forgotten you have forgotten
you are in the Deep

and the river of forgetfulness
has become a flood
and dashed your ship into pieces
joining the others

You grab a hold of any piece of debris
tossed atop the waves.

To get a breathe.
To get a glimpse.

But have you become convinced you were here
to float like debris?

You are not here to float like debris.

You are here to remember who you are
so you can be medicine for us.

A stunning fragment of the Dream
dreaming us whole.

It is not selfish to let go of the debris
in order to build your ship of remembering.

Keep following the glimpse, the breath
whatever allows you to grab a scrap of your own—
not theirs—
to piece together your extravagant vessel.

The swallow does not mimic the eagle
the eagle does not flicker like the lizard
and the lizard and the lichen have distinct paths.

They do not drink of the river of forgetfulness
and in their stillness is the total movement of their life.

And in your stillness is your total movement.

The stillness is where the remembering begins
because your ears can open there
and hear the things.

It may sound like the whistle of the swallows
or the hummingbird’s wings thrumming the air.
It may be the breeze through the needles.
Or the thunderous beat of a heart you had forgotten.
It may be the shattering imperative of your thunderbolt soul.

However it is
stay with it longer

listen so deep and rich
you become the big ear
remembering all.

Then, with what you hear
sail your beautiful preposterous ship
into the big dream.

Journey Day Prayer

IMG_0936I open all my ears
and hear the forgotten things.

Seeing the spectrum of the rainbow,
I know the landscape from deep red to magenta.
And teach them how to see
I feel the texture of the spectrum of loves.

The contours and rhythms unfold clearly.
No less the sound than light.
No less the love, than both, I trust the whole.
I see the gossamer threads connecting.

The raptor in me opens his eyes.
The worm in me digs and feeds the roots.
The tree in me whispers slow green and golden syllables.
The nest in the limb, the egg in the nest, the bird in the egg, the pulse in the bird.
The heart at the heart brings them together.

I see the shining shadows, beautiful sacred wounds.
I see the hooks with compassion, both my own and others.
Like a man walking from dawn to noon, I eat the long shadow into myself.
The wind is not silent
and I am the river for what is wanting to be created through me.

I settle into the notes that are humming
or pitch my perfect harmony, expanding new measures
with the momentum of their own unfolding.

I know who I am.
When asked for the single word, I said:
I remember.

I return with medicine for the people and the earth.