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


The Poet’s Assent (An Ode to Rilke)

a9f03dab4540ebd5c3e9b4d0165571f2--rainer-maria-rilke-the-birdsThe poet Rainer Maria Rilke has been some sort of koan for me. February is the time of year that was a creative hurricane for Rilke, allowing him to finish The Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies in 1922. In one week, Rilke completed the unfinished elegies, and from February 2 to February 23, Rilke completed all the 55 sonnets of the two parts of Sonnets to Orpheus

He then wrote to his long-time friend, the inimitable Lou Andreas-Salomé, that he had finished “everything in a few days; it was a boundless storm, a hurricane of the spirit, and whatever inside me is like thread and webbing, framework, it all cracked and bent. No thought of food.”

In the fall I had thrown myself into trying to understand the heart of Rilke, his poetic motive, as it were. This is a poetic attempt to get at some of what I think he was up to and how he got there. In the meantime, I am still diving in.

“Incline a while,” she said with a smile.
A simple life, simply styled.

So with legs outstretched and peering into
the Poet’s mind and querying:
what’s this queer soul really hearing?
what’s this mirror really mirroring?

Seeing into things and Being
Into emptiness beauty fleeing

The whole of his heart’s work
from the hole in his heart works

because he dug and dug for days
he found upon his tongue a praise

Upon a summer solstice morn
on the eve of World War
a poet bent his inner ear
and found the point drawing near

Descended deep until he found
a limit to his seeing eye
no more secrets could be spied
until he looked with loving eyes

without it there would not be
the Sonnets or the Elegies

Only with that descending tone
could he ascend – not merely up
but with the whole earth on its throne
and with an ear so different bent
with drums began: “ASSENT! ASSENT!”

Only heart bent circling love
could form a praise upon a tongue
could a faithful Yes be a sung
like a song from morning dove

Only then the jailbreak
of those images locked within
and from behind the bars of time
the Poet affirms the world again

Canto Misterioso

cosmos2Affectionate ancient cock mind
crows the sun boldly

climbing the audacious pyramid
of unchaining.

What womb soul
of blessed silent recline whispers:

“Can you hear me?”

Ripened She Hawk
of night serene.

“Walk the contours
of bestial belonging
towards the sky
and pour the mysterious song
into noble hooded moon.

The web is in the wind
weaving the horizon
ribbon magnetic.”

An eye and ear proliferates.

“Can you hear me?”

The Song a New Creek Sings

cosmic creek

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.

From the world of passions returning to the world of passions:
There is a moment’s pause.
If it rains, let it rain, if the wind blows, let it blow.
-Ikkyu, 15th Century Japanese Zen Buddhist monk & poet

Already dreaming of sea and soil
this gifted fluent flow
appears overnight
beside my sodded hut–
a wink in time

Already dreaming of roots and return
it assumes a virtue
washing the forest clean
of all the detritus left behind
by fall’s decay

yet creating more
resurrecting autumn’s handful of dust
as muddy munificence

telling a tale en route
of things that happened long ago

no different than
what is happening right now

its ancient dialect
chimes a melody
difficult to hear
with the labyrinthine ears
of us civilized men
used to thick and soupy din

it is the sound of light pouring
from eternal efflux
cracked effulgent
from the dark

the cosmic diapason
silvery sacred symphony

tearing towards the big sea
at play with and as
the proliferous multitudes

first, in thicker accent, rushing, roaring
then, in thinner accent, whispering, warbling

back and forth and in between

the bushbird hears it, and hums harmony
the oak hears it, and lifts a greeny bough
the happy slug hears it, slimes its melodic march
the newt hears it, a pilgrim by its meter

they’ve washed their ears clean with it
it’s why they can sing along

Three Christmas Micrograms


It is not to be explained here
and will not be found at the end
for the final stanza stands a sailor
making its way across the sea

But it will not arrive.

oh, what waters!
the wind blows from somewhere


I want to know the ones you threw away
that could not find their true form

in order to come to term
and take their first breath, screaming

what was the ardent word seed
that impregnated the first syllabic

egg that no eyes have ever seen?
that’s what I want to know


The hour arrived
to turn the volume down
in order to hear

some silver-bladed violence
and once the hearing,
the listening