WHAT IS IT?

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We’ve all been there
the way we bare our teeth
to ourselves
in our sleepwalking

tearing open
skin and scars

barely pausing
to notice it gives no nourishment
nor pleasure

yet the gruesome frenzy
continues unabated

sometimes gnawing
on our own bones

is a final desperate act
of wanting to feel alive

as the incisors cut in
to our precious femurs

This is called self-abandonment
in some circles

and there are 17 thousand glorious methods—
we all have our favorite.

“Oh my what big stories you have!”

We might say
as we lend our curiosity

to that moment
our lips begin to curl
and we begin to salivate.

It can go either way.

What is it
that relaxes our jaw

that brings our gaze
back up to witness
the mess
that awful trail of blood

with our paw prints
slopping through?

What is it
that bells us awake

that instead of chomping down
yet again

moves us to lick the wound
like a lion cub?

After all, weren’t we only following gravity
and a song of desire?

What is it
that instead of devouring

finds us feeding
that exquisite sensation
of hunger
with an epic love?

What is it?

THE MOON IS A TURTLE IS A HUMAN HEART

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🌝🐢💚 The moon is a turtle—
how have you not known before?

How she carries her home across
the parched land one step at a time
a reservoir of soothing elixirs
in her silver belly

for the people on the edge
for the people burning at both ends
for the people fearful of their own wholeness

For you—you who are on the cusp of tremendous things.

For she has drunk deeply
from the world
and knows how to survive the season—
how have you not understood this before?

How with her Moon-eye-point-of-view
and her pace with peace
poured into it

she is not rattled
by the noise
that reigns below—
how have you not noticed before?

How she buries her song egg
in the sand of the sky

always hatching new songs
and intoning the old prayers
of love and change
of light and dark

how have you not heard them
like this before?

How she carves a bright life
in you
always coming and going—
you can’t make of her a bride
to keep in your house
as an ornament

But you must be the bridemoon yourself
When the moment of cracking arrives

and the sound is a marvel
heard by all the lovers out there
who have their faces turned
towards the big sky.

You are one of them.

You are one of the great lunatic lovers
with one ear pitched
on the horizon

the other turned within
the deep well.

And you discover the cracking never stops

That it is the cracking that draws the beautiful patterns all over your shell

that you buried in the
sand of the sky

You discover that the moon
is a turtle
and you are the moon—
how have you not known this before?

#ryanvanlenning
——————————
From a new collection of lunatic and mythopoetic sun heart poems ‘The Moon Has a Long Memory,’ coming out later this year.

THAT HOLE ON THE HORIZON

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Every evening I dig a hole
in the horizon

and place what I love
and what I want to love
into it

Though if I want to love it, doesn’t that mean I already do?

Is meant to be a real question,
not an answer.

I’ve thrown lawless songs
and dances
into that hole

and too many queries to count
should have filled it up by now

fists and furies
wounds and whys
and all my favorite fears

resistances and clingings slough into it
with scarcely a word

and each day
I cover it up
with the dregs of the day
while water rushes in

as the sun takes them all
to where all things woven
from foraged lives go

And a truce gently crawls
into every crevice of me.

Sometimes, on champion days
I ask the sun,
what can I do for you?

If it answers, there’s no riddle—it’s so much more
down-to-earth
than you’d think

for being a star.

But good thing there’s no end
to the hole
because there’s no end
to my digging

SOME WOMEN

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Some women will draw blood
in the way that you like it

Some women have dark wells
drilled by death
you can’t find the bottom

Some women are made of feathers
always floating
while others eat rocks
and never get off the ground

Some women will want to fuck
your poems
and instead find you

Some women kidnapped themselves–
neither you nor they can find them

Some women will let you eat them
like a grapefruit for breakfast
but won’t let you make them
breakfast in bed

Some women carry a handcrafted knife
and etch their name into everything
including your back

Some women do what they’re told–
stay away from them

Some women can’t look you in the eye
some because of what they did
others because of what you did

Some women are convinced you are
what is wrong with the world

Some women are convinced you are
what is right with the world

Some women let you carry their bags for them
others let you carry their dreams
yet others know how to carry what’s theirs

Some women have a mirror in their pockets
others are a mirror in your pocket

Some women only want your mirror

only want your hands
only want your mind
only want your cock

Yet some women don’t know what they want

Some women are so sweet and innocent
you will love them forever
yet never fall in love with them

Some women will take off all their clothes
and roll in the mud
the sand
the snow
with you, after singing, “I’m alive!”

Some women will let you tie them
to a tree in the backcountry
pretending to be a wolf
under the full moon

and the moon will blush

Some women will kiss you on a volcano
Some women are a volcano.

Some women will use you as a safehouse,
fleeing danger
and others will seek a safehouse
fleeing from you

Some women give their heart out
like pollen to spring bees

Other women’s hearts shift like the moon
waxing and waning
when all you want is the sun

Some women can’t withstand the full sun
of you

Some women want the talons of you
to devour the mouse of them
so they can fly

Some women are made of wild water
and fir tips
and bits of bat’s wings

Other women are made of ideas and microplastic

Some women play hide and seek
and will keep hiding
until both of you forget which closets
you both went in, never to be found

Some women have a good game,
some have several

while some women show you all their cards

Some women know the secret
some want to know the secret
some women think you have the secret

Some women will pee in front of you
and the redwood sorrel

Some women are moths
only coming out at night

Some women are daytime creatures
afraid of the dark labyrinth

and some grab your hand
as you torch the darkness together
and then you know

some women you will never meet,
and will never meet you,
even long after you meet.

(after Kim Addonizio’s The Matter)

INELEGANT UNRAVELING

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It’s not so elegant after all,
this unraveling.

It’s a mess
and full of grief
too deep to hold

but too old to keep to ourselves

Of course the confusion underneath
scrambles up us like a crab

and we try to keep it down
with endlessly creative distractions

but nonetheless it
pins us with its claws

The numbest poet in me wants everything beautiful

and that sells but doesn’t get you very far.

Addicted to redemption and the payday.

It’d be better sometimes to remain numb
Says the wound.

I’m no sun. Not even a moon
Lives in my face.

I’m not half the sky I used to be
Or half the dirt I want to be
So please forgive me when I say,

It’s over—
this pooling up and hanging on
to all the small hopes
and the big easy.

Lost. Loss. Less.

Ok, Things aren’t okay.

But of course, We can’t say that.

But that doesn’t mean what we think it means.

Okay isn’t what it used to be
and has a new face.

Go to the corner and collapse.

Oh how long can you hold it back?

Go to the corner and collapse
for gods’ sake.

Or if not for them, then for you.

And if not for you, then for the birds at dawn

or that small secret scrap of flame
that wants to find you
in the scintillating darkness

Wants to find the seventh generation laughing around campfires

We’re not getting anywhere spinning our wheels in knowing things.

Owning things.
You can always get more

Is a question now.

But can you stock up on meaning?

And love is just there.

It’s just there
behind every wall and eye

We might have to open death cafes on every street
If life is to return.

All this flooding
All the debris washing ashore
All this stumbling says
re-learn to cry and give up understanding.

It’s clear I can’t sell this, can’t even give it away—
but It’s not what we thought.

The unraveling is here.

Can we be brave
and let it move us?

I don’t mean brave
as in strong legs at the wall
with guns
and a righteous chin

I mean brave as in bare
as in play
as in pray
for our heart-eggs
to be broken open
by our own consequences

and the stories to hatch
that are worth hatching.

I mean stay still and collapse—it’s the only sane thing now.

And then we will be ready
to rise
and meet dawn
for the first time

without the knots
and armament

without the thousand stale stories

with nothing in your hands
and everything in your heart

SAVAGE PULSE

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A savage pulse
asking of you
more than you think
you can handle

lives here.

Did you expect to love the world and not die daily

from the sundry shocks
both sharp and subtle?

Did you expect to find
on the edge of every granite cliff
a pillow for a weary head?

A sweetness in every mouthful bit off from the big loaf?

Surely the wintered sun
and rough and gripping tide
disabused you
of such sentimentality

Yet surely the same sun
and the lunatic arriving
of a faultless sea
taught you, Beautiful Gambler,
how a lover shows up
with an unconditional caress

But if you’ve yet to find
the capital C in celebration
in the seed of each moment

strap the searchlight
around your ribs

and shuffle like a crescent moon
over all your little resistances

your feet becoming wiser
with each toe-stub
in your heart

until they become sandpipers dancing at dawn
around the fingers of the sea
knowing exactly where to go