North Coast Love

39B879CE-038A-4532-A8CB-23962EC7F193Mist and rolling
round each other’s moist and swelling
wrapped around my wrist, your fingers
mine around your neck, enfolding

I’m the river
wet en-winding
in your arching, aching canyons

You the salmon wild, sliding
salmon belly flesh and flashing
pink and operatic lashings

Gasp! and gripping parts so holy,
all the lips and hips so slowly

Begging tongues to dart and dare
daring depth and deeper yet
taking tasting falling filling
rocking raking summer sweat

Then floating on these well-sung sheets
having flung so fierce unfaltered
sleep and sleep the deeply filled
wild well of need well met

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The Wound and Not the Story of the Wound

desert2From that high place
it appeared a lake

pinkish-white and round with promise
a beautiful mark on the land
walled in by red rock
and a giant sky

It asserted itself on me
drew me like a fish fishing
the man thrashing

You’d think a part of me
would know about mirages
in the desert

But I needed to touch
the wound
and not the story of the wound

So I began the descent
with no dragons or wizards
or helpers other than lizards

and my sole companions:
Death and all my loves

we said the unspoken things
that needed to find a purchase
in the open air
so it could float on up
and meet the sun

Too far, too far.
No, go the distance.

Which powers in me were having this debate?

I climbed down
sliding over sandstone
through shadows and stories
found and gave forgiveness
empty of stomach, full of purpose

Too late to turn back now
I must touch the wound
not the story of the wound

Arriving at noon
my thirst stretched out like dune devils

the sun hovered
an inch from my forehead
like a rune foretelling
troubling things

My feet found cracked mud.

It was no lake. It was not pink
but white like skeleton–
Dry evidence of the gash.

The only water came from my face
forced by the realization:

the stories, my god
how much I’d wasted with stories
of the wound
and not the wound itself.

I blessed it with the final tear.

Dry and new, I turned
towards the arduous ascent
with swollen tongue, swollen heart

with my companions:
Death and all my loves,
including myself

-Ryan Van Lenning

Note: The phrasing of the title of this poem is influenced by Wallace Stevens’s Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself and Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into the Wreck:
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth

The Moon Has a Long Memory

D804C643-2D73-475F-9C19-A33FC1F67128Welcome dark
in unpursed lips singing
forget the day
all pale doing

of center night
and darklish wooing
lay its leaping skin
around you

Deep nocturnal breath abiding
blowing skirt of darkness hiding

The moon has a long memory
and hasn’t forgotten your true name

It is mere habit to shrink
when the sun sinks

Have you tried standing up
and meeting the gaze of the Swordsman
when he asks you what luster’s tucked under
your supernova skin?

Have you considered lifting the lid
off your day-time self
stitched tight oh too tight and oh—-

Or are you only a lover of butterflies
despiser of bats?
One of the half-time lovers of the world?

Then by all means, bless your mangled life
half-bitten and hungry

If not, pour pitch black down your poor back
and feel your arch grow

The moon has a long memory
and hasn’t forgotten your name—
the one you uttered so assuredly
back in the season of jumping
before the great gremlins of approval
stole it from you
under the fog of forgetting

Be big with midnight
and tempt the stars out
with cheshire desire

Behold, some belly bold
cries your full name from the old
deeplier than ever told
Perhaps it is your own

Welcome dark
in unpursed lips singing
forget the day
all pale doing

of center night
and darklish wooing
lay its leaping skin
around you

Don’t Be Quiet About Beauty

rootsmy friend,
don’t be quiet about beauty
don’t be silent about love
don’t seal your lips quite yet,
my love

even the ones who think it’s quaint
and queer, this talk unconstrained
even the ones loudest and preening
ache for love and beauty
through a mile of debris

oh, everyone talk of roots

but I say, grow past the ones they gave you
past the names that call you
past the farthest sideways glance

let them follow their own trajectory
like lonely reckless heroes
seeking the sacred well
let them dig, my friend
so you can fly

keep digging,
and seize your true name
from the center of the earth

then rise up north by northwest
until the secret
shakes itself out—
clean and heroic green
finally yelling

yes, yes,
I want that too

and sing the beauty of the whole mystery

Birds of a Feather

ecotribe artDedicated to my Ecotribe (Katie, Ariana, Jocelyn, Miranda, Constance, Beverly, Joy)

Birds of a feather flock together
in whatever kinds of weather

and form a circle seaside song
reunion after one year long

pouring stories waving, weaving
talking easy, laughing, grieving

with rocks as light as birds and beaks
and hearts as bright as birds do speak

a tumbled ocean comes ashore
with the people one adores

even driftwood plays its part
and resurrects as works of art

though sand circles must disband
in hearts of birds the circle stands

Sparks

SONY DSC

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
celebrating

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