38042FCD-B6EE-455A-A9D2-B06B58152A36Glimpses caught
a hulking feline beast
paw prints at the sacred pool

a turtle-faced dog-jaguar
lends his tears
to history’s stream

It is dark now, too dark
and dangerous, some say
But he enters anyway
like a stalker who knows
how to seize his prey

What he is hunting is for him alone to know.

And now the wild cat of him
is leaping from the edge of the west
over trees, off all known cliffs

In awe, the ocean presents
her round, smooth back
to land on, saying, I still love you

Knowing peace, he carves out
the spoon of his destiny

It is time now, the rewilding has begun
And he, The One Who Gives Care, returns to place, pleases the people
Photo: Brad Wilson, from his series of stunning animal photography Affinity


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

To Move With a Smooth, Wavelike Motion

wavesIf I ever had a daughter her name would be Undula

from ‘unda’ in Latin meaning wave,
to move with a smooth wavelike motion

to rise and fall,
surge and swell,
heave and ripple,
billow flow and roll,
wind and wobble,
oscillate, fluctuate.

Of a leaf, to have a wavy surface or edge.

‘Undula’ is a wavelet

and when you pronounce her d softly like a j,
it gives a Hindi sound
like Angela.

Anja is a female name meaning grace

and also in Russian and Hungarian
though in the latter two it is pronounced Anya
softer yet
instead of with the j
and means mother.

I’d name her Anya, if I ever had a daughter.

Tell me about giving birth.

Was it a surge, a swell, a heave?

And afterwards, did you sleep?

If I ever had a daughter her name would be Anja

In the Berber language Anja means rhythm or melody
related in sound to ‘onja’
meaning to taste, test, investigate
in Swahili

and if I ever had a daughter I would name her Onja

But I do have many daughters
little undulitas

my little Anjita grew up fast

her parents are the big ocean,
the big Unda and myself,
and we are constantly consummating
and therefore always pregnant.

Shall I marry her someday?

Does it matter?

But you can’t always be pregnant, right?
That can’t be good for a body.

I think of the cows.
The poor cows.

The Ocean has a deeper womb.
The Cosmos even deeper.
The Biggest Wave — the Unlimited Unda

And when the contractions come,
of course it’s going to hurt.

But those big wet undulations
on the first day of summer
the longest day
when light is king

and the giant wave of energy rushes
from within like a geyser
and bodily pours through like some deep howl
of anguish and joy

it can’t be contained
cue the grunting and face contortions
that face of giving birth

and the screams arrive out loud
for a change

and I worry the neighbors will hear
me giving birth

to my little undulitas

Strange Birds

bird shorelineThey are strange birds
perched on the shoreline

these heavy poets chirping lightly
for whom squares will not do.

They are in it for the curves only.

The shoreline keeps shape-shifting—
that is the key to the rest

The shoreline is a sentinel against forgetting
and if you don’t understand the shoreline
how can you understand the human heart?
they say.

So they perch on the Pacific
and purchase peaceful poems
with their spindrift ears

Sometimes they fall on their head
listening to the vast subterranean love-beats

Building things

For the hawk within, stone towers
for the multitudes within, stone benches
for the child within, feather ships

Between dinner and desert
a drop from the great voyage
drips on a napkin

And still we clean our chins with it

Scribbling scribbling

on the black island
in the storm
in the crowd
on the sea
in the trenches of a world asunder
in the mines
from the glowburn night
on the backs of whales

the music wafts in from every direction
and the notes are untranslatable

Yet we hunger for syllables of understanding

How curious that flower-soft verse
is sometimes harder than granite…

and holds us up
like a fat bird on the ocean gale

Chirp chirp for us you strange birds
with sounds carved from rocks and flesh
and all the slight angles
of our ancient dispositions

Chirp your inimitable chirp
you strange birds

Chirp chirp and make our flesh
cha cha with goosebumps

-Ryan Van Lenning

Dedicated to Pablo Neruda and Robinson Jeffers. I was inspired in part by a Bay Area Book Festival session on the life and poetry of Neruda that I attended yesterday. The line, ‘How curious that flower-soft verse is sometimes harder than granite…’ is adapted from Jeffers’s Harder Than Granite.


Heir of Eternal Spring – Part I

The other night I was up in the night, awoken by words that would not let me sleep. It was a figure, that I’ve taken to calling The Queen, that has appeared in other forms and contexts. I am taking it to be Muse/Anima. Whatever the case may be, these entire verses arrived to me as blocks, I have not altered them but merely tried to take them down. This has never happened to me before beyond a word or two. And is a very different
style and form that what I write, as readers of my poetry will notice immediately.

The feminine figure is telling me how she arrived to have three different colored feathers or plumages (Red/Bronze, Black/White/Silver, and Rainbow), and hints that she will tell me how she arrived on the throne, the story from heir to Queen-in-exile. I don’t have any idea what she is talking about. I met her first in a dream a couple months ago, as a disguised commoner. That’s all I can say for now.  This is the first part of about 4 so far that I have received, and it’s clear that I have only so far been told a little bit of her story.
I, Courtly Heir to Eternal Spring,
thrust a’sudden upon the throne
with backward glance
yet onward travel in startled gown,
festooned with light,
And tattered from the wind,

Now try to carry forth the word
of a battled plumage
Thrice conceived:

First, in fury
fiery wrought

Second, mist born
in fog imbued
Silver, black,
And all between

The final, the Glory,
Wherein the bounty lay
A field serene
In flowers infinite
Meant for rest
The memory clear, a mirror
in warming light
(I weep at the memory now,
not from grief
but melting away
for the colors still adorn my face)

But I’ll tell the tale of First Born First
Through which the red plume came to be:

Once in fury, locked within
Animated by a grievance, petty born
It now appeared as a ship
A mighty ship sailing strong
Carried past all Ports of Reason

On an ocean cast wild, unending
no anchor in the maelstrom
could find purchase
nor rope ever found
thick enough to have me bound
hence a raging storm
pure and bright
conquered sea and left me
a captured sailor
bound by no oath or earthly good

I took to raving-mad it seems in retrospect-

But then the Truth out:
clean and sharp
a mighty fang
a splendid song
a ruthless pouring
of heart enthralled

(better this, I thought,
than stand a worm)

Several days like this, three or four,
’tis not clear
for fog of memory takes its toll.

What had been sealed behind fair lips
could not now keep
its bubbled roar
from joining froth
foaming on boiling sea:

Break thy False Mask, Beautiful Villain!

(Her furious outpouring To be continued in the next installment)

Descent Into the Great Sea (Rainbow Home #7)

whale2Miramar, She Who Mirrors the Sea, Translator of the Many Songs, resurfaced, smiling and nodding her head, an affirmation of my new-found knowledge.

“I was the HeartSeer all along!” I exclaimed, still high and shocked from seeing my face.

Suddenly I realized that some part of me knew the whole time. Why it took me a hunt for a fire dragon in a cave and crazy journey to the Edge of the West and nearly drowning while swimming out to find a cryptic mermaid to “find out”, I don’t know.

“Always the last to know,” I said, shaking my head.

“Does the full moon ask why it wasn’t whole last week? Does summer arrive mourning winter? The big hard sun and the great sea dissolves all and calls forth new things when they are ready. Everything arrives on time,” Miramar said.

And I knew that I was now ready to descend into the Great Sea. The Obsidian Key was down there somewhere.

“Follow me. I can take you as far as the Sei. He will take you further and faster than I am able to. You will not be able to understand WhaleSong, but I will translate for you.

She applied a gooey kelp bandage to my heel, wrapping it with a seaweed cord, stopping the bleeding. Then she put her spiral shell to her lips, took a deep breath and blew hard. The conch emitted a sound so high-pitched that I had to cover my ears.

I grabbed hold of her waist and we launched towards the open sea. The sun began to sink into the horizon, the sky turning lavender, pink, and orange. After several hours of swimming through the waves, a long and very loud squeal reverberated through the water, like the groan and creak of the sea itself. A giant body emerged ahead of us, bigger than any creature I have ever seen in my life–fins as large as walls, a mouth as large as building.

Miramar translated. He says, “The time as come for you to grow your sea lungs and dive down deep.”

Another raspy ocean shriek, like the sound of steel stretching.

Miramar continued to tell me what the giant was saying: “Grow your ocean ears and bend the ear of your heart closely. Listen for the echoes of sublime bass notes resonating through the fibers of your being.”

I merely floated before this beast called Sei, absorbing the message.

“League by league settle into the soul-tide quiet depths of true voice.”

“Step away from the noise of the middle world and keep falling until you reach the mariana trench of your true self.”

“There you will find the Obsidian Key on Gold Ring, the key to your Rainbow Home. It was thrown into the Great Sea many moons ago, not by the Evil Dwarf King, nor by his henchmen. No, it was you who tossed it aside. Out of fear, out of pain, you abandoned your own home.”

“Further down is a mystery where no one goes, yet from which all emerges.

“To enter, you must leave all behind. You have seen your true face in the water, but now you must leave even that behind, going alone into the trench without image or name.”

“Quieter and quieter yet, the deepest voice emerges, Unborn and Unknown.”

“Perhaps it one voice, perhaps it is none at all. It is not for me to say. Even the Great Sea does not know.”

“Are you ready to risk yourself in deep waters?”

“I am here,” I said.

With that, the mouth of the giant beast called Sei opened. The force of the water rushed in, dragging me into itself.

The last thing I saw was the dark cave of its stomach. Then pure blackness.

With a huge splash of its tale, the beast plunged – with the HeartSeer inside – into the depths and disappeared.