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?

WELCOME TO THAT HOME WITHIN

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The light with sweetness court & keep
The dark, with song and moonly weep

Wage your love ungauged & then
Open the blessed spiral again

With splash of red, hunt your head
Cast over cliffs all your dead

Erect your No, stretch your Yes
The weeds need not outgrow you yet

Of all the Hows to say your name
Use the one that you became

When out of houses full of shame
And out of houses without a flame

You left to find that one remained
The rainbow one, the one untamed

And moved into the one that stood
The house you built with love & blood

Welcome to that home within
So silent, so still, beneath your skin

#ryanvanlenning

MEMOIR: ALL THE HOLY THINGS

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In the 7th grade I invented
interstellar travel
via hydrogen ion propulsion.

Combined with giant sails
that would harness
the chaotic wind
from solar storms

we could go anywhere.

Even here.

I was in the library
where the sound and scent
of old books
were background to my life.

That was back when libraries knew how to be themselves.

They were quiet and sensitive.
I was quiet and sensitive.

Since then, I haven’t done much engineering. NASA, please forgive me.

Unless you count constructing façades,
adopting them as masks of belonging.

You see, earthstorms moved in
thrashing my branches
and I did the only thing I knew
how to do:

I deployed my earthworms
and became someone else.

Clearly, who I was wasn’t safe.

That was the wrong lesson.
But I knew not roots
and took to riot.

I learned to be noisy and insensitive.

I learned anger gets you things—Mostly the wrong things.

I learned, to my chagrin,
I couldn’t photosynthesize,
which led me to adopt some peculiar eating and moving habits.

I discovered walking and small talk.
I discovered cheese and liquor.
I discovered coffee and masturbation and chasing things.

Over time, I learned to need them.

Fantastic wounds and tornadoes refined me
and my feet walked it all together
into my torso.

This continued rather inelegantly
for decades

until one season
I gave myself the curse-gift
of walking with death
into the bottom of things.

How can I describe the down
and up of things
without mentioning love?

Oh fierce heart, I learned
to breathe, I learned
to eat
like it’s the first time.

I learned to honor the seasons

and all the splendid contours
of resistance
and its first mate, acceptance.

I guess what I’m saying is
at some level
I’ve always known
the value of silence

that sensitivity is a gift
and who I am is a sacred mystery

that storms are essential
to the journey

That being here is one thing

but really being here
is yet another way to love

and is the path
to all the holy things.
#ryanvanlenning

CHOCOLATE CAKE IN THE DUMPSTER

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You ever found yourself
with that sweet rich taste
on your tongue

enjoying that delicious decadence

only to realize
once you lift your gaze
you’re standing in a dumpster

yet again

with that full-bellied satisfaction turning into
the sharp gut ache
of mistake?

The cake likes to be eaten.

You like to eat. The end.

But what’s the deeper story

That has pain as one of the main characters?

What is it about that damn cake?

What is it about you
that has you knee-deep
in trash
just for a nibble?

How did you learn to abandon yourself
like that?

SELF-CARE FOR THE GREAT TURNING

02C16380-1BE0-48DE-98B2-F38A801084A3Staying home is ok.

Saying no is ok.

Shamelessly expressing your whole, labyrinthine, dark, radiant, erotic self and fathomless heart is ok.

Subversively dismantling dominant psychopathic cultural values and rules is ok.

Sabotaging extractive industrial projects on indigenous land is ok.

Shadow-working while sauntering is ok.

Spending all Saturday making love with the moon and madrone is ok.

You do you.

#SelfCareForaNewDecade

Body and the Lion’s Roar

B2F7814B-AC52-4A51-81BE-3EB41C5890C6Your body and the lion’s roar
tell the truth

Just as there is no arguing
with the dawn or elder trees.

The river insists and you comply
and the bear’s inimitable growl
does not go unheeded.

Damn the censors!

No, Bless them with your beauty
your revelry raw and rivaled
only by anything
that is Unashamedly Itself.

After all, they are only wanting it too.

So compost the joyless judges
in your kingdom of fungi
and retire shame
from the grammar of your unfurling.

If it’s too much for them
it’s because they’ve wounded
their own belly
with the blade of poor belonging.

Are the waves offended by the full moon,
the soil aggrieved by the million seeds?

The fruiting cap before the rains
was but a stage

and that ancient longing
can’t help but burst
the tight shells of humility.

Still a quarter and a quarter yet
lies asleep in the dirt
awaiting the wake up call

that irresistible pull into the Big Stretch.