Unscrew Yourself From the Doorjamb Night

136303AD-6465-46DF-9C55-0C262C73D61CI’ll tell you how the long day ends
in the final hour of June, she said

with her kaleidoscopic coyote laugh
and crook-eyed cricket gaze

she sipped her nightcap hot and holy
in her ripped and airy lilac gown

aiming cat-tails towards venus west
after sun had bolted down

full moon me, she said, with glee
whipping watermelons wild
inside rhubard ribbons racing
lacing up the vest of night

then offering peaches bruised just right
brewed up nicely for bruised hearts
led early plums with early stars
to come out playing without a fight

spiraling moon and madly mars
around the skinny of her scar

I’m not the dream you thought you had
she sang with all her lovely fangs

roam free, roam wide
throw the damned doors aside
unscrew yourself from doorjamb nights

was the last thing to me she said
before the month of June had fled


Last Glimpse of May

sandSand flies are silent but persistent
wanting something on the inside
of my skull

Fortunately, I have legs
that give me a slight height advantage
and a spine that pivots my head
towards Venus in the heart of Gemini
already gazing searchingly at me
inches above Sunday’s goodbye.

The sand is no less a bed
for not having cost a month’s salary
at that store people love to talk about
and the willows no less a backyard
for not owning it

big hard rocks are great
for building houses
but tiny, soft rocks are better
for sleeping on

and has the built in feature
of containing ancient crystals
the color of nautical dusk
and blue glass
and I swear a little bit o’ Mars.

Venus is even hotter
than fire season in the central valley

but that doesn’t prevent crickets
and plovers from swapping bedtime stories
and crying onomatopoeically
for their version of what happened

and while the river spills
into and out of the arms of Venus

a satellite and a jackrabbit slide by—
last glimpse of May.

Exploring the First Nearby Faraway

Greenville FarmI’m writing a book called The Nearby Faraway: My Year Living in the Threshold and recently the seed of this poem came to me while I was facilitating a Wild Nature Heart activity about childhood memories in nature. One of the memories that lives in my body is exploring the groves that were at both my grandparents’ farms in Iowa. There’s something about how we relate freely and physically and innocently with the world when we are young–and how that lives inside us still. What are some of your first nature memories? The google map image is of one of the farms as it exists today.

Grandfather said, “Look out
for rattlesnakes and rusted nails”

but we went in anyway
embarking on a bold adventure

without provisions of any kind
or shoes even

for what do they have to do
with an explorer’s heart?

not in defiance, mind you
but only because we couldn’t bare

not to let our bare feet
have an original conversation

with the soft duff of the pine grove
watching us…waiting for us…

we went in anyway, and later,
when we’d mapped all the new territories

when we’d squeezed a lifetime
from the rind of dawn to dusk

when the slant of the sun warns
of the docking of the day

when the reds and the browns
and the greens of the world

had covered us from shin
to shiny face

and the exhaustion of our vast
explorer bodies starts to buzz

we anointed ourselves in the cold creek
flowing through the inexhaustible wilderness

watching us…waiting for us…

where we were the First Builders
Masters of tree forts, architects of forest villages

The Original Hunters
chasing raccoons and ravens

Primordial shamans burying owl feathers and dog bones
to ward off those cursed rattlesnakes

that were just around the next tree
watching us….waiting for us…

We were the First Explorers
lost for days within a single day

adrift on an evergreen raft
fueled by wild nature hearts

because we went in anyway
charting endless bright lands

on a small Iowa farm—
the first nearby faraway

watching us…waiting for us…

I’m Your Downshifted Dawnstroke

dew at dawni’m your downstream goose chant
curved and rippled river ride

like bugled dawn across
a field of fog

i’m your

downy feather song
owl of ancient disposition, your

downwind scent doe-eyed
‘won’t you be my neighbor?” neighbor

your upside down buckeye ballad
on the first day of spring

your downloaded app
for a heron meditation you
didn’t know you needed i’m your

scaled down version
of an oversized century

that downtown-shaped hole in your
wild nature heart those

downplayed tears and fears
falling like a downpour on a downcast cloud face
from a torn world you can’t face

i’m a down-sized dish feeding
out-sized appetites

that wet downwind whipping
a love-hymn
on the wings of a checker spot
kissing your spring sprout skin
on the downbeat

but on the upbeat i’m your

downshifted dawnstroke
striking up a conversation
with the morning dew
down on the ground

worm’s eye point of view
something you’d never thought you’d do

—Ryan Van Lenning


Saint Wolf

new moon

The hour of the rabid dog is over.

Blind with torn
mangy coat
under neon crucifix shining shadows,
asking “why how where?”

for a quarter it’ll answer
in the cold pale american daylight,
waning, waning

what will it answer?
something unwildly off the mark

No matter: A wolf is being born
waxing under a dark moon
in a forest thick with aroma
and proper order of things
fur feathers ferns fox fire ferocity

how to hunt, but not murder
a ceremony of blood
a sermon in the wild
how to be alone and to be with others
a hillside communion
how to see in the dark
eyes clear
makes the trail

look around: the evidence of the big impact is everywhere
but the iceberg itself has melted
hidden away in our heart-hold of secret wish
balmy and delirious
too outrageous to say out loud

believe the sky
that speaks to you long lost field

believe the whisper
that speaks to you bright red petals on mud

believe the hand which holds the lover’s
but not the grip that pulls you under

believe the skin
for a drum you’ll beat some day

believe the skin
and the guts within

don’t believe those voices that take you away
from the Belonging
they are bloated fleas on the poor dog,
lost and wasting away
won’t survive another moon

it need not be nailed up
(let that image be buried with the bones)
nor kenneled or coddled or drugged

let it starve in the night

or fang it
and make a meal of it
but be done with the mutt, sick abomination!

it was merely an idea anyway
cursed canine, feeble mind
anemic soul slurping
artificial scraps
unrooted wayward thrust in the cold mist

But today marks the New —
the moon they couldn’t drown

All Hail Saint Wolf!

hallowed by wild honesty
and honest wildness
put on your Sunday best
and howl at Midnight on Solstice

Open your shrewd eye
slick with new moon dew
and a cunning

Trees Grow Out of My Body

nature heartTrees grow out of my body
I’m not sure if I planted them
or if they planted me
all I know is that
an oak tree grows behind my ears
soaking sunshine into my skull
a nut falls from my sternum
each time I take a breath
a sapling takes the space between my toes
sending roots earthward
drinking up autumn rain
into my belly
awfully cold
but refreshing
when the east wind blows
the canopy of my
my head sways gently
to the left
to the right
do you catch my drift?
buckeyes from my eyes
do you see what I’m saying?
madrones out my finger tips
do you feel me?
they must think I’m soil
and I haven’t tried to convince them otherwise