5FF9E469-C635-40F6-BE55-5F9800761CAAI want the slightest freckle to fall
off the smile-side of the season’s face

To land on me with a new breeze
blowing through
like a queen of love
sovereign of the land

One I only recognize after
it has turned the corner on itself
onto the next affair

I’d grin in recognition,
knowing that from its soft brown kiss
I’d gather mountains of meaning
and make a home

Then my eyes would widen,
as I laughed from inside
my fifth bone, I’d slow
my endless doings
that try to reserve a place
at the table of belonging

knowing a freckle is just a freckle.

Yet not less than a freckle.

Knowing I’d worship its art,
it’s soft beauty
that will fade with the invisible current.

Knowing the mottled-leaf of me
too will drop

And like you, autumn,
I’d take my turn



Like limbs thrown down and wildly thrashed
a harvest of a mighty breath
the soft cables of our bond
so quickly cut, so soon withdrawn

By what savage gale overthrown
or by what wrenching circuit blown
this force that together drew
now splits us into more than two?

Oh rage that fells the solid spruce
and rips the redwood roots so loose!
Only a dizziness remains
debris from feral hurricane

It is not yet known why we agree
to that first long, unfathomed fall
when a deeper one is guaranteed
and tied to the end of it all

Or why, with that first flirty start
we court our own slow aching heart
Or do we give wind consent
to our own imminent descent?

—Ryan Van Lenning


Smoke on the Word of the Wind

BB065677-D7DB-4771-808D-A4E11015F1BCFor the California fire victims, wish I could do something more…

Even here on the edge
I taste smoke on the word of the wind
carrying loss across the land
spelled with terrible syllables

A wicked whipping
sharp as Kali’s tongue
licks her lips
hungry for more—
devouring homes of teachers and deer
burning lungs and livelihoods
stinging eyes and hearts

Feels like all we can do sometimes
is worry with the evening sun—
that other great fire—
drifting behind pale hazy skies
with a California-sized knot
hot as death in our chest

and with the gulls, fly our hope—
that thing with feathers—
that a world on fire
soon finds soothing skies
and softer syllables find their way
on the word of the wind

Of Wind and Water

IMG_2122It’s surprising how little gets
done without them—
just try dancing without the dark blood
of the earth
coming up through your bones
as red sea water

or the rivers of wind
warmed by the sun
snaking through you

The wind carries its own center
with it across the miles
adding a ring with each breath

it is always en route
sparking conversations
with skin and scale
leaf and litter

When you think you’ve arrived
ask the wind and the water

When you know you haven’t arrived
and the labyrinth seems too big
ask the wind and the water

they are the peacekeeper
and the destroyer
the life-giver and the blood of the big body
the crack in the bell
the crack in the ego

The weight and the lack of it
draw them through the endless cycle

to ask where it begins
misses the point

not the hydrogen
nor oxygen
but the bond that brings
the thousand forms

the kind of bond you want
when you want to have a dialogue
about the shape of things
when you want to bring soul to the world

when you want introduce the sea to the mountain
to offer parts of yourself
you haven’t seen in years
to the parts you haven’t even met

the parts of yourself
you thought were a virus
so you fought them off
like a valiant, but confused soldier

thinking that it’s best to be safe
you forgot that nothing is outside
the circle

thinking for a moment you were
not the same center as the wind
you forgot the thundering imperative
of your audacious bodies

all of them
and the free bond that breathes you
in and out
in and out
carries its own center
at the edge of things


shadowWith extravagant hooves
I walk outside
even the perimeter
pounding the pavement again
until I find the free dirt

The world’s a hot and heavy
aching anchor today
and the throbbing soles of my feet
just want to feel something real

So I hang a thumb out to the world
until a free syllable catches a ride
on a wild-eyed word
with barely a hitch

A few go by, but one slows
and rolls down its tinted windows
and with a voice so suave, says
“Jump in the back of my 4×4 metaphor,
I’ll take you up the hill.”

I hop on, feeling the wind flow
through my long curly verse

Soon I’m free of the desert city
where gravity and noise rule
like bloodthirsty despots
colonizing every last paragraph
of the world
and weigh upon me
like a colossal cologne

There is no gravity up in the wind
Up where language matters
Up where a phrase on the breeze
is more meaningful than whole libraries
in the valley haze—
Up here I’m an aurated acrobat.

Up here I can dance like flea.

-Ryan Van Lenning